[Histonet] RE: How people get into histology, and what education

From:"Morken, Tim - Labvision"

Megan, Probably on the order of  99 percent of histotechs "fall" into the
field. I travel around a lot and it is very, very rare to meet someone from
the US who went through a formal program (and there are 4-year as well as
2-year programs). This is both a benefit and curse for histotechnology. A
benefit because it means literally anyone with very basic biology and
chemistry background can get into it, and it draws in a very diverse group
of people. A curse because it means that few of those histotechs have the
background to become well-versed in the field (as evidenced by the quantity
of very basic questions on Histonet). In the past most histotechs did not
become certifed by ASCP. I think that is changingnow , but most still only
learn what they need for the job at hand. And most people in school never
hear about the profession because of the lack of programs. Because of that
the field does not draw well from the pool of people that are available for,
and would be interested in this kind of work. Of course the current shortage
is great for those in the field now - higher pay, pick your job, etc.

You're right that for most hisotechnology work a AA degree is fine. In fact,
it may be better because there are more openings for bench workers than for
supervisory level people. It just depends on your goals. Even the vaunted
Genentech biotech company has found that hiring AA-degree people is better
for their business because they stay longer. They used to have a policy of
only hiring BA/BS at a minimum, but found turnover was way too high for
those people (average of two years). AA-degree people, for whatever reason,
are more interested in staying in one job longer. 

It seems there is an annual Histonet discussion of the merits of on-the-job
training (OJT) verses academic training. Of course, both are necessary and
both contribute to success. We can find examples of both doing better or
worse than others in the field. I've seen both groups do very well, and can
tell horror stores of labs with the worst of each. The point is that the
vast majority of  histotechs fall into the position and  learn on the job.
But, from my own experience in working with may people, in general, those
with more academic training are going to have the background to learn new
things faster and maybe do better in more advanced technologies. For certain
jobs that will be a key advantage. My advice to anyone in the field is to
take your job description as a suggestion only and don't be tied down to it.
Learn everything there is to do in the lab and take the opportunities as
they come. It will be a much more interesting job and can take you to some
interesting places!

Tim Morken

-----Original Message-----
From: TheBestTime23@aol.com [mailto:TheBestTime23@aol.com]
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 6:28 PM
To: histonet@lists.utsouthwestern.edu
Subject: [Histonet] tried posting this once already... didn't work.

OK.  I really wasn't expecting much of a response from my post, and  was 
really surprised by what I got.  I want to start by apologizing to all  that
have offended.  It surely wasn't my intent.  And while I have  thought of a
of things to say in response to your many e-mails, I will try  to keep this 
within reason.  
First:  I like my job.  I feel very fortunate to have gotten into  a field 
that pays me well, keeps me interested and has a lot of potential for
I take pride in the work that I do and I love learning new things  every
I have recently gotten the opportunity to train on immunos and  I couldn't
more thrilled.
Second, and probably more to the point:  I was really trying to make a  
comment about the requirements for being a histotech, not a statement about
job itself.  The e-mail I was responding to had mentioned 4 years of college
a pre-req, and I thought that was an excessive amount.  I  probably have a 
skewed point of view, having dropped out of college after only  one
but I think that there are many bright and talented people that  haven't
gone to 
college that could still do wonderfully as histotechs.  If  you had 4 years 
of college as a requirement and add another 2 to learn the histo  stuff,
looking at 6 years.  You could become a pathology assistant  in that amount 
of time and be earning a whole lot more when you were done and  still be 
working in a similar field.  That was my only real point.  I  understand
that they 
want people to have more education and that's fine.  I  like the way that
ASCP also takes credit hours into consideration and is not  just looking for
degree.  But 4 years, in my opinion, is too much.   WAY too much.  I would 
hate to think how many very talented histotechs we  would not have now had
requirements been that stiff 20 years ago.
I guess my third point is more of a question.  I know how I got to be  a 
histotech.  I basically fell into it.  I knew someone who worked in  a lab
and I 
started as a lab aid, heard about on the job training and went from  there.
know a lot of people who started that way, or as phlebotomists or  something

similar.  How many people got started in a similar way?  I  also know that
people get a totally blank look on their face when you tell  them that you 
work in histology.  I had certainly never heard of it  before.  How many of
had?  I can't see many people looking through  a course list and saying to 
themselves, "oh, histology, that would be perfect  for me", because most of
wouldn't know what the heck it was.  As far  as I know (and this is mostly a

guess) there aren't any 2 year programs at tech  schools or anything like
 Histology is kind of an anomaly that  way.  Taught in hospitals and
but not schools.  Maybe the on  the job training wasn't such a bad thing. At

least it would get those  remaining empty spots full, until some more 
concrete method of teaching our  craft is set up.  Just another thought. One
that I 
hope won't get me  into any more trouble  : )
My apologies,
Grateful new histotech

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