Master of Health ScienceMedical Laboratory Science

Student looking in microscope

Solve healthcare problems as a medical lab scientist.

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Why choose Bellarmine for a Master’s in Medical Lab Science?

If you’re considering a career in medical laboratory science, you’ve made a great choice. It’s a growing, rewarding profession, both financially and personally. Our entry level Master’s in MLS will prepare you for practice and advancement in the medical lab setting. The MLS program is an 80-credit hour program that can be completed as a full-time student in 2 years with summer classes. Our program starts each year in August and includes 15 weeks (600 hours) of a clinical internship at one or more of our affiliated Louisville-area hospitals. Thanks in part to this practical clinical experience our graduate employment rate is 100%. Our dedicated faculty provide you with the individual attention needed to succeed in your course work, and in your new career!

“Bellarmine is a relatively small university with really high-quality education. I always had close contact with my professors. The small class sizes mean they are able to take time with each student to be sure we are able to digest what we have learned.”
 —Fei Wang ’18 MLS
Medical Lab Science

Medical Lab Science: Critical care behind the scenes

Health Professions

When Dr. Karen Golemboski was a kid, she had what she jokingly terms “a morbid interest in sick people” and a great interest in healthcare.

She assumed she would be a nurse. So as soon as she got her driver’s license, she signed on as a candy striper at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in southern Louisville. “One afternoon, I realized that while I was very interested in what was wrong with the patients, I wasn’t the least bit interested in taking care of them,” she said. “They sent me to the lab with a urine sample, and I pretty much never came back.”

Dr. Golemboski went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology (which is now called Medical Laboratory Science) and a Ph.D. in Immunology. Today she is the chair of Bellarmine University’s MLS program, which offers one of only seven entry-level master’s degrees in the U.S. (including the only one in Kentucky) and is the only university in Louisville to offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Medical Laboratory Science.

“It’s a good career for those who are Interested in being on a healthcare team but aren’t interested in hands-on patient care."

“It’s a good career for those who are Interested in being on a healthcare team but aren’t interested in hands-on patient care,” she said. “What we do is science-oriented. We make a difference—about two-thirds of healthcare decisions are based on our work—but we don’t have face-to-face contact with patients.” 

Perhaps because of that, many people don’t really know what medical laboratory scientists do. “They will say, ‘Oh, so you are a nurse?’ or ‘Oh, you’re a phlebotomist?’” Dr. Golemboski said. “No, I’m this thing that is its own profession.”

It’s a profession that offers 100 percent employment for Bellarmine graduates, she said, as there is a significant workforce shortage.

Some Bellarmine MLS graduates go into research, but most of them work in hospital labs, testing blood and other body fluids to determine if disease is present. Their work has been highlighted recently as hospitals battle the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“When you see videos of the testing centers, those specimens are going back to the lab and it will be a medical laboratory scientist who will do the testing,” Dr. Golemboski said. “In addition, it turns out the disease has had unexpected effects, like messing up coagulation. Is there a decrease of certain cells? Are there inappropriate clots forming? Is kidney function still going? All of that is medical testing information as well. Medical laboratory scientists are an important part of the team, because if you don’t have that information, you don’t know how to treat a patient. Nursing doesn’t teach you this, and neither does medical school.”

Bellarmine’s entry-level master’s program does not require an undergraduate degree in MLS. Qualified applicants who have completed prerequisite course work are admitted regardless of their undergraduate field of study.

"This is a great program for those who have an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry,” Dr. Golemboski said. “In two academic years, you can come and learn the technical content and some additional content, like health policy and evidence-based patient safety, that helps you to see the broader picture of healthcare so that you are better able to interact with a healthcare team.”

The hope, she said, is that Bellarmine’s master’s graduates can help physicians make better-informed decisions when they order tests. “I used to work in an immunology lab, and some doctors, when they ordered blood tests, they would check everything on the page. There are still doctors who reflexively do that. Some patients with long stays end up with hospital-induced anemia just from having tests done.

“This is a great program for those who have an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry.”

“In the 21st century, we need to integrate the team so that we choose the best way to use the test—the best way to get to the result.” 

Meera Patel, who obtained her graduate MLS degree in 2019, works in a specialized Blood Bank Lab at Norton Healthcare.Meera Patel graduated from Bellarmine in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. When her plan to attend medical school was sidelined, she returned to Bellarmine and earned her master’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science in 2019.

She now works in a specialized Blood Bank Lab at Norton Healthcare, cross-matching blood for patients, confirming their blood types and determining whether they have antibodies that could cause a transfusion reaction. “We do a lot of other specialized testing with patient blood and donor blood, along with storing platelets, plasma and other blood-derived products,” she said. “We take care of a wide patient population, from newborns to the elderly.”

Patel said she would recommend the undergraduate MLS degree to anyone who is interested in attending medical school, becoming a physician’s assistant, “or really pursuing any higher-level healthcare profession.”

“Physicians and any healthcare providers need to understand laboratory results,” she said. “Laboratory and radiology/imaging services are the two main ways to diagnose a patient with whatever illness or disease they have, because signs and symptoms don't always tell the whole story.”

Why pursue this degree at Bellarmine?

  • 100% graduation rate
  • 100% employment; most have job offers before graduation (national median salary: $60,000)
  • Certification exam pass rates above the national average
  • One of only seven entry-level MLS master’s degree programs in the country
  • Annual inter-professional participation in a local community diabetes education program (Active Steps)
  • 560 (or more) clinical hours in six laboratory disciplines
  • Opportunity for research projects in bioinformatics

Dr. Karen Golemboski, program chair, is a member of the national ASCLS Patient Safety Committee

Tags: Career Development , Graduate Programs , Health Professions Education , Medical Lab Services

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Medical Lab Scientist do?

Medical Laboratory Scientists (formerly Clinical Laboratory Scientists or Medical Technologists) provide the science that supports healthcare. Most diagnostic and therapeutic medical decisions are based on laboratory test results generated by a Medical Laboratory Scientist. They apply skill and instrumentation to analyze blood cells and body fluids, to identify disease-causing bacteria and viruses, and to perform testing prior to transfusions and transplantation.

Where are Medical Lab Scientists employed?

MLS graduates are employed primarily in hospital laboratories, but also enjoy career opportunities in biomedical research, forensics, biotechnology, toxicology, health care administration, pharmaceuticals, and other industries. An MLS degree also provides excellent preparation for medical, dental, or graduate school.

Where are clinical lab career opportunities?

Our clinical affiliates include: Baptist Hospital, Louisville KY; Clark Memorial Hospital, Jeffersonville, IN; Floyd Memorial Hospital, New Albany, IN; Jewish Hospital, Louisville KY; Norton Hospital, Louisville KY; University of Louisville Hospital, Louisville KY; and Veterans Administration Hospital, Louisville KY.

What kind of classes will I take?

Students complete hands-on technical courses in Clinical Chemistry, Hematology, Medical Microbiology, Clinical Immunology, and Immunohematology (Blood Banking), as well as additional online courses related to professional practice and leadership.

Do I need to have an undergraduate degree in MLS?

No. Our program is entry level. Qualified applicants who have completed the prerequisite course work are admitted regardless of their undergraduate field of study. This is a great program for those who have undergraduate degrees in the physical sciences and want a practical hands-on career choice.

What are the prerequisite course requirements for a master’s in Medical Lab Science?

We require proof of completion of: 12 hours of Biology, including Cell Biology (at least 4 credit hours at 200-level or higher); Immunology and Molecular Biology are strongly recommended; 12 credit hours of Chemistry, including Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry; 3 credit hours of Mathematics (Pre-calculus or higher, or Statistics).

Can I work while I get my MLS degree?

This is a rigorous program, with a great deal of time devoted to in-class lecture, labs, and clinical experiences. We strongly encourage students to devote their time to the program for the best career outcomes.

How much time would I need to spend outside of class to be prepared for class?

On average, we recommend three hours outside of class to prepare for each hour of instruction. However, this will vary with the content of the courses(s) you are taking each semester.

Would I be eligible for any financial assistance?

Yes. You will want to file the FAFSA and apply for federal loans at fafsa.ed.gov. Graduate students are eligible for loans in the amount of $20,500 per academic year (fall, spring and summer) while enrolled.

Admission Requirements

The Master of Health Science in Medical Lab Science is an entry level Master’s for students with an undergraduate degree in another field. Candidates must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale, grade of C or better in prerequisite science and math courses (applicants who do not have a minimum 2.75 cumulative undergraduate GPA may be reviewed for admission if the math/science GPA is 3.0 or higher). We require two references, a personal statement describing why you would like to be a Medical Laboratory Scientist, and an interview in addition to the application. For the full admission process, visit the admission requirements page.

Apply for M.H.S. in Medical Laboratory Science

Tuition and Fees

Visit our Graduate Tuition Rates page for the most up-to-date tuition and fees information.

Funding Assistance

As a degree seeking student in the MLS program, students should be eligible for federally supported forms of student aid. Financial aid questions should be directed to the Financial Aid Office at Bellarmine University (finaid@bellarmine.edu or 502.272.7300).

Learning Outcomes

After completing the Bellarmine MLS program, graduates will be able to:

  1. Establish a personal scientific knowledge base that prepares them to read, to interpret, and to utilize scientific knowledge in clinical practice. This includes the ability to:
  1. Correlate test results with patient information
  2. Evaluate and interpret scientific literature, with an understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis
  3. Evaluate and validate new procedures and instrumentation
  4. Pursue professional development opportunities
  1. Demonstrate critical thinking ability and problem-solving skills. This includes the ability to:
  1. Employ discipline-specific knowledge in the context of clinical decision making
  2. Collect and analyze pertinent information
  3. Interpret data
  4. Apply systems thinking to medical laboratory science practice
  5. Draw conclusions and make judgments or recommendations
  6. Incorporate current best evidence to evaluate/develop testing guidelines
  1. Perform a full range of laboratory tests with accuracy and precision. This includes the ability to:
  1. Competently and safely collect and/or process appropriate biological specimens for a particular test procedure
  2. Operate laboratory instrumentation and perform preventative/corrective maintenance
  3. Evaluate the acceptability of test data; identify any problems with specimens, procedures, or instrumentation; and take appropriate corrective action
  4. Utilize quality assurance to monitor analyses, equipment, and technical competency
  5. Report results clearly and accurately
  6. Effectively utilize computers, laboratory software, and information systems to record and report results
  7. Apply and interpret laboratory safety regulations and compliance measures
  8. Apply principles of quality management systems
  1. Demonstrate appropriate professional behavior. This includes the ability to:
  1. Maintain appropriate confidentiality of patient results
  2. Consider ethical responses to difficult situations
  3. Practice effectively in interprofessional teams 
  4. Communicate effectively and professionally with other healthcare professionals, the public, and patients
  5. Promote patient-centered healthcare through diagnostic and therapeutic support
  6. Apply principles of leadership and management to maximize productivity and efficiency of the laboratory
  7. Design, implement and evaluate programs of instruction for students and employees
  8. Provide professional leadership through local, regional, and national groups

Technical Standards

Since a degree in Medical Laboratory Science indicates mastery, not only of knowledge, but also of technical skills, and since these skills are to be applied in clinical situations, all MLS students are expected to meet certain criteria for admission to and progress in the professional program. These criteria include minimum standards of observation, motor function, behavioral-social capabilities, and communication. Learn more about the Technical Standards.

Accreditation

National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science

  • 5600 N. River Rd, Suite 720, Rosemont IL 60018-5119
  • Phone: 773.714.8880
  • Fax: 773.714.8886
  • Email: info@naacls.org

Contact Information