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Cytogenetic Technologist
Cytogenetic technologists are laboratory specialists who study normal and abnormal chromosomes in cells, and their relationship to disease and human development. These include birth defects, fertility problems and blood disorders.

They examine the chromosomes in blood, amniotic fluid, bone marrow, tumours and placentas, using slide preparations and tissue cultures. Cytogenetic technologists use karyotyping and fluorescent-labelled DNA to detect gene and chromosome abnormalities. (A karyotype is a chart of stained chromosomes arranged in order of size that physicians use to compare and look at the differences in normal and abnormal chromosomes.)

They select and prepare specimens and grow the tissue in an appropriate culture medium for the cells’ nutritional requirements, using aseptic techniques. Slides are prepared and stained to make the chromosomes visible for microscopy. The material will then be viewed using light microscopes, photomicroscopes or other medical imaging tools, so that any structural abnormalities can be identified. Chromosome images are created using computer imaging systems. The test results are summarised and the report submitted to the appropriate authorities.

As part of the daily requirements for the job, the cytogenetic technologist must know how to harvest and culture living cells, understand chromosomal morphology, chromosomal analysis, and be familiar with the more than 20 different methods for visualising chromosomes. They must keep meticulous records in order to communicate effectively with physicians and family members, as well as researchers who request technical information or test results.

Cytogenetic technologists also need to develop and implement training programmes for trainees, medical students and resident physicians and feed details of the specimens into logs or computer systems. They must also maintain laboratory equipment such as photomicroscopes, inverted microscopes and standard darkroom equipment, as well as supervise subordinate laboratory staff.

Continued population growth and advances in medical technology are factors that increase the need for cytogenetic technologists, so that the demand for occupations in this field is expected to increase rapidly.

Satisfying Aspects
- playing an important role in the medical field
- being part of a research or medical team
- being able to specialise in an area of your choice

Demanding aspects
- spending most of your time seated, looking through microscopes
- working in a stressful environment
- expected to work overtime when necessary

- have good analytical and technical skills
- organised, accurate and observant
- skilled in analysing and interpreting information
- able to perform and record complicated tests accurately and efficiently
- have mechanical, laboratory and computer skills

School Subjects
Compulsory Subjects: Life Sciences, Mathematics
Recommended Subjects: Physical Sciences

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution has its own entry requirements

A bachelor degree in cytogenetic technology, biotechnology, biology or related science at an accredited university is the minimum requirement for an entry-level position in this field.

After earning a bachelor degree, most candidates enter a post-graduate programme in cytogenetic technology.

An MSc in cytogenetic technology can lead to a post as a laboratory manager or supervisor, or as a genetic counsellor or research associate in a corporate laboratory. MSc curricula include management classes and training in supervision and research techniques.

- laboratories
- educational institutions
- hospitals and clinics
- other health care facilities
- medical schools
- practising pathologists

The Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists of South Africa
P O Box 6014
Roggebaai, 8012
Tel. (021) 419-4857