About Cytotechnology

We regret to inform you that the UW Cytotechnology Program will be discontinued after the 2023-2024 academic year and will not be accepting students for the upcoming 2024-2025 academic year. Please contact us at cyto@office365.wisc.edu with any questions.

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What is a cytotechnologist?

A cytotechnologist is a medical laboratory professional specializing in microscopic examination. They find and diagnose rare cancer cells in small samples from almost any part of the human body. Working hand-in-hand with pathologists, cytotechnologists play a key role in early and accurate diagnosis of cancer.

What types of samples do cytotechnologists most commonly deal with?

Pap tests (samples from the cervix, part of the uterus), fluids taken from various parts of the body, and fine needle aspirations. Fine needle aspirations are samples taken from a tumor or other abnormal area using a small needle.

Where do cytotechnologists work?

Jobs can be found in a variety of practice settings, most commonly:

  • Academic hospital laboratories
  • Community practice laboratories
  • Corporate laboratories

Other opportunities exist in research and industry.

What qualities are important to becoming a successful cytotechnologist?

  • Attention to detail
  • Professionalism and ethical behavior
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Communication skills
  • Understanding the clinical context of cellular abnormalities

Do cytotechnologists work directly with patients?

Cytotechologists usually work behind the scenes in the medical laboratory and do not take care of patients directly. They help many patients they will never meet. However, when they accompany physicians on procedures, they may have the opportunity to meet and talk to patients.

What are some advantages of a career in cytotechnology?

  • A rewarding career that uses your knowledge and skills to help patients
  • Starting salaries for recent former students approximately $60,000 and up
  • Excellent job opportunities nationally
  • Regular work hours, usually 9-5 (flexible options may be available in some settings)
  • Opportunities for advancement, including supervisory positions after as little as 3 years of experience