On the path to certification: 3 steps to help internationally-trained medical lab professionals get certified in Canada

Published April 4, 2023.

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes 

In summary:

  • Medical laboratory professionals are badly needed in every part of Canada to support our health care system. 
  • Internationally-educated medical lab technologists (IEMLTs) will find significant career growth potential in this in-demand field.  
  • Completing the Canadian certification process is a necessary step to launch your med lab science career in your new country. 

Medical laboratory professionals play a critical role in Canada's healthcare system.  

By performing diagnostic tests that help doctors and other healthcare providers make accurate diagnoses and develop effective treatment plans, their work combines scientific expertise, analytical skills, and a commitment to helping others. Those considering becoming a medical laboratory technologist in Canada, will find a profession that is experiencing strong demand across the country. In fact, according to recent statistics, medical laboratory professionals are in demand in every part of Canada, with an estimated 21,000 positions available nationwide. 

If you're thinking about a career in this field, one important step to becoming a certified medical laboratory technologist in Canada is completing a recognized education program. In this article, we'll explore the steps you'll need to take to earn your certification, depending on your prior education and experience. 

But first, let's take a closer look at the role that medical laboratory technologists play in Canada's healthcare system, and why their work is so important in improving patient outcomes and overall population health. 

With an aging Canadian population and increased emphasis on preventative healthcare, the need for skilled medical laboratory professionals is only expected to grow in the coming years. 

Canadian medical laboratory technologists work in fast-paced, high-tech environments, using sophisticated equipment and techniques to analyze patient samples and produce accurate and timely results. Whether you're working in a hospital, clinic, research facility, or other healthcare setting, your work has a direct impact on patient care.  

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Dr. Aruna Kolhatkar, of Toronto’s Michener Institute, has been in the medical laboratory science profession for almost 50 years. Before coming to Canada, she worked and taught med lab science in three different countries. She is keenly aware of the challenges faced by internationally-educated medical lab technologists (IEMLTs) coming and wishing to work in Canada. Dr. Kolhatkar has a PhD in microbiology and has co-authored a comprehensive book on med lab science including all five disciplines. For more than a decade, she served as a professor in Michener’s Med Lab Bridging Program. Currently, she works as a hematology instructor in the bridging program at Michener. 

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Dr. Aruna Kolhatkar of Toronto’s Michener Institute shares tips to help internationally-trained medical lab professionals on the path to certification in Canada. 

The Windmill Microlending blog connected with Dr. Kolhatkar to discuss her recommendations to help IEMLTs navigate the Canadian certification process. Here are the three steps she suggests you take to reach your career objectives in the Canadian med lab science field. 

STEP 1  Register with the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) 

If you are an IEMLT, that is, you are trained and certified as a medical laboratory technologist (MLT) in your country of origin, to be able to work as MLT in Canada, you need to become certified through the CSMLS (Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science). CSMLS offers a certification examination, to be written in-person, at a designated examination site in Canada. Before you can write the exam, you must establish your eligibility. 

You’ll need to register with CSMLS for a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) to prove your credentials from your country of origin. Depending on your level of training and work experience in your country, you may be advised by CSMLS to take one or more refresher courses with or without a laboratory component or be asked to complete a bridging program like the one for IEMLTs at the Michener Institute of Education at UHN. 

HubSpot Video

WATCH: Michener Institute’s Dr. Aruna Kolhatkar shares her three steps to help you get certified as a medical lab technologist in Canada. 

STEP 2  Take refresher courses or a bridging program 

Taking separate online or in-person refresher courses in the various med lab science disciplines (Clinical Chemistry, Clinical Microbiology, Hematology, Histology and Transfusion Science), as advised by CSMLS, may take up to two years, depending on the number and nature of refresher courses. 

Notably, Michener’s Med Lab Bridging Program for IEMLTs provides training in all five disciplines in 16 weeks. It is a short in-person program which covers theory review as well as simulated laboratory experience on automated equipment and manual exercises. Since you may already be trained as an MLT in your country of origin, the program can help to bridge the gap between your knowledge and the competencies required to work in Canada. 

STEP 3  Complete your Canadian certification and launch your Canadian medical lab science career 

Once you successfully complete your refresher courses or a bridging program, you are deemed eligible to write the CSMLS National Certification Examination, provided the PLA requirements are fulfilled. 

The certification exam promotes and maintains a nationally-accepted standard of medical laboratory technology practice and establishes competence in all five disciplines and other categories as indicated by CSMLS. 

A few weeks after completing the exam, CSMLS will notify you of your results. 

When successful, you will need to register with the regulatory college in the province where you want to live and work. Please note all provinces in Canada except British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the territories (Northwest, Yukon and Nunavut) need registration with their respective regulatory college. 

After registration, go out there and seek employment and enjoy your long and rewarding career as a medical laboratory technologist in your new country! 

Could an affordable loan help you pay for the costs of accreditation, training, certification or career development in Canada? Find out if you are eligible for a Windmill microloan of up to $15,000 by completing our two-minute loan eligibility quiz. No Canadian credit history required. 

More resources to help you achieve your medical lab science career goals in Canada, can be found below: 

Learn more about Canadian medical laboratory technologist certification 

First steps to certification for medical laboratory technologists in Canada 

Medical laboratory technologist certification in Canada: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Learn more about Michener Institute’s Medical Laboratory Science Bridging Program 

Categorized in: Accreditation and Licensing, A Newcomer's Journey, In-demand Jobs, Education and Training,