Medical Pathologist: Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for a medical pathologist. Get the facts about job outlook, education requirements, and licensure to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Medical pathologists study diseases and conduct medical investigations of how and why people die. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Neuropathology; cytotechnology; forensic pathology
Key Responsibilities DNA analysis; drug safety studies; cause of death determination
Licensure Medical Doctor (MD) license
Job Growth (2012-2022) 18%* (all physicians and surgeons)
Median Salary (2015) $202,810**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Do as a Medical Pathologist?

As a medical pathologist, you'll analyze tissue, body fluids and cells in order to better examine and identify the immunology of disease. You will also identify DNA and genetics through fine needle aspirations and biopsies. You are responsible for studying new drugs to determine if they are safe. Another aspect of the career revolves around determining how and why an individual died. This duty involves examining cadavers or living patients to determine the cause of death, and then testifying in court cases. You may also be on standby in the operating room to take tissue or blood samples so that the surgeons can better know how to help a patient.

What Can I Anticipate of this Career?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical pathologists with a Doctor of Medicine degree earned $239,000-$331,842 as of June 2011 (www.aamc.org). Salary.com stated that the median salary for pathologists was $250,626, while PayScale.com reported a median salary of $202,810 (www.payscale.com). Those who taught at universities, particularly those who taught health specialties, earned $ $105,880 annually in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Overall employment of physicians, including medical pathologists, is expected to grow by 18% from 2012-2022.

What Education is Required?

A Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree is needed to become a medical pathologist. This requires completion of a pre-med undergraduate degree program and an M.D. program. A 4-year pathology residency program follows so you can master professional skills. Further training in a 1-2-year fellowship is required to have a specialty. Specialty areas you may choose from include neuropathology, blood banking, radioisotopic pathology, cytotechnology, hematopathology and forensic pathology. A law degree can be useful if you'll frequently be involved in court cases or want to become a forensic specialist. Typically, you'll spend about twelve years in training before practicing with full licensure.

What Credentials Do I Need?

Besides a medical degree and residencies, you'll also need to seek state licensure to practice as a physician. The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) can be completed in three steps and tests your science, medical and clinical knowledge (www.usmle.org). To take the first two steps of the exam you must be enrolled in a medical degree program. To sit for the third step you must have completed a medical degree program and passed the first two steps. The American Board for Pathology also offers certification for medical pathologists for licensed doctors (www.abpath.org).

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