Medical Laboratory Assistant

Applied Certificate
Medical Laboratory Assistant

Program Overview

Medical laboratory assistants work directly with other health care providers and patients and in the exciting laboratory setting. You collect health information and medical specimens from patients, but you also enter clerical data, process specimens and assist with basic laboratory activities. It’s a job that requires good people and communication skills, a professional yet caring attitude and a commitment to teamwork and excellence, as well as attention to detail.

Medical lab assistants are in demand in many areas. Look for jobs in hospitals, community clinics, medical offices, research and pharmaceutical labs, veterinary clinics, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices and more.

International applicants are not currently considered for admission to this program.

Medical Laboratory Assistant is a nationally accredited 27-week applied certificate program offered at Saskatchewan Polytechnic Saskatoon campus . Some classes are also available through distance education. Labs and clinical experiences are a big part of the program, so expect hands-on training in:

  • anatomy and physiology
  • basic lab procedures
  • histology and cytology
  • infection control and safety
  • microbiology     
  • specimen collection and handling

Put Your Learning to Work

You’ll participate in five supervised clinical experiences, for a total of 11 weeks of training. Each will give you practical experience in a specific area: histology and cytology, specimen management, phlebotomy and microbiology. These clinical experiences take place at various sites around the province.

Ladder into a Saskatchewan Polytechnic Diploma

You can transfer several Medical Laboratory Assistant courses into Saskatchewan Polytechnic Health Sciences diploma programs, including Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technology, Cytotechnology, Medical Laboratory Technology and Medical Radiologic Technology.

Learning Environment

Each year, 16 students are accepted to this program. You can use this applied certificate to ladder into Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technology, Medical radiologic Technology, Therapeutic Recreation Worker, and Funeral Service programs at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

Students will experience a mix of traditional lectures, web-assisted learning, homestudy, practical and clinical labs. For this program, there is a heavy workload with 15 - 20 hours/week of homework. Classes are Monday - Friday with variable hours between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Clinical practicum hours will coincide with health care hours, and may include early morning start times (5 or 6 a.m.), evening, night, and weekend shifts.

Lectures and Practical labs: Saskatoon

Clinical Practicum Experiences
Clinical practicum placement may occur at any approved site in Saskatchewan.

  • 11 weeks at various sites around Saskatchewan
  • Alternate sites may be required to meet program requirements.

Clinical practicum experiences are assigned by the Medical Diagnostics Committee on Practicum Placements (COPP). Students will have an opportunity to rank their preferred clinical sites. However, due to limited clinical placements in each location there is no guarantee that students will receive a clinical site assignment from their list of preferred sites. Students must be prepared to attend their assigned placement at any of the clinical sites in the province.

Not all clinical facilities are easily accessible by public transportation; students assigned to these sites must have access to personal transportation. Students are responsible for travel, accommodation arrangements and costs, to, during and from their clinical experience. Students will continue with their didactic studies through online learning while on their clinical experience, and stable internet access is required.

Enrolment in the program will require acceptance of a clinical placement anywhere within Saskatchewan. Clinical placements are determined during the program closer to the dates for practicum experiences.


Career and Salary Information

Your Career

As a medical laboratory assistant, you could work in a hospital, community clinic, medical office, research lab, pharmaceutical lab, veterinary clinic, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices and more. Look for job opportunities with regional health districts, government health agencies, educational institutions and private labs.

Potential Careers

Sample Job TitleNOC Classification1Earning Potential2
Laboratory Assistant (multidisciplinary)Medical Laboratory Technicians and Pathologists' Assistants (3212)$41,600 - $80,000
Senior Laboratory AssistantMedical Laboratory Technicians and Pathologists' Assistants (3212)$41,600 - $80,000

What's the Work Like?

As a Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) and MLA student, you:

  • Use Personal Protective Equipment to protect yourself from biohazardous materials, including blood and other body fluids, urine and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF).
  • Perform capillary punctures and venipunctures (give i.e. insert needles) to collect blood samples. 
  • Prepare blood, body fluids and tissues for analysis by other laboratory professionals, such as Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technologists (CLXT) and Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLT). 
  • Communicate and interact professionally with patients, their families, MLTs, doctors nurses and other hospital personnel on a daily basis.
  • Are an integral part of the health care team.

When performing ECGs, as an MLA you are required to:

  • Communicate clearly with the patient what you are going to do as well as what you need the patient to do.
  • Touch the patient to position the ECG leads correctly. 
  • Communicate results to physicians.

Every day, as an MLA you are required to:

  • Stand and walk for the majority of an 8 hour shift.
  • Communicate professionally with a variety of people including: 
    • Patients and their families;
    • Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs);
    • Doctors;
    • Nurses;
    • Other hospital personnel.

Interests describe what people enjoy doing often in the course of a day. Individuals in this program often enjoy:

  • Meeting clear standards for performance in concrete terms.
  • Working with details and numbers.
  • Following orderly routines and schedules.
  • Working in the health care field due to genuine concern for others.
  • Interacting with others.

Values describe what the potential students have a high regard for, what gives meaning to their work and their lives, and what things they will work hard for:

  • Taking a realistic, concrete approach to problems and dealing with things.
  • Accuracy and order in work, and managing large volumes of information.
  • Stability, not a lot of change in the workplace.
  • Friendship and service to others.

Aptitudes or strengths are natural abilities, talents and general suitability for learning in a particular field. An example is a musical aptitude/talent where people have a natural ability; therefore, it is easier for them to develop skills in this area. Another example is mechanical ability. People with this natural talent are able to learn mechanical skills more easily than others who lack the suitability.

  • Ability to pay careful attention to detail and follow instructions closely.
  • Scientific ability - understanding scientific principles, investigating and problem solving using the scientific method.
  • Organizing ability - talent for collecting and organizing information and keeping track of large amounts of data.

Entrance skills
A skill is learned and developed. It is the learned capacity to do something that has been practiced and worked on until it can be done easily. It is expected that individuals entering the program will have developed a reasonable level of skill in the following areas in order to successfully complete the program:

  • Analyzing information to help solve problems.
  • Getting along well with others, individually and in teams.
  • Setting up and keeping accurate records.

The purpose of this section is to give you an understanding of this career field and to help you make more informed career decisions.

There are 9 skill categories with examples of how workers use them on the job. This section is based on the more detailed Essential Skills developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

  • Read emails, interoffice memos, newsletters, safety manuals, and policy manuals
  • Read requisitions from doctors on which tests to be performed
  • Read forms to obtain information on tests

Using documents refers to tasks that involve a variety of information displays in which words, numbers, icons and other visual characteristics appear. It may involve reading, writing and/or creating.

  • Read work schedules and complete time sheets
  • Complete patient requisition forms
  • Complete specimen tracking logs
  • Document work accurately where required on forms
  • Must be legible
  • Fill in time sheets
  • Write short explanatory letters, interoffice memos and email messages about work progress and concerns
  • Record information when collecting blood and other specimens
  • Reading health card numbers
  • Counting numbers of test kits
  • Calculating numbers of patient visits
  • Reading required quantities in litres and millilitres
  • Understanding the process of diluting substances
  • Reading clocks (analog and digital), graduated cylinders, and measuring devices
  • Communicate with patients to get information, give information and/or reassure them
  • Communicate with other health care workers (such as coworkers, supervisors, nurses and doctors)
  • Communication may be difficult when there is noise from some lab equipment, when the patient’s first language is not English, with some physical and/or mentally disabled patients, with fearful patients and with young children who cannot talk
  • If English is not your first language, your oral communication skills must be 8+ on the Canadian Language Benchmark test

Problem solving (1 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Investigate problems with turnaround time
  • Deal with missing specimens
  • May help develop solutions when facing deadlines that cannot be met
  • Deal with personality conflicts in ever changing and high stress work environments
  • Deal with hierarchy of roles and influence (for example, assistant versus technologist)

Decision making (2 of 5 thinking skills)
This refers to making a choice among options. Decision making occurs during problem solving but not all decision making is part of problem solving. Therefore, it is presented as a separate thinking skill. For example, buyers for retail outlets regularly make decisions about which suppliers to buy from and they select among the options for particular types of merchandise. This is not problem solving.

  • Decide when to ask for help with completing certain procedures
  • Decide when to refuse service
  • Decide on what order to collect specimens

Job task planning and organizing (3 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Work is often organized within priorities and deadlines
  • Emergencies may often disrupt a work schedule
  • Work is coordinated with other coworkers for certain tests

Significant use of memory (4 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Where they were in a procedure when they were interrupted
  • What procedures are used for which tasks
  • The name of tests and where tests should be forwarded
  • Past interactions with patients when working with patients
  • The location of supplies and equipment

Finding information (5 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Use reference and procedure manuals
  • Use institutional and computer databases
  • Talk to other health care workers (such as coworkers, supervisors, nurses and doctors)
  • Scan lists and tables for information
May work alone or as a member of the patient's health care team.
  • Basic knowledge and operation of computerized lab
  • Use institutional database to access patient information
  • Ability to use specialized computer software (for example, Lab Information System (LIS) - to enter and access patient information)

Learning is through on the job training, from coworkers, employer sponsored training and by attending conferences.

Length and Start Date

Start Date(s): November

View latest program status info

Length: 27 weeks


  • Saskatoon


Admission Requirements

  • 45 words per minute keyboarding speed with 98% accuracy (5-minute testing report to be submitted with transcripts); (Testing is available through Saskatchewan Polytechnic Testing Services). A completed Keyboarding Test Results Form must be submitted to Registration Services.
  • Grade 12 with a minimum grade of 70% in each of English Language Arts A30, English Language Arts B30, Foundations of Math 20 or Foundations of Math 30 or Pre-Calculus 30*, Health Science 20 or Biology 30*, and Physical Science 20 or Chemistry 30*
  • English Language Requirement (see Program-Specific ELP Requirements section)

*Previous Saskatchewan biology, chemistry, and mathematics requirements also accepted:

  • Biology 20
  • Chemistry 20
  • Math 20 or any 30-level math


  • Accepted applicants are required to provide evidence of CPR Health Care Provider (HCP), CPR Basic Life Support (BLS), CPR Level 'C' AED or equivalent certification upon admission into the program. CPR certification is valid for two (2) years from the date of completion regardless of the length of time indicated by the provider of the card or certificate. Recertification may be required during your studies. The cost of CPR certification is your responsibility.
  • Accepted applicants will be required to provide evidence of a Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Search upon admission into the program. At the discretion of the practicum agency, you may be declined access to a clinical or work placement based on the contents of the Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Search. The cost of the Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Search is your responsibility.
  • Accepted applicants are required to provide current immunization records and meet Saskatchewan Polytechnic immunization requirements prior to entry into clinical practicum.
  • Accepted applicants are required to provide evidence of current N95 and canister respirator mask testing upon admission into the program. N95 and canister respirator mask testing is valid for two (2) years from the date of completion. Retesting may be required during your studies. The cost of N95 and canister respirator mask testing is your responsibility.
  • Accepted applicants are required to provide evidence of 2015 WHMIS Globally Harmonized System (GHS) certification upon admission into the program. Recertification will be required every three years to remain current. The cost of WHMIS certification is your responsibility. Register for WHMIS.
  • Effective for Fall 2021: Accepted applicants will be required to provide evidence of Transferring Lifting Repositioning (TLR®) Object Moving certification or Safe Moving and Repositioning Techniques (SMART®) certification upon admission to the program. TLR® or SMART® certification is valid for three (3) years from the date of completion. Recertification may be required during your studies. The cost of TLR® or SMART® certification is your responsibility. Register for TLR.

Special Admission

Applicants who do not possess the academic qualifications for a program may be admitted if evidence of probable success can be established through a special admission assessment. Interested individuals should still apply. Applicants are automatically considered for special admission. However, some specific admission requirements may still need to be met. Refer to the ACCUPLACER© cut scores for this program below, and review additional details concerning Special Admission.


  • 250 Arithmetic
  • 256 Reading
  • 250 Writing
  • 4 Writeplacer

Admission Method

First Qualified/First Admitted

The First Qualified/First Admitted (FQFA) process is used for the majority of Saskatchewan Polytechnic programs. When we determine that you meet the program's admission requirements, you will be offered admission based on the date you fully qualify for the program. The earlier you provide the appropriate documents and information that qualify you for admission to the next intake, the earlier you might begin your studies. Your application, once qualified, is always considered for the next intake. 

Applicants to programs with multiple intakes in an academic year remain in the application pool until the last intake for that academic year has begun. Programs using the FQFA process receive applications year round and maintain an application pool for each academic year. Qualified applicants who are not offered a seat must reapply for the next academic year. 

Sponsored programs or programs targeted to specific groups do not accept applications year round or maintain an application pool.

See Admission Processes for more information about this method of admission.

Tuition and Fees

Estimates are based on current rates and are subject to change. Amounts for a program may vary by campus. Totals shown here include all mandatory fees as well as approximate cost for books and supplies. Visit the Tuition and Fees web page for a complete breakdown of tuition and fees for this program.


2020/21 Academic Year


Additional programs costs that students are responsible for include:

  • CPR C/AED (Health Care Provider) – recognized by the program for two years from date of certification. If expires during programming student must recertify.
    • approx. $75 to $125
  • Criminal Record Check with Vulnerable Sector Search
    • approx. $75
  • Immunizations
    • no cost if immunizations are completed with a Saskatchewan Polytechnic Health Nurse.
    • completed outside of Saskatchewan Polytechnic fees range from $90 to $120 for Hepatitis B series
  • Mask FIT Testing – both required
    • N95 - approx. $75 to $125
    • Canister - approx. $75 to $125
    • Mask Fit testing is recommended to be updated annually, however, it is mandatory to be updated every two years. If expiry date occurs during programming student must re-submit proof of testing to the program. Cost of re-testing is the student's responsibility.
  • WHMIS 2015 - Globally Harmonized System (GHS) certification
    • Approx. $35
  • Students will be required to purchase an iPad or table size device for use within the program. Associated expenses are the students' responsibility.

Get Credit for What You Know

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition

Saskatchewan Polytechnic recognizes that adults learn in many different ways. This includes acquiring knowledge and skills through life and work experience or non-formal training.  See links below to more information about PLAR and detailed PLAR candidate guides for courses in this program.

Transfer Credit

Many Sask Polytech students benefit from transferring course credit. You may be eligible to transfer credit to Sask Polytech or to another college or university.

Student Awards

Thanks to the generosity of donors and alumni, Saskatchewan Polytechnic gives away more than $2 million in student awards during the academic year.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic offers student awards for every certificate and diploma program at every campus. Not all student awards are based on marks - some are based on financial need or things like community or volunteer involvement.

More about scholarships


Accreditation Canada/EQual Canada has accorded the MLA program full accredited status for a 6 year term.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic's Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) program is an accredited program. Program content is based on the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science MLA competency profile, with topics added as appropriate for addressing local needs.

Graduates are eligible to write the national Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) certification exam. Certification is the accepted standard for many jobs - it also allows you to work anywhere in Canada.

The cost of CSMLS MLA national certification examination is the responsibility of the student. For more information, see

Additional Information

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