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A Career in Medical Laboratory Science: One Student’s Journey

This blog post was written by Kate McKeown, a student in Mayo Clinic's medical laboratory science class of 2017.

When it came to choosing a future career, I was a member of the large crowd of undergraduate students who lacked a sense of direction. There were a few things that I did know for certain: I loved science, and I loved helping people. Naturally, I desired to find a career that would combine these two passions, but what exactly that career would be was unclear. I was determined to investigate my options and confidently charged into my career search.

What followed was a lot of despairing trial and error.

I’ll spare you the details of my long, forlorn career quest and give you the abbreviated version. From completing my bachelor’s degree in microbiology to working as an EMT following college (and everything in between), my career exploration boiled down to a single realization: The career in which I would be happiest would be the career in which I got to: 1.) work in a laboratory and 2.) help people every day.

However, this begged the question: does such a career even exist?

I stumbled upon the answer to this question when I met up with an old friend who had coincidentally obtained her bachelor’s in medical laboratory science (MLS). She enthusiastically spoke about her experience working in a clinical laboratory. She shared her knowledge about the lab methods she used every day and the various different sections of the laboratory in which she got to work.

As I listened to her talk about her job, I thought, "FINALLY! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!"

Following this eureka moment, I did some research and found that I needed to complete an MLS certification program to become a certified Medical Lab Scientist. Upon finding Mayo’s MLS program, I knew immediately that this was the program I wanted to be a part of.

Indeed, becoming a student in Mayo’s MLS program has proven to me that I have made the right career choice. In the program so far, we have learned about the various divisions of MLS and the laboratory methods used in each field. This alone has shown me the incredible breadth of clinical laboratory science. From hematology to microbiology, clinical chemistry to molecular diagnostics, I am thrilled that we, as students, get the opportunity to learn about and practice in these fields. I know that this will be a career in which we get the opportunity to gain more medical and laboratory knowledge every day. What is more, with every sample run, with every test performed, a patient receives information that will help him or her.

Unfortunately, MLS is not a career that many college students (or people in general) are aware of.

I think that many students who express interest in science are trained to think that their only two career options are research or medical school.

The careers in the middle ground between these two options are rarely presented or explored. I certainly wish that I had known about MLS sooner. For anyone reading this who is interested in a science or health care field but uncertain about which direction to take, I urge him or her to consider MLS. It may be the exact career that you have been looking for.

Kate McKeown

Kate McKeown

Kate McKeown is a student in Mayo Clinic’s medical laboratory science (MLS) program. She was born and raised in Maine, and graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology in 2014. Kate greatly enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and skiing.