Histology, sometimes referred to as histologic science, is the study of microscopic tissues and cells in plants and animals. Within this field, professionals collect and prepare biological tissue samples that are then analyzed for abnormalities and disease. Histology is, therefore, essential to medical science, in that it helps detect and diagnose conditions in living things.
A profession with impact and meaning, histology is also a popular career path because of the nature of the work. Professionals in this field – typically Histotechnologists and Histotechnicians – enjoy hands-on, clinical work that exercises both the scientific and creative parts of their brains. No day is the same for histology technicians and technologists, as each day brings new cases and samples to the laboratory.
Histology is also a great career choice for those who want to get involved in health science, but do not have years to commit to medical school or a doctorate degree. Becoming a Histotechnician or Histotechnologist, depending on the title you wish to pursue, can take just two to four years.
The education required to become a Histotechnician or Histotechnologist is one of the key differences between these two career paths. While there is undoubtedly overlap between the two roles, there are also important distinctions in the scope of their work, certifications, and growth opportunities. If you are looking to enter the field of histology, and unsure which career path is right for you, continue reading. Below we break down the similarities and differences between Histotechnologists and Histotechnicians.
What is a Histotechnician?
A Histotechnician is a clinical laboratory technician that prepares biological tissues for examination. Histotechnicians use specialized equipment to process tissue samples and mount them on slides, so that they can later be evaluated by a pathologist under a microscope. Preparing tissue samples involves various processes like cutting and staining the tissues, in which Histotechnicians are specialized.
What is a Histotechnologist?
A Histotechnologist is a clinical laboratory professional that prepares and tests microscopic tissue samples. Similar to Histotechnicians, Histotechnologists will use processes like mounting and staining to prepare samples for evaluation by a pathologist. However, Histotechnologists have advanced training that enables them to perform testing on samples, as well.
Histotechnician vs. Histotechnologist: Job Responsibilities
Both Histotechnologists and Histotechnicians, as noted above, work in the lab preparing tissue and cell samples for evaluation. They share many responsibilities in their day-to-day work, such as:
- Preparing tissue samples for preservation
- Embedding the tissues with paraffin wax
- Cutting the tissue sample to fit within a slide
- Mounting tissue samples to slides, to be viewed under a microscope
- Staining the tissues with special dyes, to detect abnormalities
Histotechnologists’ scope of work, however, goes a bit further. In addition to the above technical practices, Histotechnologists may also be found:
- Testing biological tissues or specimens, according to the pathologist’s needs
- Conducting research and finding new methods to utilize in the lab
- Managing the laboratory and overseeing other clinical staff
- Identifying issues with laboratory equipment and instruments if needed
Due to the expanded scope of their role, Histotechnologists require more training than Histotechnicians today.
Histotechnician vs. Histotechnologist: Training and Education
To become a Histotechnician, you must have a college education in histology. Many employers today will require candidates to have an associate degree in Histology. However, some facilities will also hire Histotechnicians with a postsecondary certificate in Histology and in-field training. No matter which route you take, becoming a Histotechnician can be achieved in less than two years’ time. At Goodwin University, aspiring Histotechnicians are enrolled in the certificate and associate degree programs simultaneously, providing a fast-track to become a certified Histotechnician.
Histotechnologists, as noted above, require advanced education within the field. Typically, Histotechnologists need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as health science or biology, with coursework in histology. A bachelor’s degree is required to become a certified Histotechnologist.
Histotechnician vs. Histotechnologist: Certifications
Histotechnicians and Histotechnologists can both earn professional certification in their roles. Histotechnicians can become certified through the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), which is a nationally-recognized organization in the field. You must complete an accredited histology program (within the last 5 years), in order to take their Board of Registry examination. Upon successful completion of this exam, you can become a certified Histotechnician (HT).
Histotechnologists can also earn certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). There is a dedicated examination for aspiring Histotechnologists (HTLs). In order to qualify for this examination, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an accredited histology program, such as the one at Goodwin University. Passing the ASCP board examination for Histotechnologists will grant you professional certification as an HTL (ASCP).
Although certification is not required for Histotechnologists or Histotechnicians, it is highly recommended. Professional certification can show your competency in the field, and position you for advanced roles and higher earning potential.
Histotechnician vs. Histotechnologist: Earnings and Advancement
In general, Histotechnicians and Histotechnologists with higher education and professional credentials (i.e. certifications) will qualify for better job opportunities and advancement in the field. While Histotechnicians can take on careers in a variety of clinical environments, Histotechnologists, who hold a bachelor’s degree, are generally well-positioned to take on leadership roles.
Histotechnologists also have slightly higher earning potential, because of the extra investment in their education. According to Indeed, there is about a $12,000 difference in the annual salary of Histotechnologists and Histotechnicians. However, both careers can expect continued growth in the years to come.
No matter which role you pursue, as a Histotechnologist or Histotechnician, you can expect great reward personally and professionally. Histology is an evolving and ever-important field for medicine, biology, and health science. To learn how to get started in histology, call Goodwin at 800-889-3282 or explore our histology school online.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.