Cytotechnology Profession

Cytotechnology Information Photo

What is the profession of Cytotechnology?

Cytotechnology is a medical laboratory specialty which is based on the morphologic analysis of cells that have been shed, scraped or aspirated from body tissues. A cytotechnologist is a highly skilled laboratory professional. These specialists prepare samples obtained from various body areas for examination under a microscope after using staining techniques to visualize the cells. Cytotechnologists are trained to recognize minute abnormalities in the color, size, and shape of the cell structures.

Cytotechnologist are responsible for the first microscopic evaluation of the cytologic material, determining the presence or absence of abnormal or malignant cells and providing a preliminary diagnosis in cases that warrant further evaluation by a pathologist. As a result of cytologic findings, physicians are often able to diagnose and treat cancer before symptoms occur or before it can be detected by other methods.

Cytotechnology originated as a method of detecting malignant and premalignant lesions in the female genital tract (the Pap Smear). This discipline has since expanded to include cancer diagnosis in all body areas. With the advent of fine needle aspiration cytology, virtually every organ and tissue in the body is accessible to cytologic diagnosis.

Cytotechnologists must know basic human anatomy, physiology and pathology, and have an in depth knowledge of cell morphology in order to interpret varied cytology specimens accurately. In addition, cytotechnologists must master various specialized techniques for collecting, preparing and staining many types of cell samples.

Cytotechnologists play an integral part in the total health care of patients. They must at all times, be aware that each specimen represents a patient and that accuracy in the interpretation of cellular changes resulting in the diagnostic report is essential.

What are the educational requirements?

Preparation for a career in cytotechnology & histotechnology is accomplished by successfully completing an accredited educational program. Students are admitted to the Master of Cytopathology Practice program after they have completed three years of specified academic work at an accredited college or university. The professional program at UTHSC is two years in length and leads to a Master's Degree entitled the Master of Cytopathology Practice (MCP).  A baccalaureate degree is not required for admission to the program.

Personal Qualifications

Since the expertise of the cytotechnologist or histotechnologist is relied upon in assuring high quality patient care, individuals entering these professions should have a high degree of integrity and be willing to assume a great deal of responsibility. They should also have the following attributes:

  • ability to perform work that requires precision and sound judgment
  • manual dexterity
  • dependable
  • attention to detail
  • good vision including color vision

Career Opportunities

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.  Cytotechnologist shortages vary by location but there are many more jobs available than educated people to fill them. Our program is the only one in the country that prepares individuals for certification in both of these areas. Consequently, our graduates are uniquely qualified for a variety of employment opportunities.

Future long-term employment looks bright. The need is great throughout the country. Anatomic laboratory professionals have an unlimited choice of practice settings. Hospitals, for-profit laboratories, clinics, public health facilities and industry currently have positions available for qualified cytotechnologists & histotechnologistss.

Licensure and Certification

Graduates of the UTHSC Cytotechnology/Histotechnology Program are awarded a Master of Cytopathology Practice Degree and are eligible for both Cytotechnologist (CT) and Histotechnologist (HTL) certification from the Board of Certification (BOC) of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Once certified in either of these areas, graduates are also eligible for certification in Molecular Biology (MB)  from the BOC of the ASCP. Specialist in Cytotechnology (SCT) certification is also available for persons with advanced degrees and/or additional experience.

Tennessee state license is required to practice cytotechnology in the State of Tennessee. In order to obtain a Tennessee state license, you must provide evidence that you have passed the ASCP Board of Registry examination in cytotechnology. Histotechnologists are not currently required to obtain a Tennessee state license. To obtain more information or an application for state licensure, contact:


Tennessee State Department of Health
Medical Laboratory Board
227 French Landing, Suite 300
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: 1.800.778.4123 or 1.615.532.3202


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Program in Cytotechnology/ Histotechnology

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