Anatomical Pathology Technician: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for anatomical pathology technicians. Get the facts about education requirements, certification, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Anatomical Pathology Technician?

Anatomical pathology technicians are healthcare professionals who assist in the analysis of diseased tissues. Medical doctors often will send over samples of a patient's tissue and order a variety of tests on the sample. A technician may perform some of these tests using various chemical and biological ways of analysis. They generally work in labs under the supervision of a laboratory manager or a laboratory technologist. The following table provides detailed information for this career:

Degree Required Associate degree
Education Field of Study Life science or related field
Key Responsibilities Analyze tissue and cells, develop treatment plans
Certification Professional certification may be necessary, available through different boards such as the American Board of Pathology
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18% (medical and clinical laboratory technicians)
Median Salary (2015)* $38,970 (medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Responsibilities of an Anatomical Pathology Technician?

As an anatomical pathology technician, your primary responsibilities center on analyzing tissue and cells to help diagnose diseases, develop treatment plans and determine the cause of death in the case of deceased parties. The degree that you will be involved in these activities depends on your level of education and experience. This job requires you to obtain and examine tissue specimens through biopsies or surgical pathology and to use protocols of histology and cytology to collect and analyze cells from the tissue. You would also conduct analysis on the tissues of dead bodies through autopsy procedures.

A few of the duties you'll have as an anatomical pathology technician include preparing microscopic slides, managing quality control of specimens, conducting or assisting in autopsies and analyzing cell cycle data. Some of your administrative duties may consist of training other technicians in pathology methods and maintaining procedural records.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

At minimum, you will need to earn an associate's degree in life science or a related field, which should include a substantive amount of science courses, such as biology and chemistry. For additional training, you can enroll in a basic pathology technician training program through a trade organization or hospital. These programs usually have a prerequisite of an associate's degree and they can be completed within one year.

If you are considering advanced opportunities as an anatomical pathology technologist, you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree and comprehensive training through graduate studies. While your bachelor's degree can be in any field, a life science major offers the most relevant courses. Graduate studies in pathology include coursework and clinical experience in forensic pathology, hematopathology, immunohistochemistry and molecular pathology.

Do I Need a License or Certification?

Depending on your job responsibilities, some employers require that you obtain professional certification. This can be done through any number of professional credentialing boards, such as the American Board of Pathology. Professional certification generally requires passing an examination, and it is usually maintained through continuing education courses.

What Salary Can I Earn?

Clinical technicians and anatomical pathology technicians are related professions, and in turn, are categorized in the same broad-based group at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to BLS, as of 2015, the median annual salary for clinical technicians was $38,970 ( Your individual salary will depend on many factors, including your employer, your level of training and your experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want more responsibility in the lab setting, you want to become a medical technologist instead, though this requires a bachelor's degree. These professionals perform many of the same duties as a technician, but they may oversee other workers and be able to perform more complex analyses and tests. With an associate's degree, you could also become a chemical technician. These technicians assist chemists and chemical engineers in the development and testing of new products by performing chemical tests using specialized tools and equipment.

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