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Qualifications for a Serologist

by Ellie Williams, studioD

Serologists analyze bodily fluids such as blood, urine and semen, and work in both clinical and law enforcement settings. Those focusing on the clinical aspect might work in a diagnostic laboratory, testing patients’ blood for specific diseases or toxins. In a legal capacity, they help solve crimes by matching a fluid sample to that of a suspect, or testing a victim’s blood to determine cause of death.

Natural Science Degree

Serologists need at least an undergraduate degree in biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics or another natural science closely related to the study of bodily fluids. Those focusing on forensic serology can qualify with a degree in forensic science or forensic investigation, with some law enforcement agencies accepting this in lieu of a natural science degree. Students opting for a forensic science degree should have coursework in biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology.

Prior Experience

Some labs and law enforcement agencies don’t require previous serology experience, especially for entry-level trainee positions. Others require prior hands-on experience, accepting both full-time work and internships. Erie County in New York State, for example, considers candidates with either a verifiable internship or one to two years of professional experience depending on their education level. These internships typically provide exposure to a wide variety of cases, ranging from sexual assault to homicide and giving students a glimpse of the type of crimes they’ll investigate as professional serologists.

Required Knowledge

Whether they work for a medical lab or a law enforcement agency, serologists need training in laboratory practices and procedures, including how to use standard equipment such as microscopes. They also need expertise in specific types of testing. At a diagnostic or public health lab, for example, they might focus on testing for diseases such as hepatitis B or West Nile virus. To work in a forensics lab, they must be skilled in everything from confirming that a sample is blood to verifying that a sexual assault occurred.

Career Advancement

A serologist’s training doesn’t end after securing a full-time job. Some medical facilities and law enforcement agencies require serologists to complete continuing education throughout their careers. For example, many serologists regularly attend workshops and seminars covering the latest techniques for analyzing samples and searching for specific medical conditions and contaminants. Many facilities require graduate degrees for advanced opportunities such as laboratory supervisor or director positions. While certification is not required, it can improve employment prospects and advancement opportunities.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

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