What are the areas of specialization in medical laboratory science?

Article written by CEMP's team

Do you know what the areas of specialization in medical laboratory science are? If you’re interested in this field of work, it’s important that you are familiarized with its main specializations, so that you can get the training you need.

If you have focused on studying sciences and are curious about this topic, but aren’t sure what it entails exactly, in this article you’ll be able to find a detailed explanation of it.

The context of a clinical laboratory is truly varied and presents a multidisciplinary approach. As such, it must generate a structure divided in multiple specialized fields.

All in all, and before we go right into the matter, it might be interesting to first provide a basic definition of what it means when we talk about clinical laboratories.


What is a clinical laboratory?

Clinical laboratories are centers dedicated to the analysis of biological samples. At these centers, professionals coming from different scientific fields (laboratory technicians, auxiliaries, analysis, chemists, doctors, pathologists, biologists, biochemists, biotechnologists…).

Their functions include the study, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human illnesses.

As such, laboratories represent a fundamental tool for collective health today. We might find them both as part of the public sector (for instance, within public hospitals) and private initiatives (in private hospitals or different entities or companies).

Besides, the importance of clinical analysis hasn’t stopped growing in recent years and continues increasing globally, so that it represents a promising field of study where job opportunities abound.


The main areas of specialization in medical laboratory science

As we mentioned above, there are numerous areas of specialization in medical laboratory science and clinical analysis.

Some laboratories offer an integral service, which encompasses a wide range of activities from ordinary analysis to the most sophisticated tests. Others, on the contrary, are specialized in particular areas.

As such, whether they follow a single management or they act as independent services, the main areas of specialization in medical laboratory science include the following:

1. Hematology

This area of specialization in medical laboratory science involves the study of blood and its related tissues (for instance, the bone marrow), as well as the prevention and treatment of illnesses linked to its production.

This area mainly involves tests of blood compatibility, morphology and coagulation, the hemogram being one of the most demanded ones.

The following areas can be found within this specialization:

  • Count/morphology area: this involves the counting of erythrocyte, leukocyte, platelets and other blood components. This area also involves the determination of values such as hematocrit, the ratio of red globules or erythrocytes in relation with the total volume of blood, hemoglobin, the speed of globular sedimentation, etc.
  • Coagulation area: in this case, blood tests focus on the search of hemorrhagic disorders, hypercoagulability, etc. It uses the assessment tests for haemostasis, such as prothrombin, thromboplastin and bleeding times, among others.
  • Special techniques area: this involves the determination of alterations regarding red globules, hemoglobins and enzymatic alterations.

2. Clinical biochemistry

This area of specialization uses different processes for the measurement of chemical components, both as liquid blood fractions as well as urine, and applies testing techniques for their analysis.

As such, it mainly focuses on ordinary blood chemistry and general urine analysis. Let’s go through its main areas:

  • Automated of manual biochemistry area: glucose, uric acid, cholesterol, HDL cholesterol…
  • Protein area: determination of proteins and blood albumin
  • Urine area: dedicated to the physicochemical analysis of urine (urinalysis) and the microscopic examination of urinary sediments: glycosuria, hematuria, leukocytes and calcium in urine, electrolytes, etc. Results allow for the diagnosis of kidney-related disorders, as well as those related to the urinary tract or the liver, among others

3. Clinical microbiology

Within the various areas of specialization in medical laboratory science, microbiology is useful for detecting infectious illnesses, mainly through the study of prokaryotic organisms (bacteria…) and eukaryotes (fungi…).

Typically, this specialization is divided in the following areas:

  • Bacteriology: it identifies the bacterias through cultures and biochemistry tests
  • Microbacteria: this is dedicated, mainly, to the detection of the microbacteria that is causing human tuberculosis. It also looks into nontuberculous microbacteria
  • Micology: it focuses in the study of the fungi responsible for human illnesses
  • Parasitology: it studies parasites (mainly, protozoa, helminths and arthropods) that cause parasitic disorders in human beings, through the use of microscopical techniques. Within this area, coproparasitology is in charge of analyzing fecal matter and the presence of infectious microorganisms within them
  • Virology:  the analysis of virus that cause illnesses in human beings
  • Serology: executes antigen or antibody tests on serum (serological tests) by employing immunological techniques.
  • Tumor markers: dedicated to the analysis of parameters that facilitate oncological diagnosis
  • Endocrinology: it studies the function, anatomy and alterations originating at the endocrine glands (cortisol, testosterone…)
  • Allergies: it focuses on the analysis and sampling of allergens, the substances that are able to generate an allergic reaction. It also facilitates the monitoring of patients who are undergoing a hyposensitizing therapy
  • Toxicology: reserved for the analysis of drugs and other harmful chemical substances 

4. Immunology

This area of specialization in medical laboratory science focuses on the analysis and diagnosis of pathologies related to the immunological system, in order to quantify those antibodies related to certain illnesses.

The most common tests in immunology include HIV, COVID-19, chickenpox, herpes, hepatitis, rubella, celiac disease, etc.

It’s then divided into three main areas:

  • HLA area: typification of Human Leukocyte Antigen in blood. It’s used in case it’s needed during an organ or stem cell transplant process in order to verify compatibility.
  • Autoimmunity: it focuses on the diagnosis and control of autoimmune disease (inflammatory intestinal disease, type I diabetes, celiac disease…).
  • Cellular immunology: it studies the shape that acquired immune responses might take, the cells within the immune system related to illnesses.

5. Genetics

This specialization offers the needed support for the diagnosis, forecasting and treatment of diverse pathologies that are hereditary or present a genetics basis.

Let’s see the two main areas within this field:

  • Cytogenetics: techniques of prenatal diagnosis, as well as onco-hematological, postnatal and cellular-karyotype cultures.
  • Molecular genetics: through molecular biology techniques, it identifies alterations within individual genes for the study of gene and exome groupings.

Now that we’ve seen the main areas of specialization in medical laboratory science, you might be interested to know what are the needed studies to become a professional in this field. Keep reading to find out.

What is the required education to work in any of the areas of specialization in medical laboratory science?

If you are looking for the right training to develop your professional career in one of the areas of specialization in medical laboratory science mentioned above, there are many different educational itineraries that can help you achieve it.

As such, most of the people working in the technical or facultative areas within a clinical laboratory have been originally trained in the field of medical sciences. Then, they have typically undertaken a postgraduate course or a Master’s degree.

When it comes to the medical doctors involved, we can find people who pursued high education in medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, biology, biochemistry… Normally, they’re the ones in charge of managing and organizing the laboratory or one specific section of it.

On the other hand, the technical and auxiliary staff is in charge of undertaking the specific tests according to each area of specialization, managing materials, writing reports and communicating the results. 

All of the universitary profiles cited above may work as a laboratory scientist, if he or she has completed their specialized training in the field.

However, there’s also a specific option within the National Diploma programs in the UK, such as the BTEC Level 1 Diploma in Applied Science, which may lead to Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma, which trains students to work in this field.


Become a professional specialist in clinical analysis through an online Master’s degree

If you have a university degree related with the medical sciences, there are different ways you can become a specialist in clinical analysis.

Thus, you can do this through different courses, Master’s degrees or postgraduate programs taught at diverse universities, schools and study centers, both through on-site and online programs

Today, e-learning allows you to combine study and work or any other educational sources. This way, you’ll be able to go through the study program at your own pace, free to organize your time for the maximum comfort.

As such, at CEMP we offer our Master’s degree in laboratory science that facilitates online learning and the following additional characteristics:

  • A duration of 1.500 hours, corresponding to 60 ECTS credits
  • Between 60 and 300 hours of practical experience at a company, as well as an employability plan for the student to achieve his professional goals in the short, medium and long term
  • A teaching team composed of reputed exports in the field: doctorates in microbiology, biochemistry, biology, genetics; specialists in anatomy and pathological cytology, etc.
  • A Master’s degree directed towards professionals or students in the field of medicine that are looking for training in the most advanced laboratory techniques
  • Its contents are organized in modules so that the student is in contact with different areas of specialization in medical laboratory science. These modules encompass all disciplines, including hematology, parasitology, microbiology, genetics and biochemistry and immunological techniques. As such, it represents a thorough study program that covers all needed fields to guarantee proficiency in working at a clinical laboratory.

Now that you know what the areas of specialization in medical laboratory science are, it’s surely easier for you to choose a field of study and complete your education and training. 

All in all, the field of clinical analysis remains an area with a high labor demand, so that it will be an extraordinary option to develop a long, productive and fascinating career.

If you want to learn more about our Master’s degree and its study program, don’t hesitate to ask us for more information without any compromises. We’ll be happy to help you!


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