Becoming a certified phlebotomist is an excellent way to advance your career. It can provide you with an opportunity to gain valuable experience and skills that will help you move on to other jobs in the healthcare industry. With proper training, certification, and practice, you can become a certified phlebotomist who is ready to make a bigger difference in the world of healthcare.
How do you become a phlebotomist? There are a few steps you’ll typically need to take, and those involve:
- Meeting basic eligibility requirements
- Choosing a phlebotomy program and certification type
- Completing the program’s training requirements
- Passing the certification exam
- Maintaining your certification or phlebotomy skills
Isn’t a phlebotomy certificate and certification the same thing?
Before going into each of the steps for becoming phlebotomy certified, it’s important to dispel a common myth – a phlebotomy certificate is not the same thing as a phlebotomy certification.
Phlebotomy certificates are typically offered by phlebotomy training programs after the completion of classes. These programs can equip students with the necessary knowledge to sit for phlebotomy certification exams.
In contrast, a phlebotomy certification is granted by a professional organization after an individual has met specific requirements, including obtaining a particular level of education, gaining practical phlebotomy experience for a defined period, and passing a certification exam. Employers generally view phlebotomy certifications as more valuable than phlebotomy certificates.
Eligibility requirements for phlebotomists
Before starting your journey to becoming a certified phlebotomist, it’s important to know both the:
- Admission requirements for phlebotomy programs
- State and certification requirements for phlebotomists
Most phlebotomy certification organizations require that their applicants have either graduated from a phlebotomy program within the past few years, have been actively working as a phlebotomist for at least a year over the past few years, or have received phlebotomy training from a separate organization like the US Military.
Admission requirements for phlebotomy programs:
If you have never attended a phlebotomy program before, this will likely be the first necessary step in becoming certified.
Requirements will vary from school to school, however, nearly all phlebotomy programs will have three basic requirements for attendance:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)
- Hold a valid driver’s license or state identification
Most will have additional requirements, but these can vary based on the type of organization offering classes, your location, and the program specifics. Additional requirements may include:
- Submission of immunization and/or health exam records (such as a TB test)
- Completion of a background check
- Submission of college transcripts or proof of any previous medical training completed
- Passing an entrance exam, such as the Test of Essential Academic Skills
Phlebotomy is a specialized medical field but certification is only required in four US states/districts:
- Washington D.C.
Everywhere else, certification is not required – only certain qualifications and education requirements must be met.
If you do not live in one of these states, skip ahead to the section on phlebotomy certification types.
In California, one can become a Limited Phlebotomy Technician, Certified Phlebotomy Technician I or II. Each of these accreditations provides varying levels of training and certification requirements. Each license must be renewed every two years.
Starting off as a Limited Phlebotomy Technician requires one to have completed a formal training program at an accredited institution, or through an apprenticeship with a licensed healthcare practitioner. California’s Department of Public Health will only accept on-the-job experience with blood collection strictly for diagnostic testing.
The applicant must also provide a notarized oath or affirmation, a photograph taken within the last six months, verification of other health care certifications and licenses, a background check, and an online education course and quiz. Applicants must also complete seven AIDS training hours.
For phlebotomists moving to California – To receive a phlebotomist license in the state of California, applicants must provide proof of both educational coursework and clinical experience. The Department of Public Health demands that anybody relocating from another state provide documentation for verification.
Write about the phlebotomy certification requirements in Louisiana using the above information
Applicants for phlebotomy certification in Louisiana must meet the following requirements
- Notarized oath or affirmation
- Authorization from the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to receive information on their behalf
- Passport-quality photograph taken within 6 months prior to submission
- Background check
- Birth certificate or valid visa credentials
- Proof of other health care certifications and licenses
- Completion of an online educational course plus a quiz
Phlebotomists in Nevada must complete lab certification training, as the state recognizes phlebotomists as lab assistants. For that reason, phlebotomists in Nevada typically complete about 40 hours of lab certification training, which phlebotomists in other states do not typically complete.
All phlebotomists in Washington D.C. must be certified, however, they do not require additional training or work experience compared to phlebotomists who practice in other states.
Length of phlebotomy programs
How long is a phlebotomy program? That depends on the school you go to, but in general, phlebotomy programs can range in duration from a few weeks to several months.
The length of a phlebotomy program primarily depends on factors such as the curriculum’s comprehensiveness, the number of instructional hours, and whether the program offers part-time or full-time options. Additionally, some programs may include a clinical internship component, which adds to the overall program duration.
Shorter programs, often referred to as accelerated or intensive courses, can be completed in as little as four to six weeks. These programs typically focus on the essential skills and knowledge needed for phlebotomy practice.
On the other hand, longer programs can extend up to six months or more. These programs may offer a more extensive curriculum, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of phlebotomy techniques, medical terminology, anatomy, and related subjects. They may also include a more extensive clinical experience to ensure students are well-prepared for real-world practice.
When selecting a phlebotomy program, it’s crucial to consider your own availability, learning style, and career goals. Keep in mind that while shorter programs offer a quick path to certification, longer programs may provide more comprehensive training and potentially enhance your employment prospects.
Phlebotomy certification types
While it’s not a legal requirement in most states, employers recommend or require their phlebotomists to become certified. There are a number of different types of phlebotomy certifications to choose from. The most popular certifications include:
- National Center for Competency Testing – Phlebotomy Technician Certification (NCPT)
- National Phlebotomy Association – Certified Phlebotomist Technologist (CPT-NPA)
- American Society for Clinical Pathology – Phlebotomy Technician Certification (PBT-ASCP)
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians – Phlebotomy Technician Certificate (PTC-ASPT)
- National Healthcareer Association – Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT-NHA)
- American Medical Technologists – Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT-AMT)
- American Medical Certification Association – Phlebotomy Technician Certification (PTC-AMCA)
- American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals – Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CBT-ACA)
- Phlebotomy Technician Certificate (PTC-AAH)
We do a deep dive into the requirements and key differences for each of these certifications in our phlebotomy certification types article.
The bottom line – phlebotomy certifications are not necessary to practice phlebotomy, but they are an important part of career advancement and all phlebotomists should strive to become certified. The certifications are also necessary for many employers and phlebotomists who are certified earn a higher salary.
Some programs allow include certification at the end of the program – somewhat like a final exam, while others do not offer certification help. If you are in the workforce, your employer may be willing to pay for the exam fees and other associated costs necessary for obtaining certification.
Passing the certification exam
All certification providers will require applicants to pass a written exam in order to become certified. The exams will vary by provider, however, all exams will test the applicant’s knowledge and comprehension of phlebotomy-related topics such as patient preparation, laboratory safety procedures, and collection techniques. They can be taken online or in person depending on the provider, and usually consist of 100 multiple-choice questions. A passing score is usually 70% and the pass rate for these exams is typically between 60% -80%.
Applicants can often find study guides, practice tests, and review materials for each certification provider, however, these materials sometimes require additional payment to access.
Once you’ve passed the exam, the provider will issue you an official certification. Your certification number should be included on your resume or C.V., and you may also be able to display it in the workplace, depending on your employer.
Phlebotomy certifications must typically be renewed every 1-3 years, at a cost of around $50-$75 per renewal. The renewal process usually requires proof of continuing education or employment.
It is important to know exactly when your certification will expire, as lapsed certifications may be difficult to renew without having to retake the certification exam. There may also be higher fees required for late certification renewals.
As a part of your continued membership in your certification program, you may have access to networking and job opportunities, exclusive discounts and deals, and other benefits. For example, the National Phlebotomy Association has an impressive online network of phlebotomists and lists job opportunities that only their members have access to. If this is a benefit of your program, it’s important to take full advantage.
Phlebotomists can benefit from becoming certified as it will open up great career opportunities and provide them with a higher salary than their non-certified counterparts. The certification process can be daunting at first, but if you take the time to choose the best certification option that fits your needs, study for the exam, and keep up your certification with renewal, you will be rewarded for your hard work.