Cytologists are clinical laboratory technologists or scientists who focus on studying the structure and chemistry of cells derived from both plants and animals. They do not actually see patients but their work is often conducted on a team headed by doctors scientists or pathologists with a focus on studying cell division.
Typically cytologists prepare slides of thin slices of animal or plant tissue which can be observed under powerful microscopes to detect any abnormalities. They often apply dye to the cells to visually illuminate findings that may be suspicious. An important purpose of their job is to detect abnormalities in cell structure or cell division that could be indicative of cancer or of precancerous or other disease conditions.
Cytologists work in diagnostic and medical laboratories but some are employed by doctors' offices or by the federal government. Cytologists can also work in scientific laboratories located in colleges and universities. According to the website www.ehow.com cytologists need at least a bachelor's degree in a field of life science or in medical technology. This degree must be earned from an institution that is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Prospective cytologists must have a solid academic background in subjects such as anatomy physiology chemistry histology and immunology. Those with master's degrees in these or a related field will be more competitive on the job market. The website Diplomaguide.com says that in some states cytologists must be licensed. Job prospects for cytologists are better than average with expected job openings in many institutions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the average annual salary for cytologists is approximately $54000.