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Cytotechnology

Cytotechnology Applications Process is now open for the 2022/2023 School Year: Deadline for application materials: March 28, 2022


Cytotechnology is an allied health specialty that offers exciting possibilities for those who want a challenging career in science and a significant role in medical care. Cytology is the study of cells. A cytotechnologist is a highly skilled laboratory professional who studies cells microscopically. A health care professional obtains these cells by scraping, washing, or aspirating an area of the body. These cellular samples are prepared for evaluation and are stained with dyes that make the cells more visible under the microscope. A cytotechnologist is trained to recognize slight variations in the color, size, and/or the shape of the cellular structures.

Microscopic evaluation of the cytologic material by the cytotechnologist determines the presence or absence of abnormal or malignant (cancer) cells. If abnormal cells are present, a preliminary diagnosis is then referred to the pathologist for further evaluation. Working together, a final diagnosis is issued to the physician. Treatment may be most effective for the patient as a result of this early diagnosis of disease.

Cytotechnologists play an integral role in the total health care of patients. Through routine cytologic screening and molecular diagnostic techniques, cellular changes can be detected before the malignant stage. Cancer may be prevented and lives saved.


About the Program

The Cytotechnology Program was initiated in 1989 as a tract within the Bachelor of Health Sciences degree. It is the only program within the commonwealth of Virginia. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) in association with the Cytotechnology Program Review Committee of the American Society of Cytopathology.

The program is one of the largest non-military cytotechnology programs in the United States.

The length of the technical year is 4 semesters. Because of the intense nature of the program, the students attend classes from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM unless otherwise noted on the student schedule for the entire technical year. Concurrent with the academic year, clinical experiences are acquired during rotation to a variety of cytology laboratories throughout the region. The required times for the rotations coincide with the specific laboratory or hospital working hours. Students are responsible for providing their own transportation and housing during these clinical internships.

Upon satisfactory completion of the program, a graduate is eligible to sit for the national certification examination given by the Board of Certification of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. Upon successful completion of the certification examination, the cytotechnologist is allowed to use CT (ASCP) after their name. The program has an excellent success rate for the certification examination.

The Certificate in Cytotechnology. A student with a Bachelor of Science degree with a minimum of 20 semester hours of biology, 8 semester hours of chemistry, and 3 semester hours of math may complete the senior year curriculum in cytotechnology and earn a Certificate in Cytotechnology. This allows the student to be eligible to sit for the certification examination.

The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (Cytotechnology Tract). The candidate for a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences within the Cytotechnology Tract must complete Old Dominion University's general education requirements, as well as all prerequisite coursework prior to starting the senior year. Prerequisite coursework includes 20 semester hours of biology, 8 hours of chemistry, 3 hours of math, laboratory management, research methods, and medical terminology.

The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (Cytotechnology Tract) - second degree candidate. This degree line allows students that already have a bachelor's degree to enter the Cytotechnology Tract after completing all required prerequisite coursework as a second degree candidate. The prerequisites are the same as for first degree candidates, with the exception that all general education requirements usually are satisfied by the first degree.

Formal admission to Old Dominion University is an initial requirement. First degree and second degree candidates must apply for degree-seeking status. Certificate students apply as non-degree-seeking. Non-degree-seeking students may not be eligible for certain financial aid programs. Admission to the university does not automatically constitute admission to the Cytotechnology Program.

Application must be made for admission to the Cytotechnology Program. Students are encouraged to apply to the program during the semester of their sophomore year. Admission to the program is competitive because the number of students is limited to 12. All application materials must be received by March 15th for students desiring to enter in the following fall term. Prospective students who desire entry to the program after the application deadline should contact the program director for possible available positions in the program. It is the responsibility of the student to insure that all application materials have been received.

Admission to the Cytotechnology Program is based upon the following criteria:

  • Completed program application form with goals statement.
  • Official transcripts from all universities and colleges attended.
  • Overall grade point average (GPA).
  • Biology and chemistry cumulative grade point average.
  • Three letters of recommendation - forms provided with application.
  • Formal interview after initial pre-screening by program officials.

Qualified students are interviewed by the Cytotechnology Advisory Council which is composed of members representing the cytology community as well as public domain. Students are then ranked according to qualifications. Acceptance letters are issued. The decision of the Council is final.

The admission form for the Cytotechnology Program is available by clicking here.

What is a cytotechnologist?
A cytotechnologist is a highly skilled laboratory professional who studies cells microscopically. The cytotechnologist determines the presence or absence of abnormal or malignant (cancer) cells in a specimen.

How long is the program?
The program is 15 months long. Two classes may be taken in the Fall semester of the junior year. The "technical year" begins in January with graduation in December.

When are the classes?
Classes during the technical year are held from 8:30 to 5:00 p.m. , Monday-Friday. Some classes may require evening hours. Clinical rotations during summer and fall require the students to follow the laboratory staff's work schedule which is generally M-F, 9 to 5.

What qualifications should I have?
An individual considering a career in cytotechnology should be able to perform work that requires precision and sound judgment. Manual dexterity, dependability, and good color vision are also important characteristics. Since the expertise of the cytotechnologist is relied upon in assuring high quality patient care, individuals who are interested in becoming a cytotechnologist should have a high degree of integrity and be willing to assume a great deal of responsibility.

Where will I work after I've completed the program?
Traditional places of employment include medical laboratories in both public and private health agencies and institutions in cytology and molecular diagnostics. Non-traditional employment opportunities exist in industry, regulatory agencies, consulting, research and development, and higher education institutions.

How is the employment rate for students?
Students who graduated and became certified for the years 2017, 2018, and 2019, had a 100% employment rate.

What is the employment outlook for the future?
In a 2018 vacancy rate survey conducted by the American Society for Cytotechnologists, the national vacancy rate for staff cytotechnologists was 8%, according to the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) vacancy survey. Since 2018, vacancies have increased by 10%. A continuing shortage is predicted for the next five to ten years due to the predicted 16% retirement rate of staff and 33.6% retirement rate of supervisors.

What can I expect to earn after graduation?
According to the latest 2019 ASCP salary survey showed an average salary of $35.84 per hour. Private laboratories showed an above average salary of $38.85 per hour and academic hospitals shwoing an hourly rate of $37.36. Supervisors' salaries topped the survey at $44.11 per hour. Wage Survey

How will I find a job?
The program director receives job openings continuously throughout the year. In addition, many professional organizations post openings on the internet daily.

When will I be able to take the Board of Certification?
Students are eligible to take the national board exam immediately following graduation. Eligibility requires successful completion of the Cytotechnology Program and degree requirements for the B.S. in Health Sciences are met. You must have a baccalaureate degree to sit for the examination. Students in the Certificate Option will have their degree upon entry to the program and will be qualified at the end of the program year.

How much chemistry do I need?
You need 8 semester hours of chemistry, 3 semester hours of math, and 20 semester hours of biology.

  • Completion of a minimum of 120 semester hours
  • Complete Senior Assessment
  • Have a minimum of 2.0 cumulative GPA and 2.0 in major
  • Completion of 30 semester hours ODU residency

Resources

Licensure and Certification

Upon successful completion of an approved Cytotechnology Education Program and proof of a baccalaureate degree, an individual is eligible to sit for the certification examination given by the Board of Certification of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. The Cytotechnology Program must be approved by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation and the Cytotechnology Programs Review Committee of the American Society of Cytopathology. Individuals who pass this examination may use the designation CT (ASCP) after their names.

An additional Specialist in Cytotechnology certification is available for persons with advanced degrees and/or experience. Individuals who pass this examination may use the designation SCT (ASCP) after their names. Cytotechnologists are required to be licensed in some states. Check with the state medical board for additional requirements.

Career Opportunities

Rewarding positions may be found in traditional places of employment including both public and private hospital based laboratories, private laboratories, state and federal health care agencies, and molecular diagnostic laboratories. Non-traditional opportunities exist in industry, regulatory agencies, consulting, research and development, and higher education institutions.

The job opportunities, as well as the salaries, continue to increase with the advancement of new processing methods and tumor identification techniques. Graduates have also gone on to medical school, physician assistants programs, or other graduate programs. Many ODU graduates are employed in management or supervisory positions across the country.

Personal Qualifications

An individual considering a career in cytotechnology should be able to perform work that requires precision and sound judgment. Manual dexterity, dependability, and good color vision are also important characteristics. Since the expertise of the cytotechnologist is relied upon in assuring high quality patient care, individuals who are interested in becoming a cytotechnologist should have a high degree of integrity and be willing to assume a great deal of responsibility.

Technical Standards

Technical standards represent the essential non-academic requirements of the program that students must master to successfully participate in the program and become employable. The following is a list of the technical abilities and skills applicants for admission must possess:

  • Manual Dexterity: Ability to use hand(s) or prosthetic devices with coordination.
  • Fine Motor: Ability to manipulate small objects with fingertips or adaptive devices.
  • Vision: Ability to distinguish red, yellow, and blue colors; distinguish clear from cloudy; and distinguish objects through a microscope.
  • Concentration: Ability to sit and concentrate visually for prolonged periods.
  • Writing: Ability to communicate effectively in the written form in English.
  • Reading: Ability to read, understand, and follow directions printed in English.

Program Outcomes Statement

Graduation Rates: The ODU Cytotechnology Program has had 61 graduates since 2012. The retention rate during those years was 92.7%.

The ODU Cytotechnology Pass student pass rate: Board of Registry Exam (C.T., ASCP) given by the ASCP:
2017 80%
2018 100%
2019 100%
2020 100%
2021 100%

In the lab

Cytotechnology originated in the 1940's when a method was developed to detect malignant and pre-malignant lesions in the female genital tract (the Pap smear). The profession has since expanded to include evaluation of specimens from other body organs, including but not limited to the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts, body cavities, and breast. With the development of fine needle aspiration techniques, organs such as liver, pancreas, thyroid, salivary glands, and lymph nodes are also sampled. Virtually every organ in the body is accessible for cytologic diagnosis.

Cytotechnologists must know basic human anatomy, physiology, and pathology. They must develop an in-depth knowledge of cell morphology of all body sites to accurately evaluate the various cytologic specimens. Knowledge of infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and parasites and cellular changes secondary to viruses is essential. In addition, cytotechnologists will master various specialized techniques for collecting, preparing, and staining many types of cell samples. Cytotechnologists must have knowledge of management and laboratory regulation issues. They will gain experience in research and presentation through a required research project.


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