Oct 24, 2020  
PUBLISHED 2020-2021 Credit Catalog 
PUBLISHED 2020-2021 Credit Catalog

Medical Laboratory Assistant

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Program Description

A medical laboratory assistant is an integral member of the laboratory workforce, a field that is not only growing to meet the needs of an increasing and aging population, but also changing to support medical and technological advances. A medical laboratory assistant must be accurate, self-motivated, and dependable with a skilled eye for detail and strong client service skills.

The Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) fast-paced program trains students to collect, process, and prepare patient specimens, enter data, perform clerical and reception services, perform electrocardiograms and urinalyses and carry out basic laboratory procedures.

The first semester of the MLA program consists of classroom instruction and clinical integration which prepares students for the clinical practicum and professional job duties. The second semester involves theory on professional practice and a six-week clinical practicum arranged by SAIT which is spent in a laboratory and patient service center. The practicum provides students with opportunities to refine and apply competencies acquired at SAIT. 

The program has many clinical partners located within Alberta and across Canada. Clinical placements in Calgary are limited and students must be prepared to relocate outside of Calgary for the six-week practicum. Successful candidates will be informed of the allocation of their placement by the program. There is no guarantee that students will be placed at their desired practicum location. Special considerations of personal circumstances will not be given in regard to assigning practicum placements. Students will be responsible for fees associated with their practicum such as relocation and travel costs.

Certain courses may be available by distance education or continuing education. All courses must be completed within the time frame shown in the Program Outline. Please be advised that full-time student status requires the student to take 60 percent of a full course load per semester. Depending on the number of courses completed by distance education or continuing education, students may be considered a part-time student, which may impact their financial loan status.

Students in this program require access to a personal computer and the Internet to facilitate completion of required online course components.

Program Overview

Fast Facts

This program is a 21 week certificate offered over the Fall/Winter semesters or the Winter/Spring semesters.

Your Career

Graduates find work as medical laboratory assistants in community collection sites, hospital rapid-response laboratories, high-volume medical laboratories and private insurance or home care companies. The employment requires flexibility (shift-work), good health and manual dexterity. Medical laboratory assistants work in laboratory environments where they may spend a considerable amount of time standing or sitting and performing tasks that may be repetitive. They must observe safety precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious body fluids and dangerous chemicals. Graduates are often hired into casual positions initially which usually progress to full-time positions within one year of hire. In order to find employment, many graduates must relocate across Alberta and potentially even throughout Canada.

  • Graduates of the Medical Laboratory Assistant program have a 82% employment rate.

Student Success

  • Students with higher secondary or post-secondary marks usually experience greater success in SAIT programs.
  • In order to be successful in this program, applicants must have basic computer literacy. An acceptable computer skill level would include the ability to use word processing and communication software. Educational interaction in this program depends on these basic computer skills and medical laboratory assistants work with laboratory and hospital information systems. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure adequacy of these skills prior to program admission.
  • A keyboarding/data entry speed of 30 words per minute (wpm) net or better is required. Applicants will be required to complete a program-specific keyboarding assessment (available at SAIT for a minimal fee) prior to admission to the program.
  • Students who experience success in this program have the following characteristics:
    • The ability to follow instructions, pay close attention to detail and take precise readings,
    • The ability to work quickly and accurately,
    • Good finger and manual dexterity to handle specimens and small laboratory equipment,
    • Normal colour vision,
    • Good communication and problem solving skills,
    • Good organizational skills,
    • The interpersonal skills and effective communication skills in English required to work well with co-workers and the public.
  • Medical laboratory assistants enjoy working with people, like direct contact with patients and do not mind shift work.


After successfully completing this program, graduates will receive a SAIT Medical Laboratory Assistant certificate.

All graduates are eligible for registration and membership with the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS).

Obtaining national certification as a medical laboratory assistant will allow for opportunities to work across Canada.


The Medical Laboratory Assistant program delivered by SAIT is accredited by Accreditation Canada, and is designed so that graduates achieve clinical competence as defined by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS). As an accredited institute, graduates of the Medical Laboratory Assistant program at SAIT are eligible to challenge the CSMLS certification exam.


Students must attain a PGPA and/or a CGPA of 2.0 or better in each semester and pass the necessary prerequisite courses to progress through the program. To qualify for graduation, students must pass all courses, attain a CGPA of 2.0 or better and complete course requirements within the prescribed timelines.

Admission Requirements

Completion of the following courses or equivalents:

  • At least 60% in Math 20-2 or Pure Math 10 or Math 10C,
  • At least 60% in English Language Arts 30-1 or English Language Arts 30-2,
  • At least 60% in Chemistry 20,
  • At least 60% in Biology 20.
  • All applicants must demonstrate English Language Proficiency prior to admission, including students educated in Canada.

Program Outline

Total Credits 19.5

Program Overview - Part-Time, AHS South Health Zone Offering

The MLA program also offers a part-time stream, in specific service of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) South Health Zone.  This stream is cohort based and encompasses a blended delivery model.  Learners will acquire their theoretical foundations through online education, and be provided hands-on simulated laboratory experience on-campus at SAIT.  Students will complete the program by applying and refining their learning during a six week, SAIT-arranged practicum in a clinical setting.  Practicum sites include fully operational laboratories and patient service centres.

This stream of the MLA program is in address of an existent need of Alberta Public Laboratories’ services in Southern Alberta.  As such, all practicum placements will occur within Southern Alberta (South Health Zone), and only applicants with a home address (living) in the region will be eligible for admission to the program.  Students will be responsible for all fees born of their practicum placements, including the cost of travel, relocation, and dwelling.

Please be advised that all courses must completed within the timeframe as displayed in the program outline, and that for the purposes of applying for student loans, all students in this stream are considered part-time.       

Program Length

The AHS South Health Zone stream is 7 months in length, and completed during the Winter through Fall semesters.

Program Outline

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