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Job Description

A cytotechnologist is a medical laboratory technologist who specializes in detecting and diagnosing cancer and other diseases at a cellular level. Cells, cells, cells - that is the job of the cytotechnologist who examines samples under the microscope and formulates a cytological report on the results. Cytology is the study of the structure and the function of cells. Cytotechnologists are specifically trained technologists who work with pathologists to identify changes in cellular material obtained from all body sites for early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases. Physicians use the information provided by the cytotechnologists to confirm a diagnosis and recommend treatments.

Interesting Facts

  • Over 70% of the medical decisions made and treatment plans developed are based on lab test results!

Working Conditions

The cytotechnologist must be comfortable with using a compound microscope as this is how she/he will spend a great portion of their day. The cytotechnologist has little patient contact but has to work closely with other health-care professionals. This is a profession where fulfillment comes form playing a critical role in saving people's lives.


  • $39,000 - $46,000 a year in Nova Scotia after a 3 year diploma program.


(a) Personal Characteristics

A cytotechnologist must enjoy independent, meticulous, microscope work and be comfortable with a high degree of responsibility. A problem solver, the cytotechnologist must be accurate, reliable, work well under pressure and be able to finish a task. They must be able to communicate well, both in writing and speaking. To be a cytotechnologist, you must be truly fascinated by what science has to offer and be prepared to explore.

(b) High School

A high school diploma with an emphasis on English, math, biology, chemistry and computer Science is an essential beginning. Admission requirements for post-secondary should be checked carefully.

(c) Post Secondary

A three year diploma program in Cytology is required at a post secondary level. Four year degree programs are available or a post-diploma one year program to obtain a degree is also a possibility. Dalhousie University offers a four year degree program in Diagnostic Cytology. At Dalhousie, a diploma exit is possible after the completion of year three.

(d) Certification

Successful completion of national registry exams set by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) is a requirement to practice after graduation from post-secondary training.

(e) Licensure

In order to practice in Nova Scotia, you must register with the NSCMLT.

Future Prospects

Recent human resource studies indicate that there are more jobs for cytotechnologists than the number of graduates available to fill positions worldwide. The Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Science has indicated that the future of long-term employment looks bright. The need for graduates is greater in certain geographic areas throughout the country.

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  • Radiation Therapist
  • Ultrasonographer
  • Respiratory Therapist


What Can I do Now?

  • Explore websites
  • Interview/job shadow a Cytotechnologist in your local area
  • Have a Cytotechnologist come to your class/school
  • Choose the high school subjects needed to start your path to this career. Aim to achieve high grades.
  • Volunteer in health related professions.

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