How to become a phlebotomist

female phlebotomist prepares to draw blood from patient

Phlebotomist career overview

Where you’ll work: Doctor’s offices, medical clinics, hospitals, medical and diagnostic labs and outpatient care centers and clinics.

What you’ll do: Draw blood for purposes such as lab tests, transfusions, research or blood bank donations. You may help patients who have anxiety around needles or have an adverse reaction after their blood is drawn.

Minimum degree required: High school diploma, complete a certificate program and later, earn professional certification.

Who it’s a good fit for: People who are not squeamish about working with needles, are sympathetic to patients who may be averse to needles and are organized and meticulous as well as sanitation-oriented.

Opportunities if you pursue a higher degree or certification: Move into other clinical lab jobs, or pursue an ADN or BSN and become a registered nurse, which could open up more job prospects and warrant a higher salary.

How much does a phlebotomist make: $38,530 (median annual pay)

If you’ve never heard of a phlebotomist before, chances are you’ve already met one. These allied health professionals, who may also be called phlebotomy technicians, draw blood for tests, donations and even research purposes.

Becoming a phlebotomist can be a great entry point into the healthcare field or a sustainable career on its own, especially for those who don’t wish to invest a lot of their time in schooling. Certificate programs that last only a few months, for example, can give you the training you need to start your career as a phlebotomist.

  • TIP: While phlebotomy is a skill that all nurses will perform at some point, it is not commonly taught in nursing school, so it may be in your best interest as a nursing student to take a course in how to draw blood.

What is a phlebotomist?

Our blood can tell us a lot about our health—it can help us detect signs of infection, anemia, thalassemia, heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure and many other diseases and conditions. When a doctor orders bloodwork for a patient, phlebotomists are the ones responsible for collecting those blood samples.

“Phlebotomists are the individuals that draw blood specimens,” said Diane Crawford, CEO and founder of the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA). 

Phlebotomists collect and prepare blood for testing, but they are not the ones who actually test the blood—that responsibility falls on medical lab technicians.

Depending on where they work, some phlebotomists draw blood for reasons other than testing, such as for blood donation or medical research.

Phlebotomists can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical and diagnostic labs
  • Physician offices
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Blood banks and blood drives
  • Urgent care centers

What does a phlebotomist do?

A phlebotomist’s job can vary slightly depending on where they work, but no matter who they work for, their job duties generally include the following:

Correctly label blood samples for processing

Adhere to proper infection control procedures

Draw blood samples from patients or blood donors through venipuncture

Enter blood sample information into the appropriate database(s)

Prepare and maintain equipment such as needles and blood vials, and properly dispose of them after use

Explain the blood draw process to patients, answer their questions and help patients feel at ease

Confirm a patient’s identity before taking blood samples

Some phlebotomists may also be responsible for collecting urine or other types of samples. They must instruct the patient on the proper collection procedures and then label samples for processing.

Median annual phlebotomist salary

According to the 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for phlebotomists is $38,530. Unlike registered nurses who have a very wide range of salaries—the bottom 10% of RNs earn $61,250 while the top 10% earn more than double that at $129,400—phlebotomists’ salaries fall into a much smaller range.

There is just over a $20,000 per year difference between the bottom earning 10% of $30,250 and the top earning 10% of $51,610. Below you can see the phlebotomist hourly pay, also called the median hourly wage.

hero-widget-desktop-graph hero-widget-desktop-graph






Median Hourly Wage$19

Job growth7.7%

Total Employment137,090

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $32,690 $25,360 $41,680
Alaska $39,640 $37,120 $53,820
Arizona $38,030 $31,870 $47,240
Arkansas $35,410 $27,520 $39,070
California $47,580 $37,330 $65,670
Colorado $41,000 $32,240 $50,350
Connecticut $45,060 $36,550 $51,160
Delaware $43,430 $36,320 $54,140
District of Columbia $48,210 $40,740 $55,450
Florida $36,780 $30,660 $44,960
Georgia $37,840 $29,770 $48,110
Hawaii $41,470 $37,920 $60,880
Idaho $36,910 $29,670 $78,040
Illinois $40,510 $32,960 $52,240
Indiana $36,170 $28,830 $43,700
Iowa $35,980 $30,980 $44,940
Kansas $36,860 $28,230 $46,750
Kentucky $36,160 $21,470 $45,080
Louisiana $31,710 $26,530 $41,170
Maine $36,280 $30,520 $44,080
Maryland $43,140 $33,730 $55,270
Massachusetts $46,190 $38,340 $57,650
Michigan $37,140 $32,510 $47,100
Minnesota $39,860 $33,660 $48,930
Mississippi $30,700 $23,420 $45,170
Missouri $35,770 $30,640 $44,950
Montana $35,260 $30,240 $45,800
Nebraska $34,010 $30,330 $44,520
Nevada $38,550 $31,480 $59,040
New Hampshire $39,640 $33,300 $48,690
New Jersey $42,990 $32,990 $52,820
New Mexico $35,660 $25,570 $44,210
New York $45,430 $33,640 $60,840
North Carolina $37,070 $30,490 $46,080
North Dakota $36,570 $31,580 $59,900
Ohio $36,450 $28,160 $44,750
Oklahoma $32,840 $27,110 $45,730
Oregon $41,320 $35,970 $52,950
Pennsylvania $39,090 $33,060 $46,690
Rhode Island $44,630 $34,100 $52,800
South Carolina $37,020 $29,700 $43,550
South Dakota $32,440 $28,060 $44,660
Tennessee $35,400 $29,020 $44,320
Texas $36,780 $28,520 $45,050
Utah $34,940 $30,460 $44,900
Vermont $38,280 $34,960 $49,940
Virginia $38,900 $30,170 $50,180
Washington $45,480 $37,600 $61,340
West Virginia $35,090 $29,200 $40,720
Wisconsin $39,020 $33,240 $45,810
Wyoming $34,770 $30,330 $44,880

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

The BLS also states that the employment of phlebotomists is expected to grow 7.7% through 2032, compared to the 3% average across all occupations.

“…job growth for phlebotomists is expected to be faster than average through 2032 says the BLS.”

Factors that affect phlebotomist pay

Your earning potential as a phlebotomist can vary based on several different components. For starters, your location can affect your wages due to the area’s cost of living, minimum wage laws and more. For example, the areas with the highest median annual wages for phlebotomists include the District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts, Washington and New York.

Experience is another big factor that contributes to a person’s salary. It may be easier for phlebotomists with more years of experience to secure higher-paying roles or leadership positions that come with more responsibilities and a higher salary, such as a lead phlebotomist or something similar. Having a phlebotomist certification can also boost your credibility and could lead to better pay. 

The type of workplace could also affect your earning potential. Of the five industries that have the highest level of employment of phlebotomists according to the BLS, the highest paying industries are as follows, from highest to lowest:

  1. Employment services
  2. Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  3. General medical and surgical hospitals
  4. Ambulatory healthcare services
  5. Offices of physicians

Advancing your career

Unlike nurses who have multiple roles that come with more responsibilities, there isn’t quite as much upward mobility for phlebotomists specifically. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities for advancement within a phlebotomy career. For starters, Crawford noted that phlebotomists may wish to teach or use their knowledge to transition into other health professions

“We have a continuing education program for instructors. Say for instance if they want to open a school, they have to follow [NPA] standards and they can take the instructors program. They have to have been in the health care community for at least a year and have knowledge of phlebotomy,” Crawford said. Crawford also mentioned that phlebotomists may go on to be nurses, therapists, doctors—the possibilities are practically endless.  

Requirements to become a phlebotomist

Except for a handful of states, there are no universal requirements for becoming a phlebotomist. In most places, the qualifications for phlebotomist positions are determined by individual employers. Although some may offer on-the-job training, most employers today require that phlebotomists have either a diploma from a certificate program and/or a phlebotomy certification.

This wasn’t always the case. When Crawford first became a phlebotomist, most phlebotomist roles only required on-the-job training. You may not have even needed a high school diploma. As a result, she founded the NPA in 1978 to establish a professional standard and code of ethics for phlebotomists.  

“We established that there was a need to have a general education—finish high school—and then from that, the training curriculum itself we developed,” Crawford said. The NPA’s standards are not nationally adopted or enforced, but they provide a valuable framework that many employers and education programs choose to follow.

Only California, Washington, Nevada and Louisiana require phlebotomists to be certified or licensed. Although each of their requirements differs slightly, all four of these states require phlebotomists to complete a phlebotomy training program (such as a certificate program) or earn a phlebotomy certification in order to draw blood. 

Certificate programs

Most phlebotomy certificate programs are offered by community and technical colleges. These programs are typically about four to six months long and include courses on patient safety, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and phlebotomy. Most programs require you to complete a clinical experience or externship to get hands-on practice performing blood draws.

Hopeful phlebotomists may also be able to enter the profession with a two-year associate degree in a closely related field such as medical assisting, medical lab assisting or even a licensed practical nurse (LPN) program.

Phlebotomy certifications

Earning a certification is another great way to qualify for most phlebotomist positions. Certifications validate the skills needed to successfully perform the job. Applicants must pass an exam to earn a certification, but each certification provider has different eligibility requirements in order to qualify for the exam. In general, most of these exams require that you have graduated from an accredited phlebotomy training program (such as a certificate program) or have an equivalent amount of phlebotomy experience to take the test.

Deciding which certification you need is a little more challenging. Some employers have specific requirements for which certifications they’re looking for, others may not care as much.

Here are some of the most common phlebotomy certifications that hopeful phlebotomists should consider pursuing:

Becoming a phlebotomist may not be for everyone. An aversion to blood and needles, for example, may be an obvious sign that you’re not cut out for the job.

If that isn’t an issue for you, then working as a phlebotomist could be a great way to get exposure to working in the field of health care, interacting with patients and collaborating with other health professionals. If you discover that you enjoy working in health care, your experience as a phlebotomist could be an excellent foundation for other careers, such as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), LPN, registered nurse, medical lab technician and so much more.

You may also discover that a career as a phlebotomist can be a lifelong career all on its own. With above-average job growth projections, you can expect to enjoy a stable career serving others and performing an essential component of patient care. 

“When we interview people for the school, what I hear them say is that they like people and they wanted to work in the lab. And they want to draw blood, and then some of them want to start their own program,” Crawford said. “There are a myriad of reasons why people do it and it’s like becoming a physician—you have to be inspired and have that commitment.”

Published: October 5, 2023

kendall upton

Written and reported by:

Kendall Upton

Staff Writer

With professional insight from:

Diane Crawford, founder and CEO

National Phlebotomy Association