As a medical laboratory professional, I have come to realize that few outside of a medical laboratory world will realize that this field of medicine exists. While many are aware of the employee shortage within nursing fields, few realize an even greater shortage that plagues our health-care systems.

Laboratory medicine is struggling to fulfill the number of current job openings nationwide, which is predicted to increase by 22% from 2012 to 2022 as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statics. This will include a 14% projected growth for technologists (4-year degree) and a 30% growth for technicians (2-year degree). In large part this is due to the lack of recognition laboratory medicine receives. As laboratory professionals are primarily behind the scenes, there is little public understanding of what their role in health care is and the education the position requires.

As a result of such limited patient contact, most people do not have a clear understanding of what happens to their blood after it has been drawn. Laboratory professionals work with blood and body fluid samples to provide critical information to the medical provider to aid in diagnosing, treatment and maintenance of disease in a patient. Approximately 70% of medical decisions are coming from the laboratory. The laboratory profession provides an actual career laddering for students with programs in an associate, bachelor, master's, and even doctoral degree levels for both traditional and online learning environments. Coinciding with the turn of the economy, adult workers who have been laid off are looking into fields such as laboratory science as it is considered a more secure employment.

Forbes released an article “The 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill in America” listing lab technicians as No. 7 due to the difficulties in the reduced number of graduates from these degree programs. Many students who successfully graduate from a medical laboratory educational program are able to find job placement within the laboratory field in a few short months of graduation, if not before graduation. Often students who graduate from various other college or technical programs may not always find a position for themselves or may have to wade through a more competitive job market. This is not the case within the laboratory profession as the field is in dire need for more graduates. With the expectation of an increase in an aging population, baby boomer retirees, and federal health legislation that will increase the number of patients who have access to health insurance, the demand for the services of laboratory personnel will only grow.

Both school and employers are seeking potential candidates to fulfill the demand that this field is undergoing. Looking beyond the commonly known health-care fields, you will find vast opportunities in a field that is essential to patient care.