This is a complete step-by-step guide to obtaining phlebotomy certification in the United States. We recommend you take the time to read through the entire guide. If you still have questions, make sure you leave a comment below.
The medical field is growing rapidly and skilled professionals are always in great demand. The medical field is about saving lives. Medical professionals need to be competent and skilled in their area of expertise. Any amount of negligence could have dire consequences to the patient.
For this reason, most establishments prefer phlebotomists who have been certified by one of the nationally renowned certifying agencies.
Becoming certified as a phlebotomy technician is a great way to make you more desirable to an employer. Employers are more likely to hire you if you are certified because they know that you have the knowledge necessary to pass a certification exam.
General Phlebotomy Certification Requirements
Prior to attempting to become certified as a phlebotomy technician, you will need to have a GED or high school diploma and have completed phlebotomy training either through an accredited community college or through a technical school. Once you have successfully completed your training course and received your certificate, you can sit for an exam from one of the national certifying agencies. If you are successful and pass the certification exam, you will become certified with that particular agency.
It is important to note that there are certification agencies that will accept applicants who have met their on-the-job training criteria as opposed to obtaining a certificate or degree in phlebotomy.
Currently, there is no set standard for certification. The certification exam at each of the agencies will test your knowledge of anatomy, the proper blood drawing techniques and medical terminology.
Which Agencies Certify Phlebotomists?
There are numerous certifying bodies that offer testing and certification programs in the field of phlebotomy. Some of these bodies include the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT), National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
|American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP)||33 West Monroe Street, Suite1600 – Chicago, IL 60603||(312) 541-4845||www.ascp.org|
|American Medical Technologists (AMT)||107800 Higgins Road, Suite150 – Rosemont, IL 60018||(800) 275-1268 – (847) 823-5169||www.amt1.com|
|American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals (ACA)||PO Box 58 – Osceola, IN 46561||(574) 277-4538||www.acacert.com|
|National Healthcareer Association (NHA)||1161 Overbrook Road – Leawood, KS 66211||(800) 499-9092||www.nhanow.com|
|National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT/MMCI)||7007 College Boulevard, Suite 385 – Overland Park, KS 66211||(800) 875-4404||www.ncctinc.com|
|American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT)||PO Box 1831 – Hickory, NC 28603||(828) 294-0078||www.aspt.org|
Are the Application Requirements / Exams / Fees the Same for All the Certification Agencies?
No, each certification agency has its own set of requirements and fees. Each exam has different structure too.
Certification Guides for Individual Agencies
To make it easy for you to review each individual agency’s application requirements, fees, exam outlines and study materials, we have compiled agency-specific guides. If you already know which agency you are going to certify with as is the one preferred by your recruiter / state, navigate to the respective guide below.
- ASCP Certification Exam Outline (Requirements, Examination, Fees)
- AMT Certification Test Outline, Requirements and Fees
- ACA Application Requirements
- NHA Certification Exam. Requirements and Fees
- NCCT Certification Exam Outline (Requirements, Examination, Fees)
- ASPT Requirements and Fees
Is Phlebotomy Certification Required?
Several states (Louisiana and California) require that their phlebotomists be certified. In the other states, certification is recommended because the medical industry is continually moving toward stricter regulations. Phlebotomists who have their phlebotomy certification generally find employment quicker and earn a higher wage than those who do not.
Phlebotomy Certification is Mandatory in California and Louisiana
Certification is only mandatory in Louisiana and California. The other 48 states do not require certification, but do prefer it.
Regulations Set Forth by the State of California
Anyone interested in working as a phlebotomist in California is required to hold a California Phlebotomy License. To obtain this license an individual must graduate from one of the accredited phlebotomy training programs that are available within California and be certified with a state approved agency.
Obtaining California’s Certified Phlebotomy Technician License
Once an individual has successfully completed a 20 to 40 hour, state-approved certification program that includes progressive amounts of supervised clinical work, he or she is ready to sit for a certification exam. Prerequisites to take the exam generally include that the individual:
- Have a GED or High School Diploma
- Has Successfully Completed an Accredited Training Course
Every two years a phlebotomist must have his/her license renewed. The phlebotomist is required to complete six hours of continuing education each year to be eligible for another license.
The required continuing education hours may be completed online via study course and exams or through any of the brick-and-mortar accredited phlebotomy organizations.
Once you complete your training program, you need to contact the certifying agency that you are interested in becoming a member of. You will need to follow that agency’s procedures to apply to take the exam. All of the certifying agencies require verification of your training on the official letterhead of your school and a letter of authenticity.
Why Should I Become Certified?
Some phlebotomists, who do not reside in the states where certification is mandatory, wonder why they should become certified. The reality is that without your phlebotomist certification, obtaining a job as a phlebotomist is extremely difficult.
There is an enormous difference between professionals who possess certification and those who do not. When a phlebotomist obtains his/her certification, it demonstrates the ability to meet the standards set by the certifying agency from which the certification was obtained from. Certified professionals are always more desirable to recruiters. Chances are you will enjoy a better workplace and a higher salary as a certified phlebotomist than you would as a phlebotomist who has neglected to obtain certification.
What is the Difference in Pay for a Certified and Non-Certified Phlebotomist?
According to the ASCP, a certified phlebotomy technician has an average starting wage of $14.06/hour whereas, non-certified phlebotomists can expect an average starting wage of $12.66/hour.
By becoming certified, you let your prospective employer know that you meet all the requirements laid down by the certifying bodies in your field.
Do I have to Become Certified with All the Available Certification Programs?
The majority of health establishments require that their phlebotomists receive certification with at least one of the certification programs. However, some establishments request their employees specifically receive certification through a particular certification program. One of the most requested certifications is the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
Therefore, the programs with which you choose to become certified will depend on the requirements set forth by the establishment where you want to work and your own personal ambitions.
It is important to note that not all certification programs are accepted in every state. Before becoming certified, make sure the certification you choose is accepted in the state you wish to work in.
Should I Still Become Certified if I Have an Associate’s Degree in Phlebotomy?
Yes, even phlebotomists that have an associate’s degree should become certified. As stated previously, two states have already made certification mandatory and many employers require their phlebotomists be certified.
Each Certification Agency Offers the Phlebotomist Different Credentials
While the certification agencies are comparable, each offers phlebotomists different credentials. Some states and establishments prefer one agency to another. You will have to find out which agencies are preferred in your area.
- The National Center for Competency Testing offers phlebotomists the national certified phlebotomy technician credential “NCPT”;
- The American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers the registered phlebotomy technician credential “RPT”;
- The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers the “CPT” credential; and
- The ASCP offers the phlebotomy technician “PBT” designation.
The ASCP also offers phlebotomists a second certification. The second certification is in donor phlebotomy for those who wish to specialize in obtaining blood from donors.
Preparing for your Phlebotomy Certification Exam
Once you have completed the application process and paid your fee, you need to begin preparing to take the certification exam. Each certification board creates its own certification exam so the exams will vary from agency to agency. However, there are places available on each agency’s site to help you study for that agency’s exam.
Preparing to Take the Certification Exam
Begin preparing to take the exam early. The sooner you begin preparing the better chance you have of successfully passing the certification exam and scoring well on it.
There is a broad range of skills and knowledge that is tested on all of the certification examinations. Applicants who have a college education and individuals completing formal laboratory training programs will also find that reviewing the information is necessary. Usually, last minute cramming is an ineffective method to prepare for a certification exam. It is more beneficial to spend a little time studying every day. You should make a practice of scheduling a regular time daily and study in a place where you can concentrate.
Each agency offers numerous materials to assist its candidates when studying for their examinations. You should take advantage of these opportunities. Although it may seem that some of the books to study from are a bit expensive for a student, you may want to consider looking for a used one.
If nothing else, you need to take advantage of the pre-tests that are offered by the agency you choose to become certified with. For official study materials, please refer to your preferred certification agency by going back to the table of contents.
Scheduling the Certification Exam
Some of the certification agencies will only offer testing on specific days and times. Once you determine the agency with which you would like to become certified, you need to inquire about the available examination dates and times. At this time, you should also review the agency’s cancellation policies.
You need to ask what information you must bring to sit for the exam. For example, most certification agencies require a photo-ID and an admission letter. Generally, acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license with a photo or a state ID with a photo. First and last names are required to match on all documentation presented.
There is a new biometric technology being utilized by some of the certification agencies. This new security enhancement scans the veins inside of your hand and then recognizes those veins in your palm. This form of identification is extremely accurate. This technology is intended to ensure that each candidate only receives a single record to safeguard the integrity of the certification tests.
Some of the certification agencies do allow candidates to bring certain electronic devices with them to the testing center. You should ask which devices are permitted o bring with you the day of the exam. Usually non-programmable calculators will be allowed. Generally, no cell phones, reference books or study materials are permitted within the testing center.
Taking the Certification Test
Most agencies will allow candidates to review and change their answers prior to submission if they wish.
If Re-Examination is Required
Most agencies will send re-examination information to candidates with their examination results. Many agencies do not require another application fee as long as the individual retests within a particular period (ASCP offers three months).
Sitting for the Exam
While it is true that not all phlebotomy schools are identical, the information that is covered should be. Once you complete your training program, you will have the knowledge necessary to successfully complete a certification exam from any of the agencies listed above.
Obtaining a certification is about knowledge, as well as function. The knowledge will be acquired during the classroom hours and the function during the clinical phase of training. The most important thing you can do is take your time, follow the steps set forth by the agency you choose to become a member of and relax. Individuals who do well in their courses will have no problem successfully completing any of the phlebotomy certification examinations offered.
Most people are aware as to which areas they are stronger in; you should keep in mind your weaker areas and be sure to spend an adequate amount of time studying them. An overall review must also be done to refresh all the areas related to phlebotomy.