Gloved hands of scientist holding an hourglass

Timeframe for Medical Laboratory Science Studies in Nigeria

Key takeaways

  • The journey to becoming a medical laboratory scientist in Nigeria begins with a four to five-year Bachelor’s degree, providing an in-depth understanding of medical laboratory science.
  • A mandatory internship or clinical rotation in the final year bridges classroom learning with real-world healthcare settings, enhancing practical skills and teamwork.
  • Obtaining a license and passing the MLSCN certification exams, which assess theoretical and practical competencies, are crucial steps for professional practice in Nigeria.
  • Graduates can pursue Master’s or PhD programs in specialized fields, allowing for higher expertise and roles in research and academia.
Undergraduate Education4-5 yearsBachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science, combining theoretical studies with practical training.
Internship/Clinical Rotations1 yearMandatory practical training in hospitals or laboratories, typically in the final year of the degree.
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)1 yearCompulsory service for Nigerian graduates, providing practical work experience and national service.
Exam PreparationSeveral monthsPreparation for MLSCN certification exams post-NYSC.
Certification ExamsVariesMLSCN exams assessing theoretical knowledge and practical laboratory skills.
Timeframe to become a fully licensed medical laboratory scientist in Nigeria

Educational Pathways

In Nigeria, aspiring medical laboratory scientists have a primary educational path:

University Path to MLS

This is the most direct route to becoming a medical laboratory scientist. Admission typically requires good grades in secondary education, especially in science subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. The university program blends theoretical knowledge with practical laboratory training.

For those considering an alternative route, there is also a polytechnic path.

Polytechnic Path to MLS

This option leads to a diploma and prepares students to become medical laboratory technicians, a role distinct from medical laboratory scientists. The program usually lasts for about three years and also requires strong science grades in secondary education. While technicians cannot open medical laboratories like scientists, they play a crucial supporting role in the laboratory.

Each path serves a different but vital role in the medical laboratory field, contributing to the effective functioning of healthcare diagnostics and research in Nigeria.

Students in a polytechnic setting engaged in a three year diploma program
Students in a polytechnic setting engaged in a three year diploma program

Read more about the polytechnic path to MLS

University-Based Education

In Nigeria, university-based education for aspiring medical laboratory scientists is comprehensive and thorough, designed to equip students with both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

Duration of Bachelor’s Degree Programs in MLS

The Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science typically spans four to five years. This duration allows for an in-depth study of various aspects of medical laboratory science.

Structure of the Curriculum

The curriculum is a blend of theoretical and practical components. In the initial years, students focus on foundational subjects like Biology, Chemistry, and Physiology. As they progress, the curriculum becomes more specialized, covering areas like Hematology, Microbiology, and Clinical Biochemistry. Practical laboratory sessions complement these theoretical classes, giving students hands-on experience in lab techniques and procedures.

Mandatory Internship or Clinical Rotations

A crucial part of the program is the mandatory internship or clinical rotations in the final year. During this period, students are placed in hospitals or diagnostic laboratories, where they gain real-world experience under the supervision of experienced professionals. This phase is essential for developing practical skills and understanding the day-to-day responsibilities of a medical laboratory scientist. It also serves as a transition from academic study to professional practice, ensuring that graduates are ready to enter the workforce as competent professionals.

A senior female healthcare professional and a younger colleague in a hospital hallway, looking at a chart
Internships teach you to work better with other members of a healthcare team.

Licensing and Certification

In Nigeria, obtaining a license and certification is a crucial step for medical laboratory scientists to practice professionally. This process ensures that practitioners meet the required standards of knowledge and competence.

Duration and Process of Certification Exams and Practical Assessments:

After completing their degree and internship, graduates are required to pass the MLSCN certification examination. This exam tests both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

The examination’s duration process can vary, but candidates usually prepare for several months post-graduation to ensure they are well-equipped to pass these assessments.

Once these requirements are met and the exams are successfully passed, the candidate is granted a license to practice as a medical laboratory scientist in Nigeria. This licensure is not just a formality; it’s a testament to their capability and readiness to contribute effectively in the healthcare sector.

Advanced Studies and Specializations

After completing their bachelor’s degree, medical laboratory scientists in Nigeria can pursue further education and specialization through postgraduate programs.

Options for Further Education

Graduates can opt for a Master’s degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in various specialized fields of medical laboratory science. These advanced degrees are designed for those seeking higher expertise or aiming for research and academic roles.

Graduate in a cap and gown, proudly holding her rolled up degree in one hand
Graduate in a cap and gown, proudly holding her rolled up degree in one hand

Duration and Structure of Postgraduate Programs

A Master’s degree typically takes 2 years to complete. It involves a combination of advanced coursework and research. Students engage in more in-depth studies in their chosen specialization and must complete a thesis based on their research.

A PhD program can take an additional 3 to 5 years, focusing heavily on original research. Candidates are required to conduct a comprehensive research project, often leading to new findings in their field, and must defend their doctoral thesis before a panel of experts.

Specialization Areas and Additional Training Requirements

Specialization areas in postgraduate programs may include Clinical Chemistry, Hematology, Microbiology, Immunology, and Histopathology, among others. Each specialization requires a deep dive into specific techniques, technologies, and theoretical aspects relevant to that area. Additional training may involve attending workshops, seminars, and hands-on training sessions, which are crucial for staying updated with the latest developments in the field and honing practical skills.

Read more about MLS and some specializations within the field

Pursuing advanced studies and specializations allows medical laboratory scientists to gain deeper expertise, contribute to scientific research, and potentially take on leadership roles in the healthcare sector.

Time Commitment for Staying Current in the Field

The amount of time dedicated to ongoing education can vary based on individual career paths and specializations. However, a consistent commitment to learning is necessary.

On average, a few hours each month are typically devoted to activities like reading scientific journals, attending online webinars, or participating in hands-on training. This ensures that medical laboratory scientists remain abreast of new technologies, techniques, and best practices in their area of expertise.

Engaging in ongoing professional development is not only a requirement but also a valuable opportunity for medical laboratory scientists to enhance their skills, broaden their knowledge, and contribute more effectively to the healthcare sector in Nigeria.


  • Robertson Klaingar

    With over a decade of experience in the field of bioanalysis and medical laboratory science, Robertson Klaingar has developed an expertise in laboratory testing, data analysis, and biomedical research.

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  1. Pingback: Polytechnic Education for Aspiring Medical Laboratory Technicians in Nigeria

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