Medical Laboratory Science vs Science Laboratory Technology

  • I find this article on the difference of Medical Laboratory Science and Science Laboratory Technology very informative, and would undoubtedly be very useful for students, especially Nigerian students, who are planning to take up a career in medical and health-related fields. Read on:

    Difference Between Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) and Science Laboratory Technology (SLT)

    By Amina Shehu

    To me, this may be the most important post I would make in this forum not only for the students who want to choose a career in any of the two but to the general public and employers of labour both government and private who have used the word interchangeably when advertising for job vacancies.

    May, I categorically state that I am an insider who has passed through the two courses and the curriculum because I mistake them to be the same the way students and the general public do today. To the students the two courses are excellent but it is better to learn now and make your choice earlier to avoid the mistake many other students and I have made because it is said that you learn from the mistake of others for you may not live long to do all the mistakes yourself. Now let’s digest the differences.


    Medical Laboratory Science is a Medical Science course studied in university or College of Health Sciences only. In the university, it is studied in the College of Medicine under the Faculty of Health Sciences. Medical Laboratory Assistant and Technicians are trained in the College of Health technology while Medical Laboratory Scientists are trained in the universities. NOTE: None of the Medical Laboratory Science professionals are trained in the Polytechnics as many Polytechnic graduates and students of Science Laboratory Technology claim to belong to the Medical Laboratory Science Profession as one can only mistake them to be the same if one does not belong to medical/health profession or has not been admitted to study any of the course. Whereas Science Laboratory Technology is studied in the faculty of Biological or Natural Science in the universities and under the school of science in the polytechnics, graduates of Science Laboratory Technology from the polytechnic are called Technicians while their counterparts from the universities are called Laboratory Technologist. (NOTE No medical here)

    Courses offered and duration

    The courses offered by medical laboratory science students include Medical Biochemistry, Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Haematology, Pharmacology, forensic analysis, Embalmment techniques, Clinical Pathology, Biostatistics, virology, Medical Microbiology and Parasitology public Health and Epidemiology etc. The duration of study for medical laboratory Assistant and Technicians are 2 and 3years respectively, hence the period of study for medical laboratory scientist is 5 years in the university leading to the award of Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (BMLS) degree plus 1-year internship programme and 1 year NYSC making a total of seven years (7) training. While the course offered by students of Science Laboratory Technology are pure and applied Chemistry, Microbiology, Physics, Electronics, Photography, Plants and animal taxonomy etc. The duration of study in the polytechnic is 2 years National Diploma and 2 years leading to the award of Higher National Diploma (HND), while those in the university is 4 years leading to the award of B.Tech (Bachelor of Technology) degree plus 1 year National Service (NYSC) making a total of 5 years of training.

    Entry requirements

    The entry requirement for candidates seeking to study Medical Laboratory Science in the universities is a good cut off mark from Unified Tertiary matriculation examination and Post-UTME plus 5 credits pass in WAEC, SSCE or NECO, GCE ordinary level obtained at not more than 2 sittings from English language, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Also, holders of HND/ BSc in relevant courses are offered admission through direct entry to 200 level. Whereas, the admission requirement for students of science Laboratory Technology are credit pass from English language and Mathematics and three other credit pass from other science subject from either Physics, Biology, Agric/ Health Sciences, Chemistry, Technical drawing, Metal or Wood work, Basic electricity, Further Mathematics and fine Art obtained in not more than 2 sittings from WAEC, SSCE, NECO, GCE O level in addition to getting the required mark from Unified Tertiary matriculation examination and Post-UTME. Also candidates with OND/HND in relevant discipline are given direct entry admission to the universities.

    Council/regulatory body

    The council that regulate medical Laboratory practice in Nigeria is called Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) is a Federal government statutory regulatory agency established by the ACT 11 of 2003 as a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health.It broadly charged the council with the responsibilities of regulating Medical Laboratory Services, through registration and licensing of Medical laboratories as well as practitioners, mandatory inspection, monitoring for quality improvement, accreditation monitoring and evaluation as well as certification of laboratory test kits and reagents. The Act further empowers the council to regulate the training of Medical Laboratory Scientists, Technicians and Assistants as well as registration, regulation, Licensing and Accreditation of Medical Laboratories in public and private health institution. It has the national secretariat in Abuja, and the Registrar/Chief Executive is Professor Anthony Emeribe.

    While the council that regulates Science Laboratory Technology practice in Nigeria is known as The Nigeria Institute of Science Laboratory Technology (NISLT) was established by Act 12 of 2003 of the National Assembly and made a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. The core mandate of the Institute is to “Advance Science Laboratory Technology profession”. The institute is to ensure through its registered members effective and efficient management and administration of institutional and industrial laboratory in Nigeria. The institute is also required to research all areas of science and technology. The vision is to cause the rapid technological development of the nation through science laboratory technology and also to sustain science and technology delivery through efficient, productive and ethical science laboratory practice in institutional, research and private laboratories throughout the country. The institute have a Multi-Purpose Science Laboratory (MSL) at its secretariat in Ibadan, Oyo state that is equipped to provide an efficient laboratory services for the general public, Scientist, researchers, industries, farmers, exporters and student and hence assisting in science practical instructions and training of both secondary and tertiary institution and serve as a centre for training and retraining of technologists in some special area of science and technology.


    Medical Laboratory Science has both undergraduate and graduate specialities in the following disciplines:

    A. Medical Microbiology and Parasitology
    B. Virology and Mycology
    C. Public Health and Epidemiology
    D. Histopathology and Cytopathology
    E. Chemical pathology or Clinical chemistry
    F. Haematology and Blood group
    G. Serology
    H. Immunology etc.

    Whereas Science Laboratory Technology has the following specialities:

    1. Applied Biology and Microbiology
    2. Applied Chemistry and Biochemistry
    3. Physics and Electronics

    Job description and opportunities

    Graduates of Medical Laboratory Science can take up job in teaching and specialist hospital, Primary health centres, research and private health centres, private establishments and quality control or reference laboratories, public health laboratories, forensic and law enforcement laboratories. Their graduates can be self-employed by establishing their own diagnostic/research laboratories. While graduates of Science Laboratory Technology can work in environmental health institution where they may involve in food analysis to protect public health or water industry where they can be involved in water analysis. They can work in secondary school and the tertiary institution as science teachers or help in biology or chemistry laboratories as a technologist. They can also establish research laboratories for food and water analysis for public health protection. Having pinpointed the significant differences between the two. This will help students and parents or guardian in making a career. Meanwhile, this is a very important area in this book because if the universal health coverage or vision 202020 should be attained, the health sector and Science and Technology should be diversified and division of labour should be properly encouraged. This means that it will be barbaric and misplacement of professional priority for some employer of labour especially in the Ministry of Health to advertise for Medical Laboratory job and put qualification as a laboratory technologist or the issue of posting of Corps members who read Microbiology, Science Laboratory.

    Technology and Biochemistry for service (NYSC) or industrial training in the clinical laboratory or the self-acclamation of graduates of the three discipline mentioned above as Medical Laboratory Scientist is not only seen as professional impersonation but sabotage.

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