Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

The PLA process evaluates academic credentials (theory and practical), clinical training, clinical work experience and language proficiency (MLT only).

The CSMLS is the single point of access for internationally educated medical laboratory technologists (IEMLTs) who are seeking Canadian MLT certification.

Subject matter experts, trained as assessors by the CSMLS, are responsible for evaluating theory and practical education, clinical training and clinical work experience to the technologist or assistant level.

Evaluation of language proficiency and foreign academic credentials, at the technologist level, are conducted by third-party agencies.

The PLA process is intended for:

  1. Those who have successfully completed a non-EQual™ accredited Canadian educational program; or
  2. Those who have successfully completed an EQual™ accredited educational program more than twelve (12) months prior to the Exam date, never having registered for the same Exam; or
  3. IEMLTs; or
  4. Those currently working as non-CSMLS certified MLAs in Canada.

Types of PLA

The CSMLS PLA process is available for Medical Laboratory Technology/Science in General, Clinical Genetics, Diagnostic Cytology designations and for Medical Laboratory Assistants.

Types of PLA Required Disciplines Open to Domestically Trained Open to Internationally Trained
*General Medical Laboratory Technologists 1. Clinical Chemistry
2. Hematology
3. Clinical Microbiology
4. Transfusion Science
5. Histology
  Yes   Yes
Diagnostic Cytology Technologists 1. Gynecological Analysis
2. Non-Gynecological Analysis
3. Histology
  Yes   Yes
Clinical Genetics Technologists 1. Molecular Genetics
2. Cytogenetics
  Yes   Yes
Medical Laboratory Assistants N/A   Yes   No

For more information about this process, or to apply, please contact

  If you have little or no education or experience in more than one of the required disciplines listed above, then you will NOT be eligible to write the CSMLS exam through the PLA process, you will have to successfully complete an EQual™ accredited Canadian educational program.

Preparing for PLA

If you are considering applying for a PLA, you will need to start here.

Each step outlined below has required reading and forms in order to proceed through PLA.

  Step 1 - Read the PLA Handbook

Download and read through the PLA Handbook.

The PLA Handbook is the key to your success. Take the time to read it thoroughly as it will answer any questions you have about the PLA process.

  Step 2 - Complete the Personal Competency Rating Booklet (PCRB)

The PCRB is a free tool that will help you identify areas in your experience/education that may need help before writing the certification exam.

Each booklet takes you through the required competencies expected of the profession at an entry-level as stated in each Competency Profile.

You will send your completed rating booklet, along with your PLA application, to the CSMLS. We use this information to help with your assessment.

General Medical Laboratory Technologists

Competency Rating Booklet for General Medical Laboratory Technologists

Diagnostic Cytology Technologist

Competency Rating Booklet for Diagnostic Cytology Technologist

Clinical Genetics Technologist

Competency Rating Booklet for Clinical Genetics Technologists

Medical Laboratory Assistant

Competency Rating Booklet for MLA – Self-Assessment

Competency Rating Booklet for MLA – Employer Assessment

  Step 3 - Complete the PLA Online Self-Assessment (OSA) - General Medical Laboratory Technologists only

The Online Self-Assessment (OSA) will give insight into the medical laboratory practice in Canada and your readiness for the Canadian workforce. There is no minimum passing score. Your OSA score and report are for your information only and CSMLS will not use them to decide your PLA result.

This assessment will give you valuable information to help you decide whether to pursue Canadian MLT – General certification. It will provide you with feedback and help you to identify areas in which you may need more education.

You must complete the 100-question OSA BEFORE you apply for the MLT – General PLA.

Your username from the OSA must be included on your PLA application.

There is a fee for the OSA that you must pay before you can take the OSA, please go to the OSA website for more information.

Online Self-Assessment
The information on this webpage is also available in


This PLA fee is $1540 for members and $1850 for non-members (non-refundable).

You can pay the PLA Fee in full at the time of application, or in two parts as follows:

MLT PLA Fee Schedule Member Non-Member
The PLA Application Fee must be paid at the time of application $820 $975
The PLA Technical Report Fee must be received before we assess your file. We will contact you when this payment is due. $720 $875


This PLA fee is $160 for members and $215 for non-members (non-refundable).

Stage 1 - Pre-Assessment

Pre-Assessment has two parts:


There is an application at the back of the PLA Handbook that must be completed and sent to CSMLS with your payment.

Once we have received this, we will open a file for you and assign you a CSMLS ID number.

Applications are found in the PLA Handbook and must be submitted with payment to

Become a CSMLS member and save on your PLA fees. Learn more here.

PLA Payment:

Payments must be in Canadian funds. Acceptable forms of payment are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Canadian cheque or Canadian money order.

Make your cheque or money order payable to the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, or CSMLS.

If your payment is returned to us for insufficient funds, you will be charged a $25.00 NSF fee.

Unfortunately, our payment provider does not accept credit cards from Nigeria.


With your file opened, you will receive notification from CSMLS regarding required documents. You must contact your educational institutions and employers to ask that they submit the required official documents directly to us.

Documents sent become property of the CSMLS and they will not be returned to you.

Be sure your name and CSMLS ID number are included with the documents submitted on your behalf, or they will be discarded.

A Required Documentation Checklist can be found in the PLA Handbook to assist you. You are responsible for all costs associated with submitting your supporting documentation.

You have twelve (12) months to pay all PLA fees and have all supporting documentation submitted to the CSMLS office.

When all of your supporting documents have been submitted to the CSMLS office and all of your fees have been paid, your PLA file is sent for scanning, which takes about 2 weeks, before it moves to Stage 2 – Assessment.”

However, if you require more time to submit supporting documents, you can request and pay for a ONE-TIME Supporting Document Extension for an additional twelve (12) months. Contact to request this application.

If we do not receive your full PLA payment, supporting documents, or Extension request within twelve (12) months, your PLA file will be closed due to inactivity. If you choose to reactivate your PLA file after twelve (12) months, you will have to apply again, paying the full PLA fee, may be required to resubmit certain documents, and are responsible for any associated costs.

Please note:

  1. PLA fees are non-refundable and non-transferable
  2. You have twelve (12) months to ensure required documents are received by the CSMLS office
    • You will need to reapply, with payment, if documents are not received within this timeframe
  3. Extensions of up to twelve (12) months can be requested if your application has not expired

Stage 3 - Post-Assessment

Technical Report

Medical Laboratory Technologist

Your technical report will have one (1) of three (3) outcomes:

  1. You are equivalent to the Competency Profile and eligible to write both the MLT and MLA exams.
  2. You are not equivalent to the MLT Competency Profile and you must successfully complete an assigned PLA Learning Plan to be eligible to write the MLT exam. Eligibility to the MLA exam will not be granted to individuals who need to meet comprehensive course requirements.
    Technical reports with an assigned PLA Learning Plan are valid for 2 years.
  3. You are not equivalent and you must complete a full EQual™ accredited Canadian MLT educational program to be eligible to write the exam or consider other professional options.

Medical Laboratory Assistant

Your technical report will have one (1) of two (2) outcomes:

  1. You are equivalent to the Competency Profile and eligible to write the MLA exam.
  2. You are not equivalent and you must complete a full EQual™ accredited Canadian MLA educational program to be eligible to write the exam.

If you received a "Not Equivalent" technical report but you do not agree with the assessment or think that additional documents from your employer or academic institutions will change your PLA outcome, you can apply for an Appeal or for a Supplemental Documentation Review.

Applications must be received within strict timeframes. See the PLA Handbook or the forms below for these restrictions. Please note, the application must be sent with the appropriate non-refundable fee.

If your PLA report indicates you are not eligible to write the exam:

Over 80% of internationally educated PLA clients need to complete some form of gap training or education, with an assigned learning plan, before they can write the CSMLS National Certification Examination (Exam). This can be a costly and time-consuming process and may take two to three years to complete.

Other PLA clients may never receive eligibility to the Exam, as their background, education and experience do not meet the Canadian medical laboratory technologist (MLT) entry-level threshold.

For these individuals, alternate or related careers may be pursued while in the process of becoming a CSMLS certified MLT or as a permanent career option.

For more information and to see the list of the alternate career options, please visit

Individuals who are pursuing a General MLT certification may receive eligibility to write the MLA exam if they are assigned a learning plan as part of their PLA and reside in Canada.

PLA Learning Plans in Medical Laboratory Technology

PLA Learning Plans are custom plans that will help you fill educational gaps that have been identified in your PLA technical report.

Your custom PLA Learning Plan must be successfully completed, within two years, in order to be deemed eligible to write the CSMLS National Certification Exam.

PLA Learning Plans can take up to two years to complete.

A PLA Learning Plan might consist of any of the following course work:

  • Refresher: Refresher coursework will be required when you have not practiced a discipline (i.e. clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, hematology, histotechnology or transfusion science) within the last five years. You will need to take a course to bring you up to date with current Canadian practice.
  • Subject Specific: Subject specific coursework will be required when you have not practiced part of a discipline within the last five years. For example, you may be asked to complete a subject specific course in toxicology (part of clinical chemistry).
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coursework will be required when there is an area in which you have little or no education, clinical internship and/or work experience.

You can choose from approved course work options on the approved course list to complete your PLA Learning Plan requirements. These will be included with your assigned PLA Learning Plan. Courses are offered in a variety of formats, with varying start and end dates, costs and method of evaluation. You must contact the course providers directly for this information.

It is advisable to update CSMLS with the progress of your PLA Learning Plan, submitting official proof of successful completion as you complete the course work for your assigned PLA Learning Plan.

You may also be able to choose from one of the following options AFTER CSMLS approval:

  • Canadian Clinical Placement:  You can complete a supervised clinical placement to complete your PLA Learning Plan requirements. The Clinical Placement Blueprint describes the specific activities you will need to complete under supervision for each of the five disciplines. It is your responsibility to find and secure a clinical placement or placements. Depending on location and your PLA Learning Plan, not all activities may be available to complete in a single location. CSMLS is not responsible for securing a placement for you.
  • Medical Laboratory Technology Bridging Programs:   These programs allow internationally trained to complete discipline-specific educational gaps. Participation in a bridging program has helped many, including internationally trained professionals, by providing participants with an enhanced sense of community while developing increased professional networking opportunities.
  • Non-Approved Courses:  If you have located a course that is not on the pre-approved lists, the CSMLS can review it for approval. The course must be at the technologist level. Please contact the Prior Learning Assessment Administrator at  for more information on the approval process.

Note:  The CSMLS is not responsible if you cannot gain admission into a bridging program or course or if the program or course is cancelled due to any circumstances. You are responsible to complete your PLA Learning Plan before it expires. Failure to do so may result in a loss of eligibility to the exam or additional fees.

It is advisable to update CSMLS with the progress of your PLA Learning Plan, submitting official proof of successful completion as you complete the course work for your assigned PLA Learning Plan.

After You Complete Your PLA Learning Plan

When you have successfully completed your PLA Learning Plan you must:

  • Notify us by email at
  • Ask your educational institution(s) to send your official transcripts directly to us (if applicable).
  • Ask your clinical placement(s) to send your signed and completed clinical placement blueprint directly to us (if applicable). Official transcripts must be submitted directly from the college or institution where you completed your course(s).

It is advisable to contact whenever you complete assigned course work and periodically updated us about your learning plan, BEFORE it expires.

After the CSMLS receives proof of your successful completion of the PLA Learning Plan requirements, we will send you an updated PLA Technical Report and a Statement of Eligibility to the CSMLS Certification Exam.

Stage 2 - Assessment

Once your document file has been returned from the scanning process, it is assigned to a CSMLS PLA assessor.

Your PLA file is reviewed by the assessor to compare your Medical Laboratory education and/or experience with the appropriate CSMLS Competency Profile©. The CSMLS Competency Profiles© are the minimum entry-to-practice standard for all EQual™ accredited educational programs in Canada.

PLA Assessments take approximately four (4) to six (6) weeks to complete.

Indigenous Land Acknowledgement : We respectfully acknowledge the CSMLS office, located in Hamilton, Ontario, is situated upon the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Mississauga Nation, Anishinaabe Peoples, and the Neutral Peoples. This land is covered by the Dish With One Spoon wampum, which is a treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe to share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. We further acknowledge that this land is covered by the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, 1792, between the Crown and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.


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