“I was thrilled,” said Belt, who works as a medical laboratory scientist at Florida Hospital in Orlando. “But I knew my chances were good when I entered the program. I chose the Medical Laboratory Sciences program because I knew it had a good reputation, both in the passing rate on the test and job placement.”

The University of Central Florida’s Medical Laboratories Sciences program has a 100 percent passing rate on the state licensing exam and a 100 percent job placement rate for its graduates this year.

The program offered through the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Medicine trains students to conduct and interpret a variety of laboratory tests from blood and urine work to cultures for strep throat. Those who complete the four-year Bachelor of Science degree program and pass the licensing test are working in hospitals, research facilities and medical equipment companies.

“People think you have to be a doctor or a nurse to work in health care,” said program director and assistant professor Dorilyn Hitchcock. “You don’t. There are a lot of other very important jobs. Medical laboratory scientists are a key part of health care. They are the first line of diagnosis to help patients.”

At a time when Florida’s unemployment rate is so high, Hitchcock is thrilled to tell students there are plenty of jobs in their area. Health professions are among a few still-growing industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics,

Jennifer Jenkins was hired at Orlando Regional Medical Center within a month of graduating from UCF with her Medical Laboratory Sciences degree.

“I was so relieved, especially with so many people losing their jobs,” said Jenkins, a Titusville native. “I love my job. It’s my dream job. And the program at UCF got me so ready for it.”

The UCF program combines classroom and lab learning with practical field experience, which graduates say is invaluable.

“The classroom portion of the program translated directly into the clinical portion of my job, and our clinical rotations allowed us to not only see the everyday realities of working the laboratory, but also to network with potential employers,” said Belt, a Panama City native.

The program serves up to 26 students a year. Organizers want to expand the capacity to 30 by finding more clinical partners.

“This year we’re looking to expand our clinical sites to include Shands Hospital and the VA Medical Center, both in Gainesville, and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville,” Hitchcock said.