Becoming a phlebotomist, also known as a phlebotomy technician, can open the door to the ever-evolving world of health care. Compared to other health care professions, such as nursing or medicine, the path to becoming a phlebotomist is relatively quick. Getting certified can take less than a year. From applying to a certification program to finding a job, we’ll explore how to become a phlebotomist in the guide below.
What is a Phlebotomist?
Even if you're not familiar with the term 'phlebotomist,' you likely know what these professionals do. Phlebotomists are medical professionals who draw blood samples in a wide variety of situations and work in many health care circumstances.
What Phlebotomists Do
Collect blood samples: Phlebotomists' primary responsibility is to draw blood and obtainblood samples. They do this either through venipuncture (the collection of blood through a vein), skin punctures or arterial punctures.
Communicate with patients: Phlebotomists make sure to communicate effectively and compassionately with patients or blood donors during the blood drawing procedure. Besides communicating professionally, they must maintain HIPAA standards.
Organizing and handling lab equipment: Phlebotomists must handle precise medical equipment, administer medical procedures, and safely collect and manage samples.
Prepare samples: Phlebotomy technicians often prepare blood, urine and other specimens for testing.
Read more: What does a phlebotomist do?
Where Phlebotomists Work
Phlebotomists work anywhere where blood draws are necessary. The majority of phlebotomists work in hospitals (36%) and medical or diagnostic laboratories (35%). They can also work at blood banks, outpatient care centers and other medical facilities.
How to Become a Phlebotomist
Earning a phlebotomy certification can help you find a job and is required in some states. Taking a phlebotomy certification course will give you the knowledge and experience you need to become certified as a phlebotomist. Below, we'll discuss the steps to become a certified phlebotomist.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma or GED
The majority of phlebotomy certification programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or have completed their GED (General Education Development). Depending on the program, there may be other requirements, such as having proof of college-level English proficiency.
Taking high school classes such as chemistry, biology, and health sciences can be helpful, although the necessity of these classes may depend on the specific accredited training program you choose
Step 2: Complete a Phlebotomy Program
Many technical schools, community colleges, and vocational schools offer accredited phlebotomy training programs. Naturally, Not all phlebotomy courses are equal, and finding the best one for you will require some research. When choosing a phlebotomy program, there are a few key factors to consider.
What will you learn? Certification programs can vary widely when it comes to content. One thing to watch out for is whether a program offers clinical instruction, meaning that you will be able to practice blood draws. If a program only offers clinical instruction virtually, you may not meet state or employer requirements to be a phlebotomist. Another thing to watch out for is whether the program focuses only on phlebotomy or if it prepares students for other certifications as well. Cardio-phlebotomy courses, for example, also prepare students for an EKG (Electrocardiogram) certification, which may be unnecessary depending on your career goals.
How long is the program? Some phlebotomy programs can be as short as four weeks, while others can take as long as half a year. It's best to choose a program that fits your schedule. If you have previous experience working in health care, you may be able to take an accelerated course to obtain your phlebotomy certificate in a shorter amount of time.
Instruction modality: This term refers to the mode of teaching, which could be in-person, online, or a hybrid of the two.
Is the program approved and accredited? Finding a program that has been approved by a national accrediting agency is a prerequisite to taking a certification exam. You can check HealthJob's database of phlebotomy programs for a searchable list of approved phlebotomy programs by state.
How much will it cost? Phlebotomy programs vary greatly in cost. All of the factors above can impact a program's cost. For example, in-person classes are often more expensive than online courses. When considering programs, it can help to first create a list of programs that have all of the characteristics that you care about before evaluating cost—you don't want to pay for something you don't need or be attracted to a program that doesn't teach you what you need to know.
To give you a sense of the differences between programs, here we've compared different types of phlebotomist certification programs. The programs below show costs across different locations, school types, modalities and course content. In general, we found that community colleges were cheaper than private vocational schools, but they often took longer—around two months.
Selected Phlebotomy Programs
Chicago School of Phlebotomy
Phlebotomy Certificate Program
Chicago School of Phlebotomy
U.S. Career Institute
Phlebotomy Technician Certificate
Phlebotomy Career Training
Online: Phlebotomy Technician Certification
Phlebotomy Career Training
In-Person Certified Phlebotomy Technician
Mass Bay Community College
Phlebotomy Technician: Online Certification Training
City College of San Francisco (CCSF)
Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Knoxville
The program information listed above is current as of August 7, 2023.
Step 3: Obtain Certification
After you complete a phlebotomy program, you will be eligible to take a national certification exam. Although some states do not require a phlebotomy certification by law, many employers prefer it and only hire candidates who are certified.
There are many certifying organizations, though phlebotomy programs typically prepare you for the certification exams offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) or the National Association of Phlebotomy Professionals (NAPTP).
In addition to NHA and NAPT, there are other organizations such as The American Society for Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT), National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), National Center for Competency (NCCT) and American Medical Technologists (AMT) that also offer phlebotomy certification exams. The best way to decide on an exam worth pursuing is to see if there are any exams preferred by the state you live in or the employers in your area.
Register for the exam
When registering for an exam, you must ensure that you're eligible. NHA's Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT), for example, requires that you either have completed an accredited phlebotomy program or have relevant work experience. You also need to have proof that you have successfully performed a minimum of 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary or finger sticks on live individuals.
Prepare for the exam
Many phlebotomy programs allot time for helping prepare students for the phlebotomy exam. In addition to your course, you can also study with practice tests and study guides. NHA and other certifying organizations provide official study materials.
Take the exam
The exam might be taken online or with pen and paper. If the test is administered online , you may get the results immediately after taking the exam.
Step 4: Apply for a License If Necessary
Most states do not require phlebotomists to be licensed or certified. But if you live in a state that regulates phlebotomy, you will have to take a few more steps before you can become a phlebotomist.
California, for example, requires aspiring phlebotomists to apply for a license after passing the certification exam. To apply, you must provide proof of a high school education or equivalent, completion of a phlebotomy technician certification program, and relevant clinical experience.
Read more: Phlebotomy Licensing by State
Step 5: Find a Job
Phlebotomists work in various places, from hospitals to doctor's offices and blood donation centers. When starting your job search, you can check with your phlebotomy school to see if they can help you find a job. Some certification programs have career advisors help graduates find jobs.
You can also apply directly to hospitals and other organizations who need phlebotomists. Searching on job boards, such as HealthJob, is another way to find your first phlebotomy job.
Step 6: Maintain Your Certification
Phlebotomy certifications typically last for two years. To maintain an NHA phlebotomy certification, phlebotomists must complete ten continuing education requirements and pay a renewal fee before they recertify. NHA offers continuing education courses free of charge to phlebotomists who hold an active certification.
How Much Do Phlebotomists Earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median phlebotomist salary is $37,380 per year or $17.97 per hour. The top 10 percent of phlebotomists earn $48,490 a year. Other factors that impact a phlebotomy technician’s salary include certification, location and industry.
California ($48,070 per year), New York ($45,390) and Massachusetts ($43,770) are the highest paying states for phlebotomists.
What’s the Difference Between a Phlebotomist and a Phlebotomy Technician?
There is no difference between a phlebotomist and phlebotomy technician—the terms can be used interchangeably.
How Much Does a Phlebotomy Certification Cost?
The programs we surveyed had costs ranging from $585 to $2,000. The difference in program costs stem from the material covered, the type of institution providing the instruction and whether the course is on-site or online. A course that covers EKGs—such as a Cardio-Phlebotomy certification course—will often be more expensive because it is preparing students for two certifications, EKG and phlebotomy, as opposed to just one.
What Are the Education Requirements To Be a Phlebotomist?
A certified phlebotomist or phlebotomy technician (CPT) typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent and completion of a phlebotomy certification course. The exact education requirements differ depending on your state’s or employer’s requirements. Some employers offer on-the-job training to become a phlebotomist.
How Long Are Phlebotomy Programs?
The programs we surveyed varied in length. The shortest was four weeks for an accelerated phlebotomy certification course targeting those with previous health care experience. Others were longer, with the longest taking three to five months to complete.
Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.