The Histotechnician and Histotechnology certification examinations given by the Board of Certification of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) assess the test taker for knowledge and skills at a career entry level.
Three interconnected modules comprise these criterion-referenced tests. Content outline questions are those that address wide ranging categories of information as well as examination subtest sections. Competency statements look at the skills that are evaluated on the exam. The third component is found in the area of taxonomy. There are three taxonomy levels, which are used to rank the candidate’s level of cognitive ability required to correctly answer specific questions. Level 1 questions test the examinee’s recall by requiring the candidate to remember information that has been committed to memory in the past. This information might be broad and conceptual, such as recognizing a theory, or narrow and specific, such as recalling information regarding a stain. The second taxonomic level is concerned with interpretive ability, and tests how well a candidate applies information that has been remembered in order to analyze or understand data that is visually presented, numbers based or verbal. At the third level, problem solving, the certification examinations test how well the candidate is able to apply memorized content that has been interpreted in order to arrive at a decision regarding how to solve a problem.
In order to be successful, a candidate must demonstrate an understanding of and facility with laboratory procedures and technical skills. In addition, technicians and technologists must show safety procedure comprehension and compliance, as well as an alignment with the ASCP’s code of ethics. Candidates must also have the ability to recognize abnormal test results, and be able to understand the relationship between disease processes and laboratory tests and results.
Test takers must also demonstrate an awareness of and ability to incorporate laboratory procedures in gathering and analyzing specimens; in documenting and reporting test results; and in using and maintaining instruments. Because laboratory instruments can fail, the successful exam candidate must also demonstrate competency in how to analyze tool failure in order to repair minor problems and identify more complex ones. Technicians must also demonstrate skill regarding monitoring laboratory tests for quality control, as well as with using computer applications.
The certification exams also assess the candidate’s ability to resolve unexpected issues by identifying the source of the problem and correcting it, or by reporting it to her supervisor. In order to work with greatest efficiency, candidates must also demonstrate good decision making skills in terms of prioritizing the order of testing by considering both urgency in terms of test results and efficiency in terms of laboratory set up.
Another area which will be tested is communication. A successful candidate will demonstrate the ability to apply a standardized set of criteria to test procedure drafts, and can relay information regarding the requirements of specific types of specimens as well as test results. As well, it is important for histotechnicians to assume some training responsibilities in the lab, both by teaching skills to new hires and to students.
Within ten days following the candidate’s completion of the exam, the Examinee Performance Report results will be mailed. The Report must contain a total score of at least 400 in order for the candidate to pass. Five subtest area scaled scores are also included, so that failed candidates will be able to organize their future studies appropriately. The areas of Processing/ Embedding and of Microtomy are responsible for 10- 14% of the test. The Laboratory Operations portion of the test accounts for 10- 15%. Fixation provides 10- 25%. Staining is the most important area, and accounts of 40- 50% of the exam.
The American Society For Clinical Pathology
The American Society for Clinical Pathology, which was founded in 1922, is considered to be the leading organization for pathologists and laboratory medicine professionals around the globe. Unlike similar associations, the ASCP believes that the concerns of both pathologists and laboratory workers can and should be united into a single vision in order to most effectively and efficiently support the profession’s growth and development. More pathologists, assistants, cytotechnologists, histologic technicians, histotechnologists, phlebotomists, and laboratory scientists have joined the ASCP than any other related professional organization, making it the biggest of its kind in the world.
In fact, for every 10 laboratory professionals who attempt to earn credentials from an accrediting agency other than the ASCP Board of Certification (BOC), 70 professionals choose to do so through the BOC. This is in large part because the American Society for Clinical Pathology is so highly and widely respected both within medical fields and outside of them. The certification examinations are computer based, and are reviewed frequently by experts and instructors to guarantee they contain questions that are relevant, current and reflective of ASCP high standards. The tests themselves are structured so that candidates are presented with increasingly complex questions; this helps ensure the evaluative process is as accurate as possible.
The ASCP offers certification and educational programs to its members. It has also been an important contributor in the establishment of the College of American Pathologists, the American Board of Pathology, and the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Through e- courses, workshops, teleconferences, self study systems and symposiums, the American Society for Clinical Pathology offers members a wide range of continuing education opportunities that can be applied to certification and recertification requirements, as well as contributing to professional growth by offering the most up to date information and new skills.
The ASCP Board of Certification has voluntarily undergone accreditation by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI has evaluated programs since 1918 for high quality of standardization in an international arena. The ASCP Board of Certification was previously called the ASCP Board of Registry, and it currently offers a number of certification specialties in five areas: Technician Certification, Technologist Certification, Specialist Certification, Diplomate Certification, and International American Society for Clinical Pathology Certification.
In the area of Technician Certification four specialties are included. Individuals seeking Technologist Certification can select from nine categories. Seven subgroups of Specialist Certifications are offered, while the area of Diplomate Certification offers only a single option. Candidates for the International American Society for Clinical Pathology Certification have five selections from which to choose.
Candidates are permitted to apply for certification testing in only four categories per year, and in no more than one category in any given 90 day period. Each category has its own set of eligibility qualifications, and these can be met in a number of ways depending upon the applicant’s training, work experience and other factors. Candidates will need to provide college transcripts, evidence of other education or training, and the proper forms that are required to demonstrate professional experience. It is important to provide all documents at once so that acceptance for the certification exam isn’t stalled. It is equally important to check all information for accuracy, as inaccurate information is grounds for certificate revocation. In addition, any candidate who loses certification due to having provided the BOC with incorrect information will not be permitted to sit for any other certification given by the Board, now or in the future.
The ASCP also offers published materials such as slide atlases, computer software, textbooks, audiovisual aids, and reference materials. It edits and publishes both Laboratory Medicine (LABMEDICINE) and the American Journal of Clinical Pathology (AJCP), which are two of the leading professional journals in the field. Its members receive Critical Values, the association’s magazine, which appears four times per year.
Overview: American Society For Clinical Pathology Certification
There are five areas of certification the American Society for Clinical Pathology Certification’s (ASCPC’s) Board of Certification (BOC) offers, with a total of 26 specializations within the areas. The first area, Technician Certification, offers four categories: Histotechnician (HT); Phlebotomy Technician (PBT); Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT); and Donor Phlebotomy Technician (DPT). The cost of registration for the PBT and DPT exams is $125, while the remaining two certification exams carry a $185 testing fee. There are between two and six routes by which a candidate can fulfill requirements needed to sit for the exams. For example, to take the HT exam, a candidate must fulfill requirements in one of two routes. In the first route, the candidate must have either accumulated 90 quarter hours or 60 semester hours from an accredited institution of higher learning with 12 semester hours in chemistry and biology (18 quarter hours) and also have completed twelve months’ histopathology laboratory experience. Alternatively, a candidate can pursue a second route, which requires graduation from a histotechnician program that has been accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) no more than five years prior. In either case, the HT exam also requires laboratory experience in microtomy, fixation, staining and processing.
The area of Technologist Certification offers specialties in nine areas. They are Blood Banking (BB); Chemistry (C); Cytogenetics (CG); Cytotechnologist (CT); Hematology (H); Histotechnologist (HTL); Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS); Microbiology (M); and Molecular Biology (MB). All of these tests require payment of a $210 fee, as well as laboratory experience in microtomy, fixation, staining and processing. These specialties offer between two and five routes by which a candidate can fulfill the necessary preregistration requirements. For example, the HTL exam offers two routes. In the first case, a Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited college which includes 30 semester hours in biology and chemistry, as well as graduation in the prior five years from a histotechnician or histotechnology program that has been certified by the NAACLS fulfills the requirements. The second route couples a Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited college with 30 semester hours in biology and chemistry with a year of full time work experience in a histopathology laboratory.
The Specialist Certification area offers seven categories of certification. The cost of each test is $260, with the exception of the Pathologists’ Assistant certification exam, which is $500. Each of the categories has its own routes by which requirements to sit for the exam can be fulfilled; there are between one and four routes among the categories. Blood Banking (SBB); Chemistry (SC); Cytotechnology (SCT); Hematology (SH); Laboratory Safety (SLS); Microbiology (SM); Pathologists’ Assistant (PA).
The Diplomate in Laboratory Management (DLM) is the only certification that offers a single category. The fee for this certification is $375 and the requirements can be fulfilled by one of six routes, which are explained on the American Society for Clinical Pathology website. In addition, candidates must have work experience during the last decade in 20 of these 32 areas:
- In the area of Financial Management: Budgets; Billing and Collection; Capital Equipment Acquisition; Contract Negotiations; Cash Flow Analysis; Cost Analysis; Financial Accounting; Materials Management; Purchasing; and Reimbursement Issues.
- In the area of Marketing Management: Market Research; Consumer Relations; Product Development; and Managed Care.
- In the area of Operations Management: Data Management; Information Technology; Facilities Management; Interdepartmental Relations; Safety; Licensure; Performance Improvement; Productivity; Risk Management and Medical/ Legal Issues.
- In the area of Personnel Management: Education and Training (including continuing education); Conflict Resolution; Motivation; Counseling and Disciplinary Action; Job Descriptions; Performance Standards and Evaluations; Personnel Negotiations; Scheduling; Wage and Salary Administration.
The final certification area offered by the BOC is the International ASCP Certification, which can be earned in five categories of specialty. They are Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT); Medical Technician (MT); Molecular Biology (MB); Phlebotomy Technician (PBT); and International Technologist in Gynecologic Cytology (CTgyn). These international certifications represent the highest achievement possible in the global arena, and are widely considered to be the gold standard. The International Qualification in Laboratory Operations (QLO) will be added to this category soon. Further information about this new credential can be found on the ASCP website.
The Importance Of American Society For Clinical Pathology Certification
There are many reasons why a laboratory professional would pursue on the many credentials offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s (ASCP’s) Board of Certification (BOC). Apart from the obvious benefits of certification, such as greater job responsibility and an increase in pay, the BOC is highly respected in every corner of the world. Laboratory workers who want the respect of their colleagues will find that one or more certifications from an organization that is considered the gold standard, is one way to get it. Furthermore, since earning certification requires continuing to learn and integrate new knowledge into a foundation of what you already know, becoming certified means you are constantly developing your skills. Ultimately, the best reason for wanting to pursue certification is for yourself; you will know that you are continuing to be the best you can be at what you do, and that matters.
One of the reasons the BOC certifications are so highly regarded is that the questions contained in each test go through an arduous process to ensure they reflect current standards and knowledge, and will reflect a candidate’s understanding and level of skill. The questions are created by professionals who are committed to testing each question to ensure it is relevant in terms of current knowledge, clear, and well written. In addition, the way the test is designed further guarantees the most accurate possible assessment of each individual candidate’s skills and knowledge. This is accomplished through computer based testing in which each new question offered to the test taker is slightly more challenging than the one before it. This helps measure at what point or points a candidate’s knowledge is incomplete.
For a laboratory manager, supervising an employee with one or more certifications from the American Society for Clinical Pathology is assurance that the employee capable and skilled, and he can be trusted to reliably follow procedures and demonstrate the highest degree of professional conduct in any situation. In fact, many managers prefer to hire only ASCP board certified histotechnicians, histotechnologists, cytogeneticists, laboratory scientists, or other laboratory professionals. While it is certainly possible to work in a laboratory setting without such certification, there’s no question that it is far easier to find an excellent position with it. Not only that, but anyone hoping to climb the professional ladder and land higher and higher level jobs with greater responsibility, better benefits and a heftier salary almost certainly will need these certifications. This is certainly true in the United States and Canada, and is becoming more common in laboratories around the world.
While laboratory professionals of all kinds benefit from holding one or more ASCP BOA certifications, certifications can also be a boon to students. Many academic programs encourage their students to become involved with the American Society for Clinical Pathology and pursue the earning of credentials. When a college degree appears on a job application together with credentials bestowed by the ASCP Board of Certification, employees know they are interviewing the best of the best. Even with little or no laboratory work experience, the presence of a credential or two tells an employer that this newly graduated student is determined and disciplined, and understands how important it is to have and maintain high standards.
Of course, the people to whom American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification credentials matter most are those who are least likely to even know such things exist—the patients themselves. ASCP BOC credentialed laboratory professionals deliver high quality results that can make an enormous difference in the quality of medical care a patient receives. For laboratory professionals who want the work they do to really matter, and who appreciate the respect they earn as a result of that ethic, earning certification from the ASCP is essential.
Registering For The American Society For Clinical Pathology Certification Exams
There are a number of steps involved in registering for one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology certifications. It’s important for candidates to attend to each step, because failure to do so could ultimately lead to revocation of a certificate. In addition, anyone who has a certificate rescinded will not be permitted to sit for any other certification exam in the future.
The ASCP Board of Certification has determined that a candidate is permitted only one certification exam per three month period. So it’s extremely important that test takers are fully prepared to pass the exams. Failure to do so is not only costly in that every attempt is charged a separate fee, but can delay career advancement and cause discouragement.
The next step is determining which of 26 categories in five certification areas to pursue. Each of these areas has its own requirements, and laboratory training, other work experience and education must be accurately documented.
Candidates need to include documentation and all fees with their applications; no one will be scheduled for a test without a completed package. Payment can be made by credit card, in which case application must be made online. Alternatively, test takers can pay with a personal check or money order sent with all other required documents via the U.S. Postal Service.
After all documents have been processed, the candidate will be sent a statement that qualifies her to schedule the certification exam. The statement is good for only three months, and no extensions are permitted. All testing is done at a Pearson’s Professional Center.
In the event a candidate is not given approval for the certifying exam, he can appeal. However, should the appeal fail, the candidate should be aware that no refunds will be given. For this reason, it is recommended that candidates carefully review their qualifications before completing an application for testing. In order to be considered, appeals must be in writing and sent to the address of record for the Certification Appeals Committee. Supporting documents that the BOC do not already have must be included. Supporting documents can include statements from others. The appeals package must be received no later than one month after the candidate was notified her application was rejected.
The Certification Appeals Committee members are not individuals involved with the establishment of the requirements for eligibility. Once a decision is made, the applicant will be notified by the BOC. One further appeal is permitted by asking the Board of Governors Appeals Committee to hear the case at their next scheduled meeting; alternatively, a candidate can choose to present the facts in writing rather than in person.
Scheduling is done at the test taker’s convenience on any work day that falls within a three month period of the acceptance of the application. Should the applicant schedule a test date then discover a later conflict the date can be rescheduled without resubmitting a new application as long as it falls within the three month period, but only if the candidate notified Pearson’s at least 24 hours before the scheduled date of the test. However, no fee will be transferred into another three month period; should the rescheduled date fall outside this time range there will be no refund given.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding The American Society For Clinical Pathology Certification Exams
Candidates who make online application to one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Certification Exams will receive notification by email; those who apply via the U.S. mail will be notified by return mail. In both cases, candidates should allow six weeks for acknowledgement to arrive. Candidates may not send materials by FedEx, United Parcel Service or another ground carrier.
Once a candidate has received acknowledgement and a letter from the BOC permitting the exam to be scheduled within a three month period, it is strongly recommended that candidates do so as quickly as possible. While exams are given Monday through Friday at the candidate’s preferred Pearsons’ testing site, the letter is good for only three months. Should an acceptable date not be available within that time period, the candidate will have to reapply, and pay all fees a second time.
Candidates should carefully review all required documents before making application. This is for two reasons. First, should the candidate submit unacceptable documentation, such as a college transcript from a school that is not regionally credited, the application will be deemed ineligible and no refund will be given. Second, any information that is inaccurate can jeopardize the candidate’s future standing. Should the applicant take and pass the exam and earn certification and the inaccuracy be discovered at a later date, the certification can be revoked. Revoked certificates mean the candidate cannot reapply for that, or any other, certification given by the BOC.
Candidates can confirm that their schools are regionally accredited by checking with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC- CIHE);Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges (SACS/CC); North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA- HLC); Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); or the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC- ACCJR).
On the day of the test, a candidate must be certain to bring a photo I.D. that contains a signature. This can be a driver’s license, a state I.D. card, or another form of government identification. In addition, a second I.D. that contains a signature is also required. The admissions letter is also required. It is absolutely essential that candidates arrive with proper documentation. Failure to provide a photo I.D. or providing I.D. that contains a mismatch in either first name or family name will result in denial. Should a candidate be denied a seat for this reason, he will be recorded as a no show; no refund will be given, nor can the test date be rescheduled in the same three month period. It is not possible to complete a request for a change of name or address at the Test Center, but must be completed prior to the test through the ASCP.
Regardless of reason, if a test date is missed or if a cancellation is made less than 24 hours before the scheduled date, the candidate may not reapply in the same three month period. No refund will be given. Applications remain on record for three years; should a candidate need to reschedule a test, a new fee will be assessed but it isn’t necessary to make re- application.
Upon completion of the BOC certification exam, candidates will be notified immediately as to whether they have passed or failed; this notification is for the candidate’s own satisfaction and is not official. Within ten days following the examination, specific scores will be sent through the U.S. mail. Candidates may not request scores over the telephone, by fax or by email.
Candidates who wish to immediately reschedule the same examination because they feel they did not do as well as they could have must wait until they receive their official score in the mail. Each exam can be administered no more than five times to a particular candidate following the same route. However, most of the 26 certifying exams offer at least two routes to qualify. A candidate who uses the five attempts under one route is permitted to continue to attempt success under another route.
American Society For Clinical Pathology Certification Maintenance Program
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification (BOC) Certification Maintenance Program (CPA), while not a requirement for individuals who hold international certification, is required for all American participants who obtained certification on or after January 1, 2004. Because the BOC also administers certification for the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel, their certificate holders are also obligated to maintain certification. Each type of credential has its own maintenance requirements; these individual requirements are available on the ASCP official website.
Failure to follow the requirements for certificate maintenance will invalidate certification, and the status will be noted as expired on all official documents. Not all ASCP BOC certified laboratory professionals are members of the ASCP; however, it should be noted that regardless of membership, participation in the CMP is required of everyone, and must be completed in three year cycles. Once certification has been allowed to lapse, it is possible to have it reinstated only by providing evidence of the sufficient number of CMP points for the particular certification along with payment of a $50 reinstatement fee. Certification lapses that extend to more than ten years, however, can only be reinstated by the certificant retaking the examination. In addition, the certificant must provide evidence of the sufficient number of points being earned in the previous three years, and payment of a fee.
Certificate maintenance provides evidence to laboratories that their BOC certified histotechnicians, histotechnologists, and other laboratory professionals are committed to a high level of skill and knowledge. While many laboratories have their own requirements regarding continuing education and their employees must also demonstrate ongoing competency to the state regulatory agency, these laboratory- specific regulations are not required on a national level. Some laboratories do not insist upon continuing education, and not all states demand laboratory workers in their state hold or maintain state licensure. Those who work in states or labs that do require continuing education should note that to avoid redundancy this continuing education will also be accepted for certificate maintenance.
Although laboratory professionals who obtained certification before 2004 are not required to participate in the CMP, doing so voluntarily is strongly encouraged, both because the requirements of certification maintenance mean the certificate holder is current in terms of knowledge and practice in the field, and because participation in the program tells co- workers and employers that you are serious and dedicated. Participation in the CMP, whether voluntary or required, is documented by submitting a completed declaration form together with the application fee. There is no need to provide evidence of the required points unless your declaration form is audited.
In many cases, continuing education CMP points can be applied to requirements in on certification area or another. If the studies are awarded more than one point, these points can be divided between the two areas or selected for just one of the areas; they cannot, however, be applied to both areas.
Many laboratories require their employees to attend continuing education courses that they create or implement. Those that document employee attendance may be eligible for CMP points. In this case, 50 minutes to one hour of classroom time is the equivalent of a contact hour, which counts as one CMP point. In most cases, it is possible for a BOC certified laboratory professional to maintain certification by providing all required points earned through in- service continuing education. Acceptable in- service training might be offered through face- to- face workshops, videoconferencing, or computer coursework that covers relevant topics; for example, instrument training, autoimmune disorders, or maintaining safety standards in the laboratory. However, the coursework must be assigned a given number of contact hours prior to beginning, employee attendance verified, and certificates awarded upon completion in order to qualify. Another way to earn points is through online classes offered by the ASCP or by other professional organizations.
Laboratory supervisors who are responsible for confirming active certification among staff can verify certificate validity can do so by visiting the ASCP official website. Employee certificate number and the years in which the certificate is valid are posted. For laboratory professionals who obtained certification in 2004 or later and who have permitted the certification to lapse will have this noted on the website.