Weber State University was the first university in the world to offer online degrees in Medical Laboratory Sciences. The program can now boast a second claim; it’s one of the highest-rated programs, too.

Best Online Bachelor's in clinical research from Online Schools Report
Best Online Bachelor's in clinical research from Online Schools Report

Online Schools Report, a website that focuses on ranking online programs and colleges, listed WSU’s online Bachelor of Science MLS degree program in the top 15 on its list of “Best Online Clinical Research Degrees.” The program was listed at no. 13 out of 25.

The company’s mission is to provide “students with accurate and actionable data on every online college program in the United States. We exist to cut through the jargon and the marketing and help prospective students find the affordable, quality online education that is right for them.”

Over 400 students from all over are currently enrolled in the online MLS program at WSU. That is a huge difference from the number of students who learn in person ­­— only 32 students are enrolled in the BS program on-campus each year.

Janice Thomas, an associate professor and the program director for the Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, said that while this is the first best-of nomination that she is aware of, the school is well-known by other universities for its online program.

“It is very rewarding,” Thomas said. “We are honored to see our hard work and the quality of our program recognized.”

It’s not just the faculty and staff members of the department who were excited to see the program recognized. Jesus Rebolledo, a senior, said the ranking has made him feel more ready for work.

“It does give me more confidence in the education that all the instructors have given me,” Rebolledo said. “I feel that when I go to my job in a lab, I am really prepared for much of what I have to do on a daily basis.”

Thomas, who started as an online adjunct professor in 2008 before becoming a full-time professor and finally program director in 2017, knows the online program well: she was one of the original students enrolled in the online classes during the early 2000s. When the program first started, it was for students who already had an Associate of Applied Science in MLS.

“With less reliable internet, and a lack of learning management systems, I was doing a lot of bookwork and self-learning,” Thomas said. “Lab experiences were provided by my employer [Ogden Clinic] and I took exams in the WSU testing center.”

While the program features the same tenets today as it did when it was started, the ways the classes are taught have drastically changed.

“Advances in educational technology have made it possible for us to record classes in the classroom while we’re teaching our campus students,” Thomas said. “Online students frequently report that they feel like they are “part of the class” even though they’re many miles away.”

Rebolledo chose the MLS program after developing an interest in various medical fields during high school. Rebolledo was already enrolled at WSU when he decided to apply to the program, and currently attends courses via the online and Flex methods.

“I wanted to find a program where you not only got to do correlation with results, but you also were able to do a lot of hands-on work,” Rebolledo said. “I was looking around for a program like that, and medical laboratory sciences had everything that I wanted.”

Thomas said that a BS in MLS should be considered by students who want to help people and make a difference but don’t want to interact with patients. The department also expects that the pandemic will create interest in the program among people who want to make a difference in health care professions.

“Unlike nurses, MLS professionals rarely have patient contact, yet their contribution to patient care is paramount,” Thomas said. “Because 70 percent of diagnoses are based on laboratory results, an MLS degree is also a perfect avenue for students considering medical or PA school.”

Rebolledo said that students should not be scared away from the program because of a lower GPA or the application process if they have the drive to succeed in the field.

“Don’t think that you cannot get into this degree just because you barely meet the minimum requirements to apply, or even because you think you are not smart enough,” Rebolledo said. “I went from a 2.4 GPA to a 3.0 to get into the program, and now, I am finishing with a 3.69.”

With over 900 accredited laboratories now affiliated with the program, students from all over can attend the WSU Medical Laboratory Sciences online AAS Medical Laboratory Technician and BS MLS degree programs.

For more information on either program, visit weber.edu/mls.

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