Pathologist Assistant

Pathologists' assistants prepare and examine human tissue samples in a laboratory. Learn the duties of pathologists' assistants as well as the education and certification requirements.

Is Becoming a Pathologists' Assistant For Me?

Career Overview

Pathologists' assistants (PAs) are allied health professionals who support pathologists in the processing of various lab specimens. Pathologists detect diseases by examining tissues or organs, as well as performing autopsies. The PAs generally process the specimens; however, the pathologist does the actual diagnosis. Under the direction of a pathologist, PAs prepare samples, dissect specimens, carry out autopsies and instruct medical students.

Pathologists' assistants also have clerical duties like billing patients and insurance companies, supervising other lab workers and coordinating schedules. PAs work in hospitals, private pathology labs and medical teaching institutions, as well as being self-employed perhaps running an autopsy service.

Employment Information

According to Purdue University (www.purdue.edu), the field of pathologists' assisting is growing. Healthcare costs are rising, leading more medical institutes to use allied health professionals, such as PAs. PayScale.com found that most pathologists' assistants earned from $38,392-$87,915 as of April 2014.

How Do I Work as a Pathologists' Assistant?

Prerequisite Education

Before applying to a PA program, you need to complete a bachelor's degree with coursework in English composition, organic and general chemistry, math, microbiology, biochemistry and biology. Other courses to consider are human physiology, cell biology, genetics, immunology and molecular biology. You probably will need to submit GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores. You are strongly encouraged to acquire pathologists' assistant shadowing experience.

Graduate Education

In order to work as a pathologists' assistant, you must complete a pathologists' assistant master's degree program. You take courses and participate in clinical rotations. An investigative, scientific mind will aid you as you take coursework that covers microbiology, gross human anatomy, genetics, biochemistry, immunology and physiology.

Certification and Licensing

By completing a master's in pathologists' assistant program, you will be eligible to seek certification. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org) administrates certification for pathologists' assistants. You must have a bachelor's degree, in addition to completing an NAACLS (National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences) accredited master's PA program. Most employers require PAs to be certified. Certification is good for three years. You must earn 45 continuing medical education units throughout the 3-year period in order to renew your certification. The state of Nevada requires that pathologists' assistants obtain licensure as well.

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