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Histology FAQ's: Certification

For someone looking into the field of histology, certification can be a confusing topic. Do I need to be certified to obtain a histology position? How do I get certified? Can I take the exam after being trained on the job? Should I take the HT or the HTL Exam? In this post we clear up some commonly asked questions and provide some additional resources for you as you explore your options in the histology field.


Do I need to be certified to become a histologist?

Though certification is not officially a requirement for many histotech positions, most workplaces hiring today do set a requirement of certification for their employees. Many labs hiring students right out of a histology program will grant a period of time after their hire date, for the tech to become certified.


Certification is strongly recommended as it not only enhances your chances of obtaining a good position, it also sets a standard for the profession, and helps to establish a clear career path within the field.


Whether you will need to be certified or not also depends on the type of histology work you are interested in. Here are the certification rates by department from the ASCP 2017 Vacancy Survey.

Can I sit for the HT exam if I have been trained on the job?

Prior to 2004, histologists could sit for the HT exam with only their training obtained on the job (known as the OJT route). In 2004 however, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), approved changes that required candidates to have formal training through a histology program, or college. These changes were a result of a desire to elevate the profession and improve the pass rates and competency of exam takers.


How do I become certified?

National certification is administered through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). ASCP offers two certifications for histology, the HT (Histotechnician) Certification and the HTL (Histotechnologist) Certification. Both require prior education in the histology field, either through attending a histology program, or acquiring laboratory experience in the field. In order to sit for either exam, you must fulfill the qualifications of either Route 1 or Route 2.


Eligibility Routes for Histotechnician, HT(ASCP)

To be eligible for this examination category, an applicant must satisfy the requirements of at least one of the following routes:

Route 1

Successful completion of a NAACLS accredited Histotechnician program within the last five years prior to the date of application for examination.

The education received from a NAACLS accredited HT program is acceptable for a period of five (5) years from the date of completion of that program. After five years, the applicant’s eligibility will be based on clinical laboratory experience as stated in the current examination eligibility requirements.

Route 2

At least 60 semester hours (90 quarter hours) of academic credit from a regionally accredited college/university, with a combination of 12 semester hours (18 quarter hours) of biology and chemistry (must include credit hours in both), or an associate degree from a regionally accredited college/university, with a combination of 12 semester hours (18 quarter hours) of biology and chemistry (must include credit hours in both),

AND one year of full time acceptable experience in a histopathology (clinical, veterinary, industry or research) laboratory in the U.S., Canada or an accredited laboratory within the last five years.


Eligibility Routes for Histotechnologist, HTL(ASCP)

To be eligible for this examination category, an applicant must satisfy the requirements of at least one of the following routes:

Route 1

Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college/university with a combination of 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) of biology and chemistry (must include credit hours in both),

AND successful completion of a NAACLS accredited Histotechnician or Histotechnology program within the last five years.

The education received from a NAACLS accredited HT/HTL program is acceptable for a period of five (5) years from the date of completion of that program. After five years, the applicant’s eligibility will be based on laboratory experience as stated in the current examination eligibility requirements.

Route 2

Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college/university with a combination of 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) of biology and chemistry (must include credit hours in both),

AND one year of full time acceptable experience in a histopathology (clinical, veterinary, industry or research) laboratory in the U.S., Canada or an accredited laboratory within the last five years.


Should I take the HT or HTL Exam?

Whether you decide to take the HT or HTL exam depends on both the level of education you’re willing to pursue, as well as your future career goals. The HTL exam contains a greater focus on troubleshooting, the ability to problem solve, and methodology. It contains less common techniques and requires a deeper understanding of the chemistry and diseases behind tissue identification and test selection.


You are not required to obtain your HT before taking your HTL. You may take your HT first to get your initial certification, gain some experience, and go back to obtain your HTL. The route to certification is different for everyone, so when deciding which to take, keep in mind your current level of education, and where you would like your career to take you!


Another factor to keep in mind is how much you want to get paid! Pay varies by certification for staff and management positions. Learn more: 2015 ASCP Wage Survey


For more information about the topics discussed here, visit:

http://www.msfh.wildapricot.org/resources/Pictures/HT%20HTL%20ASCP%20Exam%20Prep.pdf


http://pathologylearning.com/docs/default-source/pdf/boc-pdfs/guidelines/0df6ed9a-0eda-4e93-9d03-4bf911ee2809.pdf


http://www.histosearch.com/histonet/Sep/Re.Certification.html


https://www.ascp.org/content/board-of-certification/get-credentialed


http://www.nsh.org/career/certification

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The National Society for Histotechnology is a professional member organization for individuals actively involved in the histology profession. NSH has over 3,000 members worldwide, and is the leading provider of histology focused continuing education.  

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