What is an MLS? Exploring medical laboratory science at CHS

Behind every hospital, physician’s office, or clinic, there is a great laboratory. Crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of physiological and pathological conditions, these laboratories—and the medical laboratory scientists who run them—are among the forces driving medical innovation and excellence to new levels. At the UK College of Health Sciences, students can enter the medical laboratory science (MLS) program to become part of these essential labs. 

The medical laboratory science program offers students the opportunity to explore and prepare for a career as a medical laboratory scientist. MLS graduates will enter careers responsible for delivering reliable results which ultimately contribute to the prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of health issues. The testing they do can provide up to 70 percent of the information for every clinical diagnosis.

At the College of Health Sciences, students can opt for either a traditional or online track, however, the online coursework is limited to full-time lab employees with medical laboratory technician (MLT) credentials.

The traditional MLS track is available on the Lexington campus and at the Center for Excellence in Rural Health campus in Hazard, Kentucky. Offering small class sizes and a hands-on curriculum, the program readies students for the intensity of a career in the allied health world.

“The curriculum is a full year of didactic material and then clinical rotation for 20 weeks,” said Kim Campbell, MS, MLS, (ASCP) CM, the interim director of the medical laboratory sciences program. “Students spend five weeks in each specialty area.”

As part of their hands-on clinical instruction, students are exposed to clinical instrumentation and get a sense of how work flows in an actual hospital lab. “In a larger hospital you usually specialize in one area and only see one part of the profession,” Campbell said. “In a medium or smaller setting, you rotate into all departments.”

“It’s an excellent thing for new graduates to do because they gain experience and realize what area they really like,” Campbell continued. “Our students are then able to narrow down a specialization they prefer in areas like hematology, clinical chemistry, toxicology, virology, microbiology, immunohematology (blood banking), and molecular biology.”

After graduation, students have a wide array of career paths to choose from. “Working at a hospital lab is the most common avenue for graduates. The starting salary is high, even without a shift differential,” Campbell explained. “Many of our graduates will end up receiving job offers at the hospitals where they did their clinical rotation. We also have students continue on to dentistry, physician assistant studies, medical school, and other graduate programs.”

Campbell said CHS students are extremely successful in professional schools because the rigor of the MLS program prepares them for the intensity of the work when seeking an advanced degree. MLS graduates are also well-prepared to pursue less traditional routes in the health care industry such as quality control for pharmaceutical or industrial companies, laboratory instrumentation sales, or as a laboratory scientist in the veterinary field.

“The best part about this program is that our students will get a job when they graduate,” Campbell said. “There is always workforce demand for medical laboratory scientists. We pride ourselves on preparing graduates who will be able to transition from academia to their career seamlessly.”