Certification by the ASCP Board of Certification serves as a symbol of your commitment to the highest standards of your profession and to quality patient care.
When to take the exam
The CLS Program faculty strongly recommend that students take the ASCP certification exam after you graduate from ASU. Although graduates have up to five years post-graduation to sit for the exam, we recommend that you take it shortly after graduation when all the information is fresh in your head. If you do not take the exam and become certified, you effectively limit your employment opportunities and earning potential for the future. You never know where life may take you; why would you want to limit your ability to be employed? Plus, with several states in the area requiring licenses, it just makes sense to have the ASCP certification so you can obtain your license with ease.
Preparing for the exam
Obviously, you’ll want to prepare for the exam by studying your course materials. There are many study materials available, including comprehensive review books you can purchase, and practice exams on-line that the ASCP will provide you with once you register to take the exam. Any of our faculty would be happy to answer questions you have about preparing for the exam.
Registering for the exam
Registration information for the exam can be found on the ASCP website. Because you are completing an accredited program of study, you are meeting the requirements to sit for the exam via “Route 1”. You’ll need to know ASU’s CLS Program code, which is 003012. Upon completion of your degree, you’ll need to request official transcripts be sent to ASCP. Just follow the detailed directions ASCP provides.
Maintaining your certification
Once you become certified, you will need to maintain that certification by completing 36 hours of continuing education every 3 years. Continuing education is not like taking classes at a college. It means attending educational meetings or seminars that are geared towards laboratory professionals. Often times, employers will offer opportunities in house, and you can attend a seminar over your lunch break. There are local, state, regional, and national laboratory meetings you can attend and obtain credit. There are even ways to earn continuing education on-line and through the mail, via laboratory professional organizations and journals (like ASCLS, ASCP, Advance for Medical Lab Professionals, etc.). Participating in continuing education is extremely important because the laboratory world is changing daily, and to be successful, a practicing professional needs to stay on top of the information and trends.
Certification vs. Licensure
As you are looking at job descriptions, you may notice that many employers want to see that you are certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), as a MLT/CLT (for the associate degree folks) or as a MLS/MT/CLS (for the bachelor degree folks). If you are looking for work in Tennessee, you may notice that you need a license to practice as a MLT/CLT or MLS/MT/CLS.
Certification through ASCP means that you are nationally certified to work as a medical lab professional. Licenses are state-specific, and right now, only 12 states require licenses to practice as a medical lab professional. The good news is that these 12 states will accept the ASCP certification as proof that you are eligible to get a license. Tennessee and Louisiana are nearby states that already require licenses, and many other states in the U.S. are working towards it (Missouri and Texas are very close to requiring it).
Certification Pass Rates
Because Arkansas does not require a license to practice as a medical laboratory professional, many of our graduates do not heed our advice and take the ASCP certification exam. Those that do take the certification exam sometimes struggle to pass the first time. The curriculum at ASU-Jonesboro is more than adequate to prepare students for the content of the exam. The ASCP exam is one of the most difficult exams to prepare for and take, and graduates need to devote several weeks of daily preparation and utilize multiple resources to be successful. ASU-Jonesboro’s CLS department recognizes that our ASCP certification exam pass rates are low, and are actively working towards improving them.
Medical Laboratory Scientist (ASCP) exam pass rates are 55% (3 year average, 2013-2016) for BS graduates taking the exam within 1 year of graduation.
Medical Laboratory Technician (ASCP) exam pass rates are 71% (3 year average, 2013-2016) for AAS graduates taking the exam within 1 year of graduation.