What is a phlebotomist, and how can you become one image

Phlebotomists play a key role in ensuring that patients’ illnesses are quickly, accurately, and safely diagnosed. Here we’ll be walking you through the roles and responsibilities of a phlebotomist, as well as how much they earn and how to become one.

What is a phlebotomist?

Phlebotomist jobs involve drawing and preparing blood so it can be used for:

  • Donation
  • Medical testing
  • Transfusion

They are trained to collect blood through venipuncture (that is, from a vein, typically the back of the hand or inside of the elbow) and finger pricks, while heel pricks are typically used to collect blood from young children.

Phlebotomists work in a range of healthcare settings, from hospitals and clinics to blood donation centres and laboratories. In the UK, most phlebotomists work for the NHS, but they are also employed by private healthcare providers and as temporary contractors.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a phlebotomist?

Phlebotomy is ultimately about collecting blood from patients, but the job involves a wide range of roles and responsibilities. From day to day, phlebotomists may be involved in:

  • Recording patient and sample data
  • Preparing patients for blood drawing
  • Identifying, labelling, and tracking blood samples
  • Organising and maintaining supplies and equipment
  • Talking patients through blood drawing or transfusion procedures
  • Helping patients who have bad reactions to blood draws or transfusions
  • Following instructions from supervising healthcare providers
  • Reassuring and supporting nervous patients
  • Delivering blood samples to laboratories
  • Applying dressings to needle punctures

To do all of that, phlebotomists must have excellent attention to detail, strong customer service skills, and the ability to empathise with patients who might feel apprehensive about their upcoming procedure.


How much does a phlebotomist make?

Figures from the government’s National Careers Service show that the average phlebotomist salary currently ranges from £18,005 for new starters to £24,157 for experienced phlebotomists.

What hours do phlebotomists work?

Phlebotomists typically work 40 – 42 hours a week, and can expect to work some evenings, weekends, and bank holidays.

How to become a phlebotomist

There are three main routes for people looking to pursue a career in phlebotomy: studying a college course, working as an apprentice, and getting promoted from a more junior position.

We’ll take a look at those various paths here:

Studying at college

Becoming a trainee phlebotomist doesn’t require any specific college qualifications. However, you may have an advantage over other candidates if you’ve studied a relevant course, such as:

  • Level 2 Diploma in Healthcare Support Services
  • Level 2 Certificate in Health and Social Care
  • Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support

As well as giving you some of the hard and soft skills required to become a phlebotomist, taking a level 2 or 3 health and social care course will often involve some time in a workplace setting. This gives you vital on-the-job experience and the opportunity to build a relationship with potential hiring managers.

To be accepted on to a level 2 course, you’ll typically require at least two GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent. For a level 3 course, that rises to four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent.

Enrolling in an apprenticeship

If the academic route isn’t for you, another approach could be to sign up for a healthcare apprenticeship. There are several apprenticeship options that are relevant to prospective phlebotomists, such as:

  • Taking an intermediate apprenticeship as a healthcare science assistant and specialising in phlebotomy.
  • Securing an intermediate apprenticeship as a healthcare support worker, then applying for a trainee phlebotomy position down the line.

If the intermediate apprenticeship path is right for you, bear in mind that you’ll typically require GCSEs in Maths and English, and possibly some others too. Specific entry requirements vary from one apprenticeship to another, so be sure to check before you apply.

Climbing the career ladder

Already working in a healthcare setting? You might be able to become a phlebotomist through on-the-job training and securing promotions from your current position. For instance, some people secure phlebotomist jobs having started out as healthcare assistants.

If you don’t currently work in healthcare but want to become a phlebotomist, you may be able to secure voluntary work experience in a relevant field, such as health or social care.

The best approach here is to reach out to the voluntary services coordinator at your local NHS trust; they will be able to advise you about volunteering opportunities in your area. Click here to find your local NHS trust.

What's next?

Ready to apply for your first phlebotomist job? Looking for a more junior healthcare role with the aim of climbing the career ladder? Submit your CV today and our team will be in touch when an appropriate opportunity comes up.


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