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Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training Program

The Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) Training Program was established in 1958 and is operated by the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calliornia. This program was previously referred to as the Medical Technology Training Program. The program is approved by the California Department of Public Health, the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the UC Irvine Allied Health Committee.  

The CLS Training Program provides a full year of didactic and clinical instruction. The curriculum includes intensive bench training, formal and informal lectures, and case studies. Students receive more than 200 hours of formal lectures covering the various disciplines of clinical laboratory science. Instructor-student ratio for lecture sessions is 1:6. Training in the clinical rotations takes place in each area of the working clinical laboratories with an instructor-student ratio of 1:2 or 1:3.

After fulfilling all program requirements, students receive a certificate of completion and are eligible to take the external exam leading to licensure as a California CLS and certification as a Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

Program Medical Director Luis M. de la Maza, MD, PhD
Program Director Ellena Peterson, PhD, F(AAM), CLS, MT(ASCP)


California Department of Public Health

Program Start Date First week in July; one class per year
Program Duration

One year of full-time training

Monday to Friday, 40 hours/week

Application Deadline January 15
Training Positions Up to 6
Fees/Cost No tuition; student is responsible for costs associated with parking, transportation, textbooks, licensing/certification exam fees, immunizations as required for health clearance, and proof of major medical insurance
Stipend/Scholarship A scholarship is provided to admitted students, paid on a monthly basis; amount is dependent on annual budget


The mission of the UCI Medical Center Medical CLS Training Program is to provide a learning environment in which students acquire the academic knowledge, technical skills, professional behaviors, critical thinking, and problem solving ability necessary to become proficient CLS/MLS.  

Program Goals

  • To provide a learning experience that will:
    • Stimulate and challenge the student to become educated in the theories and principles of laboratory medicine
    • Teach the clinical significance of laboratory procedures in diagnosis and treatment of patients
    • Help develop the student's understanding of the principles and practices of quality assurance
    • Result in the development of skills necessary to perform manual tests and operate complicated, state-of-the-art instrumentation 
    • Build problem-solving skills, familiarize students with principles of educational methods, research methods and personnel/business management in a clinical laboratory 
  • To provide examples of professionalism, leadership, integrity, and compassion that the student can observe and practice; to demonstrate a dedication to the continued acquisition of knowledge required for continuing professional development. 
  • To provide an in-depth curriculum and clinical experience in an environment in which the judgmental abilities of the student can develop and mature. 
  • To assist each student in developing communication skills that will enable him/her to effectively listen, read, speak, write, and present thoughts, ideas and information. 
  • To instruct students on issues regarding patient rights, patient safety, patient privacy and compliance with regulatory agencies.
  • To instruct students in environmental, health and safety practices necessary in a clinical laboratory.
  • To provide financial assistance in the form of a monthly stipend.  
  • To provide an atmosphere in which the student can learn his/her responsibilities in society and develop characteristics that will make him/her an excellent professional with an understanding and respect for all individuals.

Entry Level Competencies 

Upon completion of the CLS training program, at entry level as a CLS/MLS individuals will possess the competencies necessary to perform the full range of clinical laboratory tests in areas such as clinical chemistry, hematology/hemostasis, immunology, immunohematology, transfusion medicine, microbiology, urine and body fluid analysis, molecular diagnostics, laboratory operations, and other emerging diagnostics, and will play a role in the development and evaluation of test systems and interpretive algorithms. 

The CLS/MLS will have diverse responsibilities in areas of analysis and clinical decision-making, regulatory compliance with applicable regulations, education, and quality assurance/performance improvement wherever laboratory testing is researched, developed or performed. 

At entry level, the CLS/MLS will have the following basic knowledge and skills in:

  • Principles and practices of clinical study design, implementation and dissemination of results
  • Educational methodologies and terminology sufficient to train and educate users and providers of laboratory service
  • Principles and practices of administration and supervision as applied to clinical laboratory science
  • Communications skills sufficient to serve the needs of patients, the public and members of the healthcare team
  • Principles and practices of professional conduct and the significance of continuing professional development
  • Application of safety and governmental regulations and standards as applied to clinical laboratory science

Adapted from "Unique Standards for the Medical Laboratory Scientist," Core Standards for Accredited and Approved Programs. National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), 2012.

Curriculum »

Throughout the training year, students participate in a minimum of four hours of formal lecture per week. Lecture topics cover all laboratory disciplines and provide essential information for understanding the etiology and pathophysiology of disease, and the clinical significance of laboratory test results. Presenters include pathology faculty, residents, and CLS.  

The majority of training time is spent in the working clinical laboratory where students observe, practice and perform clinical diagnostic testing under the direct supervision of their instructors. Students learn to perform manual procedures, operate highly sophisticated automated instruments, utilize laboratory computer systems, monitor quality control and review lab results for their validity. The program provides students the opportunity to greatly expand their scientific knowledge, develop proficiency in an array of technical skills and consistently demonstrate the highest regard for patient care.  

Blood Bank/Donor Center    

Students in the blood bank study transfusion medicine and immunohematology concepts. During the rotation, students practice blood banking tests, work with blood donors and process blood components. Problem-solving skills are assessed by practical exams. Time is also spent in apheresis observing plasma exchanges and cytapheresis as well as with hemotherapy services observing therapeutic phlebotomy and directed donations. 


The chemistry section includes rotations through automated and special chemistry, immunochemistry, toxicology, therapeutic drug monitoring and urinalysis. Students perform a wide range of analytical procedures and learn to correlate laboratory data with clinical findings. They have the opportunity to work with a multitude of highly sophisticated automated technologies.  


During the rotation, students learn to identify normal and abnormal cells of blood, bone marrow and body fluids and learn manual/automated cell counting methods. Students are also introduced to flow cytometry and hemoglobin electrophoresis. Problem-solving skills are further developed in the coagulation lab while investigating disorders of hemostasis.


Students rotate through bacteriology, antimicrobic susceptibility, mycology, parasitology, serology, mycobacteriology, virology and molecular microbiology. They learn to evaluate cultures from a variety of body sites, identify a wide variety of human pathogens using identification techniques such as culture, direct microscopic exam, proteomics, nucleic acid assays, and immunoassays. Automated methods are also introduced in bacteriology, molecular microbiology and serology.   

Molecular Diagnostics 

Students are introduced to the use of molecular technologies in patient diagnosis, treatment and monitoring. They utilize these techniques in a number of applications including molecular microbiology, molecular pathology and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) testing. 

Professional Practice

  • Phlebotomy: Techniques of blood specimen collection and other processes in the pre-analytical phase of specimen testing
  • Laboratory information systems (LIS): Computer applications, interfaces with instrumentation and other information systems
  • Compliance and regulatory agencies: Healthcare regulatory agencies and compliance with required standards of operation
  • Laboratory management: Introduction to areas such as human resource management, laboratory operations, communications and quality assurance
  • Education: Use of strategic methodologies to effectively teach and evaluate student learning outcomes
  • Research: Develop skills needed to prepare, analyze and present scientific data for application in the clinical laboratory


Students must successfully fulfill the minimum requirements in each section of the lecture and laboratory training areas. Performance will be evaluated throughout the training year based on didactic lecture exams, lab exams, practical exams, lab skills, work habits, professional behavior, and ability to work with others.

Students will also have multiple opportunities to evaluate the overall program, lecture presentations, bench instructors and clinical rotations.

Admission Requirements »

Admission requirements are based on standards set by the California Department of Public Health.  

Academic Requirements 

  • Baccalaureate degree (biological sciences, biochemistry or microbiology recommended).  To include:
    • 18 semester units (27 quarter units) in biological sciences; must include immunology, hematology and medical microbiology (other recommended courses include mycology, virology and parasitology)
    • 16 semester units (24 quarter units) in chemistry; must include analytical chemistry and biochemistry
    • Three semester units (4.5 quarter units) in physics; must include principles of light and electricity
    • One college mathematics course, preferably calculus
    • Courses in anatomy, physiology, genetics, molecular biology and statistics are also highly recommended
  • All required courses must have been taken for a letter grade and a minimum grade of "C" achieved
  • All courses must be completed by June, prior to the start of training
  • Proof of enrollment in or completion of medical microbiology, hematology, immunology, biochemistry and analytical chemistry must be received no later than Feb. 15 of the application cycle
  • Minimum cum GPA in sciences of 2.7
  • No record of academic probation within the last three years of schooling
  • Candidates with foreign degrees must have a course-by-course credential evaluation from an acceptable agency and have 30 semester units (45 quarter units) in upper division science courses from an United States college/university
  • Courses in biochemistry and medical microbiology must have been taken with the last seven years

Please note: Laboratory Field Services, the California agency that issues CLS Trainee licenses, will not accept the following courses from Weber State University that have been completed after June 1, 2014: 
      *  MLS 5810/5103/5104 - Clinical Microbiology
      *  MLS 5101 - Clinical Chemistry

Additional Requirements

  • A completed application form which includes attestation to the ability to perform essential functions, that include various physical and behavioral capabilities necessary for achievement of competency
  • Three letters of recommendation from college/university professors, supervisor or employers, submitted electronically by the recommender on the letter of recommendation form
  • U.S. citizenship, permanent residency in the U.S., or DACA recipients
  • Clinical laboratory scientist trainee license, or evidence that one will be issued, from the California State Department of Public Health (See "Application Procedure" below)
  • Ability to communicate effectively in English
  • A pre-training health assessment is required of those selected for admission
  • Background checks will be performed on final candidates; admission is contingent upon clearance of the background check
  • In compliance with all licensing requirements, the program does not grant advanced standing and cannot waive any of the above prerequisites

Selection of Candidates for Training

To be considered for admission to the program, candidates must have submitted complete applications by the specified deadline and have met the stated admissions requirements.

Selected applicants will be contacted for an interview with members of the program’s admissions committee. In addition to evaluating academic performance, interviews, letters of recommendation, motivation, professionalism, and communication skills are considered by the committee along with clinical laboratory work experience, honors, extracurricular activities and overall comparison within the applicant pool.

The University of California, in accordance with applicable Federal and State law and University policy, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy(1), physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or service in the uniformed services(2). The University also prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access and treatment in University programs and activities.

1. Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth

2. Service in the uniformed services includes membership, application for membership, performance of service, application for service, or obligation for service in the uniformed services.

Application and Selection Procedure »

The due date for applications for the next class starting in July is January 15. Applications can be submitted between September 1-January 15.
All email communication about the CLS program must be directed to

1. Application Form

A completed application form sent by email to

The application is a fillable pdf form. Only this format will be accepted. (For best results, use Adobe Acrobat to complete forms. download app)

2. Official University Transcript(s)

Transcripts must be sent directly from the school registrar on behalf of the applicant.

If the colllege/university offers an electronic transcript option, this is the preferred transmission method to request rather than transcripts sent by mail. Have transcripts sent to If electronc transmission is not offered by a registrar, then transcripts should be mailed to:

CLS Training Program
UC Irvine Medical Center
101 The City Drive South
Bldg. 54, Room 4700
Orange, CA  92868

Please note: an official transcript is one that is signed by the registrar of the college/university attended, imprinted with the institutional seal, and emailed (preferred) or mailed directly from the registrar to the CLS program, without being accessible to the trainee.

Foreign degree transcript evaluations: As of August 15, 206, AACRAO discontinued its educational transcript evaluation services. Until furhter notice, Laboratory Field Services at the California State Department of Public Health will accept educational transcript evaluations complete by "Current Members" of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), and "Endorsed Member" fo the Association of International Credential Evalutors, Inc. (AICE). Evaluations completed before August 15, 2016, will only be accepted if completed by AACRAO. Please use the links below to view the "Current" and "Endorsed" members of NACES and AICE.

3. Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required and these are to be submitted on the CLS training program recommendation form and emailed by the recommender to

Applicants are to fill out the top of the form prior to sending it to their letter writers.

Applicants must waive all rights to read the letter of recommendation.

4. Trainee License

All candidates accepted into the CLS training program are required to have a clinical laboratory scientist trainee license from the California Department of Public Health. The trainee license will not be issued until after the Bachelor's degree is completed (or prerequisite requirements have been met), but the application process should start well in advance. Apply online.

For additional information, contact:

Laboratory Field Services
850 Marina Bay Parkway
Richmond, CA 94804-6403

Interview/Acceptance Nofication

Selected applicants will be contacted by the program for an interview appointment in early spring (March/April).

Individuals selected for training will be notified by email.

Individuals not invited for an interview will be notified by email.

Financial Information »


  • No tuition is charged for the training program
  • Scholarships will be offered to admitted students, paid on a monthly basis and dependent on annual budget
  • Access to the UC Library Network
  • Lab coats and personal protective equipment provided


  • Textbooks
  • Licensing/certification exam fees (approximately $500)
  • Parking at UCI Medical Center
  • Immunizations as required for health clearance
  • Proof of major medical insurance
Student Policies »

Student Advisement

From the time of admission, incoming students receive regular communication from the program director advising them of policies, requirements and other training issues. Students are provided with training guides, reviewed during orientation, which contain all policies and procedures related to the program. As students progress through the year, guidance is provided on professional and career-related topics.

In addition to the program director, each laboratory division has at least one education coordinator, usually a senior CLS, specialist or supervisor, who is available for assistance and guidance. Students can also seek counsel from the laboratory administrative director and program medical director.

All meetings and discussions of student concerns are held in confidence and take place in an office or other private area that can be closed off from public access. Whether a student is having personal or academic problems, or issues related to peers or laboratory staff, program officials strive to maintain sensitivity and impartiality in all situations.  

Service Work

Students will not be substituted for service work in place of regular, paid laboratory staff.  Any service work performed by students outside of regular academic hours is noncompulsory.  

Withdrawal from the Program

A student desiring to withdraw from the program must present his/her intention and reason for withdrawal in writing to the program medical director. Upon review of the request, an exit interview will be scheduled with at least one program official. Documentation of the interview and written request will remain in the trainee’s file. Laboratory Field Services and all relevant UCI divisions/departments will be notified of the student’s withdrawal. Issuance of scholarship checks shall terminate upon withdrawal from the program. The student will return all medical center property upon termination.

Academic Progression

In order to progress in the CLS Training Program, students must successfully fulfill the minimum requirements of academic achievement. 

Training objectives and student competencies are well defined for each unit of instruction. Achievement of objectives and competencies may be documented through competency checklists, by achieving passing scores (70 percent or better) on lecture/laboratory exams and quizzes and maintaining an overall “B” average in each rotation. Students must also achieve at least satisfactory ratings on each clinical rotation evaluation.  

Students are expected to develop a sense of responsibility and ethics related to patient care, which is reflected in attitudes toward learning. If a student is unable to achieve and maintain the level of performance required, the program is obliged to take steps toward probation and/or release from the program.  

Any combination of deficiencies in academic/laboratory/professional performance can result in probation, final probation or release from the program. Verbal and written warnings are issued to the student during the period when he/she is not meeting minimum standards of the program.  

Student Conduct  

Academic integrity: Students are expected to refrain from cheating and plagiarism, to refuse to aid or abet any form of academic dishonesty and to notify faculty or program officials about observed incidents of academic dishonesty. Any student caught cheating or performing other serious acts of intentional academic dishonesty will be dismissed from the program.
Unacceptable behaviors: Examples of behaviors that are unacceptable at any time during the training program include: excessive, unexcused absences; involvement in non-professional behavior involving patients, students, staff or instructors; unauthorized possession/use of a controlled substance during work periods; violence or threats of violence; and dishonesty, theft or misappropriation of university property. Such behaviors will not be tolerated and will be cause for dismissal from the program.

Corrective Action

Corrective action may be required for minor offenses or deficiencies or those situations in which the student knows or reasonably should have known that the performance or conduct was unsatisfactory. Initial corrective action will begin with oral counseling. A reasonable time period shall be allowed for the student to improve after the oral counseling. When the student's performance has not improved with oral counseling, written counseling shall be initiated. 

The written warning shall describe the nature of the offense, the method(s) of correction, and the action to be taken if the offense is repeated or the deficiency persists. The student has a right to request reviews of the action by using the Student Appeals Procedure.  

Release from the Program (Dismissal)

If, after probationary and/or corrective action processes, the deficient performance is not resolved, the student shall be informed in writing of dismissal from the program. The notice shall specify the effective date of release, state the reason(s) for dismissal and state the student's right to request review of the action by the student appeals procedure. Issuance of scholarship checks shall terminate upon release from the program. Laboratory Field Services and all relevant UCI Pathology & Laboratory Medicine divisions/departments will be notified of the student’s release. The student will return all medical center property upon termination.  

Student Appeals Procedure

It is the policy of the university to encourage and facilitate the resolution of complaints in a prompt and equitable manner. The student appeals procedure is established for implementation when a student believes that he/she has received an unfair or inequitable evaluation. If the situation cannot be resolved by initial discussions with the immediate parties, an impartial grievance committee will be convened to review and determine the course of action.

Frequently Asked Questions »

Q: Can I apply for the program while still taking courses?
A: Yes. You can submit your application as long as you complete all required courses by June of the year in which you intend to begin training.

Q: Can I be taking courses while attending the program? 
A: No. All courses must be completed prior to the start of training so that you will be eligible for issuance of the CLS trainee license. The license must be in possession when training begins.

Q: I have a bachelor’s degree, but not in biology, biochemistry or microbiology. Am I still eligible to apply? 
A: Yes. We recommend a degree in those sciences because many of their academic requirements overlap with our admissions criteria. Since the training is lab-based, we recommend a background that emphasizes hands-on laboratory courses. However, as long as you satisfy admission requirements, your bachelor’s degree in another discipline from a regionally accredited college/university is acceptable.

Q: I took general microbiology in college. Will this course meet the requirement?
A: No. You must have taken a course in medical microbiology (aka medical bacteriology, bacterial pathogenesis).

Q: I have a bachelor’s degree from another country. Am I eligible to apply?
A: Yes. However, you must meet additional admission requirements. Applicants with foreign (non-U.S.) degrees must have their original transcripts evaluated by an acceptable agency and have the evaluation sent directly to the training program at UCI Medical Center. The evaluation must include a course-by-course identification of courses, credits and grades. Foreign-degree candidates must complete at least 30 semester units (45 quarter units) at a U.S. college or university in upper division science courses. If the applicant does not have U.S. citizenship, he/she must have permanent residency in the US, or a legal work permit.

Q: I have an MD (or PhD) degree. Am I a qualified applicant for CLS training?
A: All candidates, regardless of credentials, must meet the same admissions criteria. If your credential is from another country, you must also meet the additional requirements stated above. Some institutions offer limited licensure CLS specialty programs, which provide training for specific laboratory disciplines. If you have an extensive background in a specialized category, you may be eligible for this type of training.

Q: Will I receive a degree in clinical laboratory science after completing the training program?
A: No. The training program at UCI Medical Center is a post-baccalaureate certificate program. Graduates receive a certificate of completion, but the program does not award a degree.

Q: Is it necessary to have experience working in a clinical laboratory?
A: Clinical laboratory work experience is not a requirement for admission. However, it is much to your benefit to obtain exposure to the CLS profession from the “bench” perspective. The clinical lab environment is quite different from that of a research lab or college laboratory course. These different laboratories may share certain methods and techniques, but working conditions are unique in each situation. Because CLS training does require a full-time, one-year commitment, it is best to see beforehand whether it really is to your liking. Opportunities to obtain such experience may come from volunteering in a clinical lab, or working as a phlebotomist, lab assistant or lab technician.

Q: How competitive is the application process?
A: Admission to the program has become increasingly competitive. The number of applications we receive varies from year to year, but has been on an upward trend. Since our program only admits up to 6 students per year, we generally have more qualified applicants than available positions.

Q: How can I enter type on the form?
A: If you can't enter type on the form when it opens on your computer, try downloading it to your local drive and open them with Adobe Acrobat. Download Acrobat.

Program Outcomes Measures »

Program Administrators

Medical Director

Luis M. de la Maza, MD, PhD

Program Director

Ellena Peterson, PhD, F(AAM), CLS, MT(ASCP)

All questions regarding the training program should be sent to