Careers in Canada

How to Become a Licensed Medical Laboratory Technologist in Canada If You’re an Immigrant

The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) has a program called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and its role is to assess your education, training, and work experience outside Canada.
Medical Laboratory Technologist

Having the privilege to work in Canada is an excellent opportunity for different nationalities, as it is one of the world’s largest economies. Canada is known for its overall high level of innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability for a quality life. The Canadian education system and strong workplace culture attract many aspiring foreign nationals to mainly build their specialization in the healthcare industry.

Canada’s healthcare industry is growing over the years, making it the biggest contributor to Canadian job market growth. There are thousands of healthcare jobs, and medical professionals have become of the the highest-paid occupations. No wonder why a lot of Internationally Educated Health Professionals (IEHP) wanted to enter Canada’s workforce, and that includes Medical laboratory technologists.

Who are these so called Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs)?

Medical laboratory science is Canada’s third-largest health profession. They usually provide up to 85% of diagnostic information as the basis for decisions on patient management. According to the Government of Canada’s Job Bank, openings for MLTs from 2019-2028 are expected to rise to 20,400. Based on statistics, a certain percentage of healthcare professionals are immigrants.

The medical laboratory technology profession is regulated in the Canadian provinces except in British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Territories.

MLTs are highly trained professionals who typically work around hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and doctor’s offices. They perform various tests using the patient’s blood samples, body fluids, and tissues.

If you are interested in becoming a licensed MLT in Ontario, you need to meet the registration requirements before you can take the certification exam.

The pathway to becoming a Certified Medical Laboratory Technologist 

You’re going to pursue your career as MLT in Canada, but don’t know where to start? Worry no more! I gathered all the information you will need. Let’s begin!

Certified Medical Laboratory Technologist

Image source: CSMLS.org

The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) has a program called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and its role is to assess your education, training, and work experience outside Canada. For General Medical Laboratory Technologists, you must have the education and experience in more than one of the required disciplines listed below:

  • Clinical chemistry
  • Hematology
  • Clinical microbiology
  • Transfusion science
  • Histotechnology

If you proceed with applying to the PLA process, there are four things you need to do first:

  1. You must familiarize yourself with the PLA process and certification exam.
  2. Go through the Self-assessment Readiness Tools (SART), which will help you understand what skills and abilities the certifying body is looking for an applicant.
  3. Complete the Personal Competency Rating Booklet (PCRB). This booklet will help you analyze if taking PLA is right for you. It can be used to compare your education and experience to the MLT Competency Profile, the national standard in Canada.
  4. Complete the Online Self-Assessment (OSA), which will give you insight on how is the MLT practice in Canada.

PLA stage 1: Pre-assessment

The pre-assessment stage is the first step of the certification, and it has three parts.

First part: PLA application and fees

This is the part where you need to read the PLA MLT handbook and complete the application at the back of it. Afterward, you pay the fees and submit it to the CSMLS to obtain your CSMLS ID number.

As of 2020, the MLT PLA fees for members are $1540 and $1850 for non-members. You can pay this fee in full or in two parts— at the time of your application and before they assess your files. Payments are non-refundable and non-transferable and can be paid via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Canadian cheque, or Canadian money order.

From the start of the application, you have 12 months to submit the required documents to the CSMLS office. Otherwise, you can request for extension with acceptable reasons or re-apply.

Second part: Supporting documents

You will have to request your educational institution and employers to send your official documents directly to the CSMLS. Remind them to include your name and CSMLS ID number on each document.

You will find the Required Documentation Checklist in your PLA handbook to guide you in the documentation process. Please note that you are responsible for all the costs of your supporting documents.

Here are the documents that may be required for the PLA process:

  • Personal Competency Rating Booklet (PCRB)
  • Online Self-Assessment. You may purchase this 100-question test for CAD 59.95 + tax. And you need to complete it before you apply for PLA.
  • Credential Evaluation. CSMLS only accepts verified credentials from World Education Services (WES) Canada and International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES).
  • Language Proficiency. This requirement does not apply if your MLT education is in English or French. But if you need to take this test, CSMLS only accepts results from Michener English Language Assessment (MESA), Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL), TOEFL iBT, International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Canadian Test of English for Scholars and Trainees (CanTEST).
  • MLT Education. Your transcript of records and course outlines must be submitted from your institution.
  • Work Experience (not applicable for new graduates). You will need to have your employers write a letter describing your work as an MLT. CSMLS prefers the last 5 years of your work experience.
  • Personal Certification. If you have a professional certification or license outside Canada, request from your association to send a copy directly to CSMLS. 
  • Continuing Education. Suppose you had refresher courses for the past 5 years- in that case, you need to request your educational institution to send official transcripts to the CSMLS.

Third part: Preparing for the assessment

Once the CSMLS has received your documents, the assessment team will review your PLA file and compare your experience and education with the MLT Competency Profile. It will take up to 4 to 6 weeks to complete your assessment.

PLA stage 2: Post-assessment stage

This is the part where your technical report will show one of three outcomes.

  1. You are eligible to write the MLT exam.
  2. You are not equivalent to the MLT Competency Profile. You need to complete the Learning Plans to be eligible for writing the MLT exam. The custom plans will help you fill the educational gaps based on your PLA technical report. You also have to complete the PLA Learning Plans within one to two years.
  3. You are not equivalent to the MLT Competency Profile, and you are required to complete a full-time MLT training program before you write the MLT exam. Or you may consider taking an alternative career that is related to your work experience. 

Challenge and pass the exams

If the outcome of your application process is the first one listed above, then the eligibility statement will be issued to you. You will have the chance to challenge the certifying exam. The eligibility statement includes the date of your examination. 

For internationally educated candidates, you must receive a valid examination eligibility statement to be declared entitled to take the exam.

For the year 2021, the exam dates will be on February 22, April 27, June 21, and October 25. The registration will open two months before the exam date, and you still have more than one month to submit all the requirements before the registration closes.

Learning Plans

If you’re not eligible to take the exam (outcomes #2 and #3), your exam fees will be refunded less the administrative fees. 

For the second outcome, you will need to complete the Learning Plans before you get to take the exam. It may have any of the following:

  • Refresher courses
  • Subject Specific courses
  • Comprehensive courses

Bridging programs for Internationally Educated Medical Laboratory Technologists (IEMLT)

bridging program is offered to “bridge” your international training and work experience to a profession in Canada. These programs help immigrants to integrate themselves into the Canadian healthcare system. 

The courses in these bridging programs include preparation for employment and clinical placements to acquire Canadian workplace experience. According to the CSMLS, taking a bridging program can increase your chances of being successful with the exam.

Getting your license to practice in the College of Medical Laboratory Technologist of Ontario (CMLTO)

The College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario (CMLTO) is the national governing body for MLTs in Ontario. Its purpose is to provide a professional practice for experienced MLTs and regulate the profession in the public interest.

Once you complete and pass the CSMLS certification exam, you will receive a statement of your examination results and an invitation to become a certified member of the CSMLS. They will approve and certify your license to practice under the CMLTO.

And when you are already a member of CSLMS, you need to show your active commitment by using your MLT knowledge, skills, and understanding. You are also required to show proof of successful completion of a CMLTO-approved refresher course in the three years foregoing the application.

The bottom line

Are you ready to pursue your profession as MLT in Canada? Well, the overall process from registration to certification is never that easy, I know. It will take a lot of time, effort, and money. But if you’re truly dedicated and passionate about achieving your goals, why not give it a shot?


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