Being a Pathologist | Responsibilities and Requirements

Being a Pathologist

Being a pathologist is a great career with one of the best financial rewards in the medical field. Pathologists examine tissue samples and determine what disease a patient might have.

They look at blood, urine and tissue under microscopes and perform autopsies to determine the cause of death.

They also use lab tests to diagnose diseases in living patients. The job requires a lot of training, but it pays well and can be very satisfying.

Here is what you need to know about specializing in the same.

Education Requirements

Pathology is an advanced degree specialty, so doctors must first complete medical school and an internship, followed by four years of specialized training in pathology.

During these four years, students work alongside experienced pathologists to learn how to do their autopsies and laboratory tests.

After medical school, to specialize in pathology, students must complete a residency program in pathology, which typically lasts four years, not exclusively in anatomic pathology for three years. This program may encompass both anatomic and clinical pathology.

You are a Diagnostician

Pathologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing diseases and abnormalities by examining body tissues and fluids.

Depending on their patient’s needs, their work can range from microscopic analysis to biopsies or autopsies. They examine tissues and fluids to diagnose and classify medical conditions.

Pathologists examine human tissue, blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, and organs through direct physical or specimen examinations, including laboratory work.

Tissue samples can be examined directly under a microscope or processed by chemical reactions to prepare them for examination.

For instance, a pathologist may perform a Gram stain on a sample taken from the surface of an infected area to identify bacteria.

You Will Not Prescribe Medications

Pathologists do not prescribe medications as their primary role does not involve direct patient care. They focus on diagnosing diseases by examining tissues, cells, and bodily fluids.

While some pathologists may decide to obtain certification in medical oncology or hematology, these are often done by specialists in those fields rather than general (generalist) pathologists.

Pathologists do not directly assist in radiation therapy or surgical procedures; instead, they provide diagnostic information that guides treatment decisions in cancer care. Their role is to diagnose and classify diseases, including cancer, based on laboratory findings.

There are Many Job Opportunities for You

The range of duties and professionals who work with pathology include:

Medical Technologists – these individuals perform lab tests on blood, tissue, and other samples from patients. They are trained in a specialty field through an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program.

Histotechnicians – these laboratory professionals specialize in processing tissue samples for the analysis of malignant tumors and other diseases.

Histotechnicians typically require an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate in histotechnology, although bachelor’s degree programs are also available. Certification can be pursued for further specialization.

Anatomic Pathologists – this professional is responsible for examining specimens under a microscope to determine the cause of disease, infection or injury.

They also help to diagnose human cellular function at the molecular level. This specialist must complete medical school, a one-year internship and a three-to-four-year residency program in anatomic pathology to qualify as a board-certified.

Cytopathologists—These specialists examine cytology specimens (cells) to detect cancerous growths, infectious organisms, and other abnormalities, aiding in diagnosis and treatment decisions for patients.

This specialist must also complete medical school, a one-year internship, and a three-to-four-year residency.

You Won’t Work Alone

Pathologists work closely with physicians and surgeons to help diagnose disease. They also collaborate with nurses, lab technicians, medical assistants, and other medical professionals to ensure that samples are collected correctly before they’re sent to be examined.

You Will Perform Autopsies When Necessary

Pathologists primarily communicate with other healthcare professionals rather than directly with patients and their families. Their role in autopsies is focused on determining the cause of death, and the primary care physician or a medical examiner usually does any communication about patient conditions or autopsy results.


Being a pathologist means you are the one who determines the cause of death, and you need to possess certain skills to do this.

Pathology is a medical field that requires extensive study. Most people are unaware of the field and what it entails to be a pathologist.

Nevertheless, with the above facts, we believe you now understand more about this medical field.

See Also

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Best Side Hustles for Physicians

Echo Training for Physicians

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Surgeon Salary

Good Qualities in a Doctor

Current Version
February 11, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 26, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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