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Industry Insights

The Most Cost-Effective Hire for Your Clinical Lab

Note: This article was updated on May 10, 2023, to ensure salary figures and the information within is still current.

Having a director for your high-complexity CLIA lab is a requirement, but did you know that a part-time lab director could be an appropriate option and significantly shrink your overhead costs? When is it acceptable to hire a part-time lab director instead of a full-time lab director? Labs with the following demographics may not need a full-time lab director and might instead be able to employ a part-time lab director:

  • small labs
  • labs with low sample volume
  • labs with only one-to-two lines of testing
  • physicians’ office labs

How exactly does a part-time lab director shrink a lab’s overhead cost?

In the current market, a full-time lab director typically commands more than $200,000 in annual salary, but some lab directors earn as much as $350,000-$400,000 per year. On the other hand, a part-time lab director is generally compensated between $20,000-$40,000 per year. By working with a part-time lab director, a lab can save well over $150,000 annually just in compensation, not to mention with regard to benefits.


What is the difference between a part-time and full-time lab director?

One of the most common questions when hiring a part-time lab director concerns whether or not there is a difference in services rendered. Tara Luellen, MA, Vice President of Lab Director Services at Lighthouse, explains that “If a lab is paying much less for director services, certainly the director cannot be expected to complete 40 hours’ worth of work that would be completed by a full-time director.”

That being said, a lab director, whether part-time or full-time, has a set of responsibilities as defined by CLIA in 42 CFR 493.1445. See a full list of duties here.


If a director only works part-time, how can he/she complete all of the lab director duties?

Part-time lab directors can delegate certain appropriate tasks to full-time on-site staff members such as medical technologists and technical supervisors. Typically, a part-time lab director will visit a laboratory quarterly, unless the state in which the lab is located stipulates more frequent on-site visits. A part-time lab director generally spends somewhere between two-to-eight hours per month completing work remotely, in addition to the quarterly on-site visits where he or she will complete competency evaluations of staff as needed and address any other items that cannot be delegated to full-time staff members or addressed remotely.

Since a part-time lab director is only on-site for a handful of hours every quarter, it is unlikely that a part-time lab director would participate in method development or validation studies. Rather, these assignments can be completed by a technical supervisor with the appropriate skill set and experience or, oftentimes, a consultant agency can be employed to assist in these scenarios. The part-time lab director would then review and approve items as per CLIA guidelines.


Why would a lab director choose to only work part-time for less pay?

In most states, directors are allowed to oversee up to five laboratories. Many directors are engaged in full-time directorships, certifying scientist roles, or in a private practice and seeing clients regularly. A part-time directorship is a great way to supplement an individual’s full-time income if their schedule fits the needs of the lab. Retiring full-time directors may also choose to work in a part-time capacity as a way to remain in the field and stay abreast of new happenings and practices once they are ready to retire from their full-time positions.

Conversely, some directors choose to focus on part-time directorship opportunities in lieu of a full-time position; this is ideal for individuals who want to travel, volunteer regularly, or who keep a variable schedule, as directing even five labs on a part-time basis could potentially only occupy around 40 of their hours per month. Regardless of the reasons, part-time directorships offer nice options to directors and labs alike and are a great alternative to full-time directorships in the right situations.

Depending on the type of lab, a part-time director is a great and cost-effective alternative. Do you or someone you know have a lab that needs a part-time director? Are you currently overpaying for lab director services? Find out more about our lab directorship program here or contact us today for a free consultation!

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