How to Become a Pathology Assistant

Pathology Assistant Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $31,390
Avg. Pay / hour $15.09
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 11%

Someone not squeamish and unfazed by messes may find working with the human body an easy task to accomplish.

Looking into how to become a Pathology Assistant would be a great step for their career because not being squeamish is one of the natural skills a person needs to have in order to perform this job.

Pathology Assistants work in a lab making incisions and working with bodily fluids in order to find the official cause of someone’s death or examining biopsies under a microscope.

A Pathology Assistant can choose from a couple of specializations, they include the following:

Autopsy Pathology: Assist in conducting postmortem body inspections in order to help determine a cause of death.

Surgical Pathology: Assists in conducting surgical specimen dissections and securing samples to help diagnose conditions.

Pathology Assistants perform functions similar to that of a Pathologist.

In fact, the only difference between the two is that a Pathology Assistant doesn’t have the medical capacity to diagnose diseases.

Under the supervision of a Pathologist, an Assistant is responsible for dissecting and acquiring samples, submitting them for tests and filling out important paperwork.

Candidates looking to become a Pathology Assistant should have excellent attention to detail and organizational skills in order to provide the most accurate test results.

Education Requirements to Become a Pathology Assistant

Pathology Assistants need educational and practical training in order to work in the field.

The minimum requirement to become a Pathology Assistant is holding a Bachelor of Science with a focus on Medicine.

Such majors can include the following:

  • Biology
  • Nursing
  • Mortuary Science

With this course of study, candidates should be able to know the body and its mechanisms well in order to do laboratory work and dissections.

In order to become more competitive in the field, a Pathologist Assistant should enroll in a Master’s Program.

Entering a Pathologist Assistant Program should suffice as the majority of programs offer a Master’s.

Any work done in a Pathologist Assistant Program should be accomplished at an accredited institution certified by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).

Additionally, Pathology Assistant candidates can opt to take a certification exam on a national level in order to show their competency in the field.

After passing the certification exam, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) will grant a license in order to work as a Pathology Assistant.

The license is valid for three years and recertification depends on the candidate taking continued education classes.

Pathology Assistant Job Description

A Pathology Assistant works under direct supervision of a Pathologist providing biopsy sample needed to determine a diagnosis.

Pathology Assistants should be able to work well with their hands and have controlled and steady hand movements in order to perform autopsies or biopsies.

An Autopsy Pathology Assistant is also responsible for securing legal documentation from families in order to perform autopsies and releasing bodies to the families or a funeral home for burial.

Pathology Assistants are required to know lab procedures in order to work in a secure lab environment as lab results depend on their careful work.

Pathology Assistants need to make sure they are handling remains and samples in a manner that protects theirs and other’s health.

Pathology Assistants are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Performing autopsies or acquiring biopsies
  • Dissecting and collecting samples
  • Observing dissections under a microscope
  • Running lab tests that provide a diagnosis

Other job responsibilities may also include training and teaching new Pathology Residents.

Pathology Assistant Salary and Career Path

Someone who wants to become a Pathology Assistant can look forward to a very promising career because of the medical industry’s positive growth expectations.

The medical industry continues to be one of the strongest and is expected to remain that way throughout the next decade.

A Pathology Assistant can work for a private pathology lab or for a public one such as a community hospital or an academic institution.

Salary depends on the state of employment but typically starts at $65,000 to $90,000 annually.

Experienced Pathology Assistants can expect to earn wages in the low $100,000s.

A professional group such as the American Association of Pathologist’s Assistants (AAPA) provides support and information to members.

Visit their website for more information regarding their services.

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

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$46,690
New Hampshire$40,370
New Jersey$39,600
New Mexico$34,470
New York$42,100
North Carolina$35,650
North Dakota$37,440
Rhode Island$39,390
South Carolina$34,270
South Dakota$33,880
West Virginia$31,230
Puerto Rico$23,450
Virgin Islands$35,480

The top earning state in the field is Washington, where the average salary is $47,320.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Washington - $47,320
District of Columbia - $46,690
Alaska - $46,390
California - $44,780
Massachusetts - $44,200
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Medical Assistants, OCC Code 31-9092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pathology assistant?

Many of the medical treatments decided by physicians for their patients are based on the medical laboratory tests made by pathologists and pathology assistants.

As a pathology assistant, you will prepare specimens of tissue, blood, and bone marrow to be analyzed but you will also have to complete administrative duties like billing, record-keeping, and supervising the rest of the employees in the lab.

Sometimes you will assist the pathologist while performing postmortem exams, trying to determine the cause of a person’s death.

Pathology assistants work in a variety of settings, from laboratories and hospitals to a medical examiner’s office, academic settings, and government agencies.

You will work in a sterile, climate-controlled setting and you will have to follow rigorous safety medical protocol.

How much does a pathology assistant make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was $52,330 in May 2018.

Salaries vary based on a wide range of factors and, as a pathologist assistant, you can make anywhere between less than $30,000 and more than $80,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a pathology assistant?

Pathology assistants typically need a bachelor’s degree and afterward, they must enroll at an accredited pathology assistant school.

Most graduate pathology assistant programs require students to have completed undergraduate courses in biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, maths, and English.

Depending on the school you choose, the cost of your bachelor’s degree can vary between $20,000 and $50,000 a year.

The average for a pathologist’s assistant program is around $30,000 a year.

What is the demand for pathology assistants?

According to BLS, employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment prospects should be good for pathology assistants; especially for those who have some experience in the field.

How long does it take to become a pathology assistant?

Earning an undergraduate degree in life sciences like biology or chemistry will make it easy for you to enroll in a pathologist’s assistant program.

You can major in another specialty, but you must take courses in math, biology, chemistry; to be on the safe side is a good idea to check the requirements with the pathologist’s assistant program you want to follow.

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you have to complete a 2-year pathologist’s assistant program; during this time you will learn about microbiology, human anatomy, genetics, pathology in the first year and you will have the chance to gain clinical experience during the second year.

After graduation, you can take the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) certification exam to improve your chances of employment.

So, in total, you need around six years of higher education to become a pathology assistant.

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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