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How to Become a Phlebotomist

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC
Updated September 28, 2023
Phlebotomists, the healthcare workers who draw blood, are in demand. This guide explains how to become a phlebotomist and what you can expect to earn.
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How Long to Become

1-3 years

Degree Required

Certificate/Diploma in Phlebotomy

Phlebotomists are in demand, and practicing phlebotomy does not require a college degree, only professional training and certification. This guide explains how to become a phlebotomist or traveling phlebotomist. Keep reading for more on this fast-growing career choice.

What Is a Phlebotomist?

Phlebotomists are healthcare professionals who draw blood samples for testing or collect blood for donation. They work in hospitals and health centers, independent physician offices, medical laboratories, clinics, public health testing sites, blood donation centers or temporary blood donation sites, and similar locations.

In addition to drawing blood, phlebotomists must accurately label blood samples or donations and prepare them to be sent for processing.

Phlebotomists must be comfortable working with patients and with other healthcare staff. They must also be able to reassure patients who are anxious about giving blood and care for those who become dizzy or faint. Some patients may become angry or aggressive, especially if the phlebotomist has to try again if a vein collapses or a draw otherwise fails to provide enough blood.

Steps to Becoming a Phlebotomist

Each state has its own rules and regulations for how to become a phlebotomist, but in general, they all require a high school education or equivalent and most require completing a phlebotomy training or certification program. Some allow for on-the-job training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington states require certification, but most employers require it.

  1. 1

    Earn a High School Diploma or GED Certificate

    You must have a high school diploma, GED certificate, or the international equivalent, to enter most training programs or to obtain a state license.

  2. 2

    Complete a Phlebotomy Training Program

    Community colleges and technical training schools offer phlebotomy programs that combine classroom learning with hands-on training. Some schools let students complete the classroom components online. Most programs take less than a year to complete.

  3. 3

    Complete Your Phlebotomy Certification

    Several organizations offer phlebotomy certification. Many require graduation from a phlebotomy training program, submitting documentation of a certain number of working hours as a phlebotomist or number of blood draws, and passing an examination. Entry-level certifications only require graduation from a program and an examination.

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Phlebotomist Education

Phlebotomy is an entry-level healthcare career that does not require a college degree. Instead, phlebotomists only need a high school diploma or equivalent and specialized training that typically takes less than one year to complete.

High School Diploma

A high school diploma provides the basic math, science, and language background that phlebotomists need.

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    Recommended Courses

    English, health, math, science, technology

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    Skills Learned

    Foundational biology, effective written and verbal communications, ability to read and process instructions and information, computer literacy

Phlebotomy Training Program

Phlebotomy programs include both classroom learning and hands-on practice. Many training programs are called certificate programs, but they are not the equivalent of certifications, which are awarded by national certifying organizations. This distinction can be confusing for people just starting to learn how to become a phlebotomist. Some large hospitals or healthcare organizations may offer in-house training that covers the same materials.

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    Admission Requirements

    High school diploma or GED certificate

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    Program Curriculum

    Safety and hygiene, how to draw blood, how to label and process blood samples or donations, how to interact with patients

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    Time to Complete

    The time to complete varies, typically 2-6 months, depending on pace

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    Skills Learned

    How to draw blood safely, how to work with patients, what to do if a patient is nervous, becomes dizzy, or faints

Phlebotomist Licensure and Certification

While only four states legally require certification, most employers require or strongly prefer it. Please note that while training programs may offer certificates, these indicate only that the student successfully completed the program and are not the same as earning national certification.

Certification programs typically require completing an approved program and passing a certification examination, though some certifications require a certain level of experience as a phlebotomist, either in terms of hours or years, or in number of completed draws.

Some allow for experience instead of completing formal education. The American Certification Agency (ACA), for example, requires one year of experience and at least 100 venipunctures and 10 skin punctures. The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) requires at least 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary punctures. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) require either the completion of a formal training program or one year of supervised experience as a phlebotomist, while the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) also has multiple eligibility pathways.

Once you pass the certification examination and receive your certification, you must maintain it through continuing professional education, such as attending approved classes or webinars. The number of hours varies by certifying organization.

Working as a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomists in hospitals or urgent care settings may work all shifts, including evenings, nights, and weekends, while phlebotomists in other settings, such as physician offices, work more standard office hours. Phlebotomists who work for blood drives may travel to different locations.

The school or program where you studied likely has a job board or career center, and you can also find jobs on aggregate job boards or employer job sites. Phlebotomists are in demand, with the BLS projecting 22% job growth between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the total job growth rate for all occupations.

The median phlebotomist salary is $37,380, according to the BLS, lower than the national median salary of $45,760. The lowest-paid 10% reported $28,990 or less and the highest 10% percent earned $48,490 or more. Many employers offer sign-on bonuses because of the high demand.

Check out the top states to be a Phlebotomist.

How to Become a Traveling Phlebotomist

Traveling phlebotomists, also called mobile phlebotomists, work at multiple sites. The process for how to become a traveling phlebotomist is the same as becoming a regular phlebotomist, though travel phlebotomists may need to have a driver’s license and their own method of transportation.

Unlike traveling doctors or nurses, most traveling phlebotomists work in the same geographic region, typically for clients who do not have enough need to justify hiring a staff phlebotomist or to draw blood from home care patients. They may also work for mobile blood drives or as part of a disaster response team.

Some travel phlebotomists may be on the staff of a single employer, such as a hospital, while others work for an agency. Salaries vary based on whether the position includes benefits, whether travel expenses are included, and other factors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Phlebotomist?

question-mark-circleHow many years does it take to become a phlebotomist?

You can become a phlebotomist in less than a year. The majority of training programs take 2-6 months, depending on the pace and schedule.

question-mark-circleWhat is the quickest way to become a phlebotomist?

The quickest way to become a phlebotomist is to find a full-time or accelerated program near you. You can complete some programs in two months, though most take longer.

question-mark-circleHow hard is it to become a phlebotomist?

You must have good hand-eye coordination to become a phlebotomist and be able to understand some human biology concepts. Most phlebotomy programs are open to anyone with a high school diploma or GED certificate. Only the NCCT requires a criminal background check for certification, though some programs or employers may ask for one.

question-mark-circleCan phlebotomists specialize?

Phlebotomy training is general. However, you can specialize as an individual, such as in blood drives or infant/pediatric phlebotomy.

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