Re: Routes to becoming a histotech

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From:"Tim Morken" <>
Date:Tue, 04 May 1999 15:57:24 EDT
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Specialty schools certainly prepare people well for a specific job, but they 
often cut corners on broader knowledge that will be needed down the road. I 
know. I got my B.A. in Zoology and then went back to two-year school for a 
'degree' in electron microscopy. There were a lot students straight from 
high school there as well but I had a huge advantage over them because of my 
previous degree. The school in question is the best in the US for that type 
of training, but those who did no further schooling afterwards did not 
advance much unless they stayed in the same lab for 20 years (which is not 
bad, if that's what you want). Moving around is either not possible or is 
not financially beneficial to those without degrees!

So, the AA degree should not be thought of as a specific preparation for 
Histology or anything else. It should be thought of as the first step in 
gaining knowledge about your chosen field, what ever it is. In general 
broader knowledge opens more doors than specific training, in my opinion, 
although specific training may get you that first job.

The AA degree for histotechnology simply has to include basic science 
(biology, microbiology, chemistry etc.) Math, writing, etc. Specific 
training can be on the job. No one learns to cut or stain well in class/lab 
situation; there simply isn't enough time spent.

As an aside, I have worked with histotechs who had degrees in other science 
fields but because of my training in biology I was always having to explain 
to them the biological principles behind various conditions. So, any old 
degree doesn't cut it.

This is not to degrinate experience. I have always taken advantage of my 
situation and gone out of my way to learn new fields and that has enabled me 
to take advantage of job openings that were not at all possible when I was 
first out of school. I like the idea of being abvle to go in any of three or 
four directions if the opportunity arises. The problem is, to take advantage 
of experience you need to be motivated. As someone else mentioned, one year 
repeated twenty times does not really count as twenty years of experience!

Histotech shortages will be with us until the field is put out in the open 
for people to see. Go ask any high shcool or college student what 
histotechnology is and you will get a blank stare. It doesn't exist in the 
mainstream and it will stay that way unless it becomes part of the regular 
course work and becomes a field that people train for in school.

I feel the concern about requiring an AA degree causing greater shortages is 
wrong because all this talk about requiring an AA degree for the HT has 
obscured the fact that people can still start out from high school. They 
will just have to get some college to become certified.

Tim Morken, B.A., EMT(MSA), HTL(ASCP)
Infectious Disease Pathology
Centers for Disease Control
1600 Clifton Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30333


FAX:  (404)639-3043

----Original Message Follows----
From: Lynn Gardner <>
Subject: Routes to becoming a histotech
Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 10:40:59 -0400

Dear All,

I have been following the discussion on the Associates Degree and have
mixed emotions about the whole issue and some questions. First the 

1. Will the high school route that you had to have X number of science and
math credits prior to entering a one year CAHEA accredited school still be

2. Will Histologic Technicians that do not have their AS degree but do have
their HT (ASCP) have to do anything special to maintain their 

Now for the emotions:

I am a histotech that went the high school route and into a one year CAHEA
accredited school and I have been a technician for over 16 years now and
feel I am very good at what I do and I really enjoy it. In the program I
attended I received lectures along with hands on from day one of the
program. After working with many students fresh out of the two year
associate degree programs I would take the one year CAHEA student any day.

The main difference I see between the two is the amount of hands on
training. This really makes a significant difference as you can have all
the book knowledge in the world and can still not gross, process, embed,
cut and stain tissues correctly, believe me I have seen it time and time

If we are to require a two year program we must take a look at those
programs and make sure that there is sufficient time devoted to actually
performing the tasks of the laboratory and that the quality and precision
of the art is maintained throughout so that we are not putting out students
that can tell you what to do but can not actually perform the task or
troubleshoot it for themselves!!! We as an organization should set up
criteria that all new histology technicians must meet to gain their
Histology degree. It should be the same for all institutions so that there
is more uniformity from institution to institution as I have seen some
really horrible histology out there which also doesn't help our reputation.
In standardizing things we will also help to get rid of the idea out there
that "any monkey can perform Histology", yes, I have actually heard this
said, and hopefully improve the reputation of the Histologist.

The other fear I have is that there is already a severe shortage of
histology technicians in the field and the high school route brings in
probably at least 40% of our histology technicians. This will cause even
more of a shortage in the field, ah, yes it will allow the ones in the
field to work where the want and the amount of money they make to go up,
but, I don't know about you I don't want to have to work 60-80 hours a week
to keep up! The other thing the shortage may do which is happening in the
field already is that Medical Technologist will take over histology
positions which could eventually eliminate all of our jobs.

I do agree we need to change the way physicians and other laboratorians
look at us, however, I am not sure this is the way to do it, as many good
technicians have come out of the high school route as they find they love
the work.

Just thought I would add my two cents and give us some things to think 

Lynn Gardner, HT(ASCP)
Supervisory Research Assistant III
FC Blodi Eye Pathology Laboratory
The University of Iowa

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