Job Description


A pathologist is a problem-solver who is typically fascinated by the disease process and is eager to unravel medical mysteries, such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS.

A pathologist is a physician who is trained in examining tissues, checking the accuracy of laboratory tests and interpreting the results of lab tests in order to pinpoint a patient’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment.




Pathologists use the sophisticated tools and methods used in modern laboratory science.

The expertise of a pathologist is needed to accurately interpret the thousands of blood and body fluid tests done in today’s rapidly advancing biomedical science labs.

The practice of medicine has been revolutionized by the rapid expansion of genomic research and testing.

The pathologist provides an essential service in today’s evolving health care environment by guiding clinicians in the quest for an appropriate diagnostic test for patients.

A pathologist will work closely with the other doctors in the patient’s health care team, and is a vital member of the patient’s primary health care team.

Pathologists may work in a wide range of positions in a medical laboratory, including working as lab director.

Areas in which pathologists may specialize include:

Clinical pathology

  • This pathologist oversees lab testing conducted on body fluids. They will work together with clinical lab technologists to make certain that blood and blood products are safe for patient use. The pathologist may identify microorganisms that can cause infections, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. This allows the physician to select the most effective treatment available for a particular patient.

Anatomic pathology

  • This pathologist assists the surgeon during an operation by providing an immediate diagnosis based on biopsy samples. A biopsy is a specially treated tissue sample that is removed in surgery and rushed immediately to the lab.

Forensic pathology

  • This pathologist uses the principles of laboratory science to answer questions about evidence collected in criminal or civil legal cases.

Other pathologists may devote their careers to researching the field of pathology. These pathologists develop new testing and new instruments to increase the accuracy of diagnostic testing.

A pathologist will often teach their specialty field to medical students and others preparing for various laboratory professions.

These areas of practice may include clinical laboratory technology and cytotechnology, among others.




Science Must have a detailed knowledge of physiology, pathophysiology and all medical sciences. Understand natural processes and be able to use your knowledge to solve problems.
Pathology Must understand the nature, cause, development, and clinical management of diseases in people. Know how they respond in people and changes caused by diseases.

Attention to Detail

Must be thorough, accurate and pay close attention to your work and cause and effect relationships.


Must be able to effectively convey information and work with your peers to solve problems.

Enjoy Challenges

Must love to take on challenges since you will be tasked with solving some difficult medical mysteries and be on the cutting edge of curing and researching disease.

Critical Thinking

Need to think critically and in-depth with all situations. Must look past known solutions and into alternative areas. Possibly over-analyze, so you can develop new practices and see solutions others don't.

Autonomous and Comfortable Making Decisions

Must be able to make tough calls and have the confidence to stick by your decisions. Self-motivated and works well alone-- or on your own volition.


Working Conditions


The United States is home to more than 15,000 board-certified Pathologists. These pathologists may practice their chosen specialty in the following locales:

  • Hospitals, including community facilities, teaching universities and government hospitals

  • Independent laboratories

  • Private office practices

  • Clinics

  • Other health care facilities



Salary Outlook