Cytotechnology Program propels graduate into rewarding health care career

Research Scientist Looks into Microscope

Josh Faulkes found himself at a crossroads after graduating with a bachelor’s in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Working as a science technician, he didn’t have much room for career growth, but he wasn’t sold on three or more years of graduate school.

Then he discovered UW-Madison’s one-year Certificate in Cytotechnology, an accelerated program in the study of cells, leading to jobs at hospitals, clinics, research institutes, and in the private laboratories. It was just the ticket for Faulkes to quickly find a fulfilling professional path.

“The Cytotechnology Program sounded more appealing than the years of ‘hurry up and wait’ described to me by friends in grad school,” he says. “The program has an immediacy you usually see in tech school or trade apprenticeships, but the options after you are done are much vaster.”

The certificate helped Faulkes land a job as a senior cytotechnologist at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH), the state’s 115-year-old public, environmental, and occupational health laboratory.

Quality training in a vital field

Nearly 80 percent of medical decisions are based on lab results. Cytotechnologists study cell morphological changes to help doctors make these important patient care decisions. As diagnostic specialists, they are on the front lines of detecting cancer in its earliest and potentially most curable stage.

The 12-month UW-Madison Cytotechnology Program begins in August. During 38-hour weeks, Mondays through Fridays, students take courses in human anatomy, histology, physiology, and pathology. They practice with clinical specimens in a lab at the WSLH, racking up thousands of hours at the microscope. They rotate through clinical settings to gain experience in advanced lab procedures, quality assurance, and cytogenetics. Instructors in the program are leaders in the field at national and international levels.

From 2014-2016 in the Cytotechnology Program:

  • 100% of graduates received their cytotechnology certificate
  • 100% are working in the field or have gone on to graduate medical education
  • 88% became cytotechnologists certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology

Faulkes appreciated the practical nature of the program as well as the cohorts of 12 or fewer students.

“This kind of material can’t just be contained in lectures; there has to be lots of hands-on learning,” he says. “The small class size allowed for one-on-one time at the microscope.”

Set up for success

The Cytotechnology Program is about more than just looking under the microscope. Faulkes says he’s advanced his career through the program’s management training and networking.

“The program went beyond just preparation to be a cytotechnologist,” he says. “I have been able to apply courses in lab management and operations as my responsibilities in my current job increase over time.”

Fellow students, professors, and the course coordinator have all helped Faulkes get established after graduation with what it takes to become a laboratory leader.

“When you graduate with a degree in biology, it may seem like all you can do is go on to a researched-based graduate program,” he says, “but the UW-Madison Cytotechnology Program can push you into a professional career track in half the time.”

For more information on the Cytotechnology Program, see here.

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