How to Become a Pathologist

Pathologist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $280,800
Avg. Pay / hour $135.00
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 7%

If you are interested in science and medicine, then you might like to become a pathologist.

A pathologist is a medical doctor whose speciality is the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

The majority of the work of the pathologist is done in the laboratory, where they perform various tests to detect abnormalities or disease on the human body.

In their roles, a pathologist will receive various blood and tissue samples, which they will perform various tests on.

they will sometimes form a diagnosis, or other times simply report back to the referring physician with the results.

A pathologist has a doctorate in medicine, then completes further specialization to become a pathologist.

Education Requirements to Become a Pathologist

If you would like to become a pathologist, you will need to complete quite a bit of education.

To begin, you’ll need a four year undergraduate degree in pre-medicine.

After college, you’ll need to attend medical school, entrance is competitive and is based on your grade point average at college, as well as MCAT scores, an essay, and an interview.

You can see a list of accredited medical schools at the Association of American Medical Colleges website.

Another good source of career information is the American Board of Medical Specialties.

After medical school you’ll need to become licensed to practice in your state, and you will also then need to go on to complete a one year internship in medicine.

After your internship is over, you will need to complete a residency in pathology.

This can take between three and five years to complete.

Some pathologists go on to complete a fellowship which allows them a sub-specialty.

Pathologist Job Description

When you become a pathologist, you will work to diagnose illnesses by performing tests on human tissue and blood work.

Sometimes you will simply report back to another physician with your findings.

You could be diagnosing cancer, diabetes, or a whole range of other medical illnesses.

A pathologist has little direct contact with patients.

Most of their work is done in a lab setting, but they do however, need to communicate regularly with other medical staff.

They also need to write reports on their findings.

In busy periods, work can become hectic with medical staff demanding their results quickly.

Many hospitals are sometimes understaffed, which can contribute to the problem further.

Some pathologists also study the way that illness and injury affects the body.

They may be involved in research projects.

Others teach aspiring pathologists as a part of their role.

Here are some of the duties of a pathologist:

  • Communicating with other medical staff
  • Completing tests on tissue and blood work
  • Forming a diagnosis
  • Reporting back to a referring physician
  • Administrative tasks
  • Medical research
  • Teaching

Pathologist Salary and Career Path

After you complete your residency, you’ll be ready to work independently as a pathologist.

Most work in hospitals, others may work in laboratories or research centers.

For the most part, pathologists work a forty hour week, but may be required to work overtime on some occasions.

In busy periods, or for the rare emergency case, a pathologist may be on call.

Very few pathologists are self-employed.

Many pathologists go on to work in other fields of medicine, take on management positions, or go on to pursue their own research.

As experts in illness and injury, some of the cutting edge medical research that is being done is led by qualified pathologists.

Some go on to attain sub-specialties.

Job prospects when you become a pathologist are strong, with secure employment available.

The median salary is $186,000 a year for a pathologist.

Some other roles that you might be interested include:

  • Medical doctor
  • Autopsy assistant
  • Surgeon
  • Medical researcher
  • Forensic pathologist

Working as a pathologist is a great way to contribute to the health of the community around you.

There is a good salary available, and excellent employment prospects.

When you become a pathologist you can look forward to a rewarding career path.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Arkansas- NA -
District of Columbia$162,650
New Hampshire$304,000
New Jersey$243,590
New Mexico$314,760
New York$182,040
North Carolina$303,230
Rhode Island$279,640
South Carolina$290,010
South Dakota$308,160
West Virginia$158,250
Puerto Rico$71,660

The top earning state in the field is Missouri, where the average salary is $340,150.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Missouri - $340,150
Oklahoma - $327,540
Wisconsin - $314,820
New Mexico - $314,760
Minnesota - $308,190
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for General Internal Medicine Physicians, OCC Code 29-1216, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pathologist?

A medical pathologist is a physician specialized in the study of body tissue, body fluids, and bone marrow, to search for abnormalities and to see if there are indicators for the presence of a disease.

Medical pathologists identify diseases by examining tissues and fluids using a microscope and they conduct toxicology tests to see if toxins are presented in the body.

There are two categories of medical pathologists: clinical pathologists and anatomical pathologists.

As a clinical pathologist, you will examine blood, urine, and bone marrow; there are thousands of tests that can be used to examine blood and body fluids in order to determine the presence of a disease and to establish how serious it is.

As an anatomical pathologist, you will analyze samples of tissue obtained from a patient through a biopsy in order to determine the presence of a disease.

Pathologists can work in a variety of medical settings, from hospitals, clinics and medical schools to military and government agencies.

Depending on their specialty, pathologists are trained to use advanced technology like electron microscopy and computer modeling in their research.

Pathologists who are specialized in forensic pathology perform autopsies in order to determine the cause of death.

How much does a pathologist make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t record specific information about pathologists but physicians and surgeons earned a median annual wage equal or greater than $208,000 a year.

However, salaries in this field can vary widely depending on specialty, place of employment or level of experience.

How much does it cost to become a pathologist?

In order to become a pathologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree and a doctor of medicine degree.

Medical school can cost you anywhere between $30,000 and more than $60,000 a year, while pre-med programs usually cost between $15,000-$60,000 at a public college and even more at a private school.

What is the demand for pathologists?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the number of jobs for all physicians and surgeons will increase by 7 percent in the period between 2018 and 2028.

As the population is aging the demand for medical services, in general, is expected to grow and medical pathologists will continue to be needed in order to study diseases.

How long does it take to become a pathologist?

Pathologists need a doctor of medicine degree, they must complete a residency and they also need a state license.

Most medical schools require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree and to have completed undergraduate coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and maths.

In order to have better chances of being accepted at a reputable medical school, you need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) with a high score.

You will spend the first two years of medical school in classrooms and laboratories learning more about anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, genetics.

During the last two years, you will learn in a clinical setting using a hands-on approach, thus having the chance to work with patients under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.

After graduation, you will spend the next 2-3 years in a residency program.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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