Frequently Asked Questions



Why did we create a combined cytotechnology & histotechnology program?

The nation has a critical shortage of highly skilled laboratory professionals. Employers truly desire to hire laboratory professionals with unique skill sets enabling them to perform multiple tasks in an efficient and accurate manner.

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What do cytotechnologists do?

Cytotechnologists examine cells under the microscope to look for abnormalities or clues that indicate a cell is malignant, premalignant or diseased. These cells come from Pap smears, sputum, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, other body cavity fluids, fine needle aspirates, and other sources. Cytotechnologists prepare and stain all types of cytologic specimens and assist physicians in obtaining and preparing specimens. They also perform a variety of specialized techniques to identify specific tumor types.

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Where do cytotechnologists work?

They work in hospitals, private laboratories, and universities, usually in a pathology department under the medical direction of a pathologist. With experience, they may work in management, education and research if they choose. Experience is required for positions in education and management.

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What characteristics or personality traits should I have to become a cytotechnologist?

Cytotechnologists must sit at a microscope and concentrate for long periods of time. They need to have fairly good eyesight (correctable vision) in order to pick out fine details in cells under the microscope. Since they work with very little supervision, cytotechnologists must make independent decisions and take responsibility for them. Above all, cytotechnologists should have a strong sense of responsibility. The cytotechnologist issues the final report on specimens that contain normal cells. When abnormal cells are present, the cytotechnologist works with a pathologist to arrive at a final diagnosis.

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What do histotechnologists do?

Histotechnologists skillfully prepare human and animal tissues to be embedded, sectioned, mounted and stained for microscopic examination by a pathologist. These individuals also select, implement and evaluate new laboratory procedures and instruments.

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Where do histotechnologists work?

They work in hospitals, private laboratories, and universities, usually in a pathology department under the medical direction of a pathologist. With experience, they may work in management, education and research if they choose. Experience is required for positions in education and management.

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What characteristics or personality traits should I have to become a histotechnologist?

Histotechnologists must be able to sit for long periods of time while operating a microtome and engage in laboratory procedures which involve grasping, pinching, pulling, fingering, holding, extending, rotating and cutting. Individuals must be able to accurately judge distance and depth and manipulate or control small objects such as tissues with forceps and scalpels. These laboratory professionals must have the ability to obtain and/or verify patient samples and possess sufficient stamina to tolerate physically taxing workloads.

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Are there opportunities for advancement in both cytotechnology & histotechnology?

Cytotechnology and histotechnology are highly specialized fields. While a baccalaureate degree is the terminal degree for both professions, cytotechnologists & histotechnologists can advance to positions in management or education with experience and/or advanced degrees in appropriate areas. Specialist certifications are also available for laboratory professionals with experience.


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How is the job market for cytotechnologists & histotechnologists?

The job market changes rapidly in small professions such as cytotechnology & histotechnology and varies depending on location. Currently there is a critical shortage of histotechnologists which may vary from region to region.

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What is the salary range for cytotechnologists & histotechnologists?

Salaries vary depending on location. A new graduate with no experience can expect to earn an annual salary of $40,000 - $50,000 in the Memphis area. Experienced laboratory professionals earn salaries of $50,000 and up. Each profession (cytotechnology & histotechnology) has different salary ranges but the hybrid laboratory professional (an individual with skills in both professions) may receive additional compensation and have more opportunities within the anatomic pathology community.


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How does one become a cytotechnologist & histotechnologist?

To be a nationally registered cytotechnologist and/or histotechnologist, a person must attend an approved/accredited program in cytotechnology and/or histotechnology (accredited by different agencies), earn a minimum of a bachelor's decree and successfully complete national certification examinations given by the American Society for Clinical pathology (ASCP). Some states, including Tennessee, also require licensure for cytotechnologists


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Where can one receive training in cytotechnology?

There are currently 33 accredited cytotechnology programs across the country. Some are certificate programs; others are bachelor degree programs; while a few offer a master’s degree. A bachelor's degree or higher is required to be eligible for certification in cytotechnology, therefore, a person who attends a certificate program must already hold a bachelor's degree or higher. If you attend a bachelor's or master's degree program, you will only need to complete prerequisite coursework prior to attending the cytotechnology degree program. The master's or bachelor's degree is awarded by the institution that offers the cytotechnology educational program. The only degree program in cytotechnology in Tennessee is at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center at Memphis, which offers a master’s degree. Even if you have not completed your bachelor’s degree prior to enrolling at UTHSC, you will be eligible for certification in cytotechnology upon successful completion of the Master's degree program.

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What are the advantages of attending the combined cytotechnology & histotechnology program at the University of Tennessee

The UT Health Science Center program is nationally known and highly respected, and is one of the oldest programs in the country. Founded in 1951, it has graduated over 450 cytotechnologists. Graduates of the program have achieved a near 100 percent pass rate on the national certification examination for cytotechnologists. The program has outstanding faculty who serve in leadership positions in local, regional, and national professional organizations. The program has numerous clinical affiliations in Tennessee where students can receive part of their clinical training. We have just begun offering combined training in both histotechnology and cytotechnology. There are very few histotechnology programs within the country. The program's location in a major medical center gives students opportunities to interact with other health care professionals and to benefit from mutual educational and social activities.

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Am I required to work as a histechnologist or a cytotechnologist upon graduation from the program?

You are not required to choose either profession upon graduation. You may decide to work as a cytotechnology or as a histotechnologist or as a hybrid worker who is assigned to both cytology and histology or in an ancillary research, biotechnology or laboratory field that values the laboratory skills provided by our program.

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What prerequisite courses are required to enter the program at UTHSC?

The UT Health Science Center program is a 3+2 program, meaning that students complete three years of prerequisite courses elsewhere before applying for admission at UTHSC, and if admitted, spend the fourth and fifth year at UTHSC enrolled in the professional cytotechnology & histotechnology program. Courses in general biology, advanced biology, chemistry, English, social science and math are required. See the Admissions page for the specific number of college courses needed in each subject area. Graduates are awarded a Master of Cytopathology Practice degree (MCP) upon successful completion of the program.

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What advanced biology courses are recommended?

Recommended courses include those in which a microscope is used during laboratory sessions, such as microbiology, cell biology, parasitology, and histology. Courses in genetics, immunology, anatomy and physiology are also recommended.

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What courses do I take at UT Health Science Center?

The curriculum includes courses in pathology, histotechnology theory and practice, and cytology of all body organs, cell biology, laboratory techniques, histology, microscopic evaluation, basic education & laboratory management, research seminar and principles of research. Students also complete clinical assignments in affiliated cytology and histology laboratories.


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When should one apply for admission to the UTHSC program?

The application deadline is January 30 for entry in Augustr. However, those who apply in the early Fall, can be advised of any deficiencies in prerequisite coursework, possibly giving them the opportunity to work these courses into the spring and summer semester schedule.

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Is it difficult to get into the cytotechnology & histotechnology program at the UTHSC?

These laboratory professions are specialized fields with little visibility; thus, the applicant pool is usually very small. Applicants with a 3.0 or higher GPA are not required to take the GRE for admission.


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It has been several years since one attended college, must all required courses be repeated?

Coursework completed five or more years prior to seeking admission is generally considered out of date. However, repeating only a few courses may be enough to update coursework. In some cases, taking a few advanced biology courses may be all that is necessary. Contact the program director for advice.

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If one is certified in another medical field, will any of the professional courses count as prerequisites or lead to advanced placement in the UTHSC program's curriculum?

No. Professional courses are not accepted as prerequisite courses in the cytotechnology & histotechnology program. Also because the field is so specialized, none of such courses will substitute for any courses in the curriculum or lead to advanced placement.

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Is volunteer/work experience in the field required?

No, because there is little opportunity for this in cytotechnology & histotechnology. However, one should be knowledgeable about the profession. It would be worthwhile to at least visit a cytology laboratory and find out exactly what a cytotechnologist does on a day to day basis.

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Are residents of other sates accepted into the UTHSC program?

Yes, however, priority is given to Tennessee residents who meet the admissions criteria. Highly qualified out-of-state students are encouraged to apply. Tuition is higher for out-of-state students.

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How is Tennessee residency established?

The Office of Enrollment Services will be able to answer this question. Their telephone number is 901.448.5560.

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How long is the UTHSC program in cytotechnology?

The program is two years in length. Classes begin in August and continue until May of the second year.

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Can one attend the program as a part-time student?

No. At present the program does not offer a part-time option.

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Is the cytotechnology & histotechnology program difficult?

Although the program is two years long, it is extremely intense and fast paced. Students are in classes and laboratory sessions from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Excellent time management skills and good study habits are essential.

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How much does the program cost?

Program fees are established annually by the university. For more specific information one should contact the Office of Financial Aid.

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Will I be able to work while enrolled in the program?

While we cannot prohibit you from working while in school, most students find it very difficult to keep up with their studies if they are also working. There are limited opportunities for work related to the profession of cytotechnology & histotechnology while completing the program.

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Is financial aid available?

The Office of Student Financial Aid, located at 910 Madison Avenue, Suite 520, Memphis, TN 38163 can provide information on loans and scholarships. In addition, the Erickson-Rube Scholarship, specifically designated for cytotechnology students, is awarded each year.

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Program in Cytotechnology/ Histotechnology

930 Madison - Suite 664
Memphis, Tennessee 38163
Phone: 901-448-6304