Cassie Graviett (left), MLS Program Assistant, and Karen Burgess, MLS Program Director and Chair of the Division of Math and Science, set up a lab demonstration for students in the Medical Laboratory Science program at Thomas University. One of the fastest growing programs at TU, a bachelor’s degree in MLS prepares students to work in a variety of laboratory settings without direct supervision or as a lab manager.
Thomas University’s Medical Laboratory Science program continues to grow
This fall people will see more Thomas University students on campus and in the community wearing the hunter green scrubs that include the TU logo. Not all students will take part in the new dress code. It will be reserved only for TU students pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science.
The MLS program is one of the fastest growing degree programs at Thomas University. With a bachelor’s degree in MLS, students can work in a variety of laboratory settings, including hospitals, reference labs, crime labs, pharmaceutical labs, food industry, veterinary labs and water treatment facilities.
Thomas University’s 2+2 program, designed for students who already hold an associate degree in the field, began in 2002 with 10 students. As the popularity of the 2+2 program increased, so did the number of requests for a more traditional program. In the fall of 2012, TU added the traditional four-year campus-based program, which provides the entire four years of education required to earn the bachelor’s degree through a combination of online and on-campus classes.
By the spring of 2013, enrollment in the MLS program had grown to a record high of 64 with 53 in the 2+2 program and 11 in the traditional four-year program. In May of 2013, the MLS program saw the largest number of graduates.
Karen Burgess, Chair of the Division of Math and Science as well as MLS Program Director, credits the enrollment increase to a more focused recruitment effort, year-round acceptance into the program, and increased demand in the field.
“Our profession is starting to have a critical shortage of personnel,” Burgess explained.
A large number of current MLS professionals will be retiring within the next few years, but there are not enough properly trained professionals to fill all the vacancies. This will create a greater demand for those with the MLS bachelor’s degree.
While an associate degree is appropriate for entry level into the field, a bachelor’s degree is required to work without direct supervision or to become a lab manager.
Thomas University is one of only four universities in Georgia to offer a four-year degree in Medical Laboratory Science accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS). TU’s program is also the only university in Georgia south of Savannah to offer the MLS bachelor’s degree.
After graduating from the MLS program, students are eligible to take the exam to become certified by the American Society of Clinical Pathology. This designation provides better job prospects and higher salaries.
The program also has 57 clinical affiliates in the area, which include hospital labs or other labs where TU students intern or are currently employed. As part of the TU MLS program, students are required to obtain 200 hours in each of four disciplines: immunohematology, hematology, clinical chemistry, microbiology; and 160 hours in immunology/body fluids. This requirement provides a great opportunity for students to put their classroom knowledge to use and for potential employers to witness a student’s abilities before hiring him or her, Burgess said.