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A new look at lab salaries.

A new look at lab salaries

Though the shortage of medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians persists, wages paid to laboratory personnel haven't kept pace with nursing salaries.

This was one of the findings of a recent salary survey reported in Modern Healthcare. (1) Since statistics about lab salaries are hard to come by, we thought we'd share with you the results of this study and related comments.

Starting salaries for medical technologists ranged from $22,380 to $27,892 a year, according to the survey, which was conducted in 1989 by Mercer Meidinger Hansen, a Philadelphia-based benefits consulting firm. Starting salaries for medical laboratory technicians ranged from $18,324 to $24,627 a year.

By contrast, starting salaries for registered nurses ranged from $22,416 to $32,160, according to American Nurses' Association figures.

Wages paid to MTs and MLTs also varied by location (see Table I). Of the 18 cities surveyed by Mercer Meidinger Hansen, the lowest average technologist wage was $10.79 per hour in Tampa, Fla., while the highest paid was $16.58 per hour in Los Angeles. For technicians, the lowest wage was $8.81 per hour in Tampa, compared with $11.84 per hour in New York City.

Table : Table 1 Hourly pay
 rates for
 MTs and MLTs
City MTs MLTs
Atlanta $12.38 $10.08
Baltimore 12.10 10.23
Boston 13.48 11.44
Chicago 12.46 9.65
Dallas 11.49 9.82
Detroit 12.61 9.91
Houston 12.35 10.64
Los Angeles 16.58 9.72
Miami 12.19 9.27
New Orleans 12.35 9.52
New York City 13.36 11.84
Philadelphia 12.79 10.64
Phoenix 12.34 9.23
San Francisco 16.44 N/A
Seattle 12.80 11.01
Tampa 10.79 8.81
St. Louis 12.56 10.00
Washington, D.C. 12.27 10.27

While the personnel shortage persists in the clinical laboratory, the American Hospital Association believes that vacancies in lab positions are less severe than they are in other allied health positions, particularly physical therapy and occupational therapy.

The AHA says the job vacancy rate in 1988 was 5.8 per cent for technologists and 5.2 per cent for technicians, compared with 7.6 per cent for registered nurses and and 6.3 per cent for licensed practical nurses. The comparable vacancy rate for physical therapists was 15.8 per cent and for occupational therapists, 14.6 per cent, according to the AHA.

Though shortages may not be as severe in the laboratory, turnover is very high, the AHA asserts.

In an AHA survey last year of 3,001 hospitals, medical technologist was cited as the second most difficult position to keep filled. Some 625 hospitals reported turnover problems with MTs, compared with 667 hospitals for radiologic technologists, the position reported as the most difficult to retain.

Since these two interrelated subjects of lab salaries and the personnel shortage are so crucial today, MLO is devoting its next two national surveys to them. The first, now in the field, is Lab Staffing in the Shortage Era. Our report on this study will appear in our August issue. The other, our biennial survey of laboratory salaries, will follow shortly after.

(1.) Perry, L. Lab worker shortage getting more attention. Mod. Healthcare 19(45): 36, Nov. 10, 1989.
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Author:Fitzgibbon, Robert J.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:editorial
Date:May 1, 1990
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