Anatomical Pathology Technologist

The Job and What's Involved

Anatomical pathology technologists (APTs) support pathologists (specialised doctors) during post-mortem examinations or autopsies.

Post-mortem's are carried out to find out the cause of someone's death, either to help enhance future medical care for other people or to provide answers after an unexplained death or accident.

An APT's duties include:

  • Helping to examine and dissect the body
  • Passing instruments, such as scalpels, to the pathologist
  • Helping with the removal of internal organs
  • Taking and recording samples for analysis
  • Reconstructing the body after the post-mortem
  • Cleaning all materials afterwards

Relatives may want to view a body or may have to identify it formally before it is released for burial or cremation. APTs are responsible for making sure that the body is presentable for viewing.

APTs are also responsible for the everyday running and maintenance of the mortuary service and post-mortem room. This includes:

  • Receiving the bodies of people who have died suddenly.
  • Making sure the mortuary is safe and hygienic at all times.
  • Washing down floors and walls with disinfectant.
  • Sterilising and maintaining tools and equipment.
  • Taking precautions against potential contamination and infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS
  • Writing and reviewing protocols, policies and risk assessments.
  • Carrying out audits.
  • Making sure that everyone in the mortuary abides by the law and follows policies and procedures.
  • Working with local bereavement services.

APTs also keep accurate identification records. They deal with enquiries from anyone needing information about a deceased person, including the police, coroners and relatives. The work requires close involvement with bereaved relatives, respecting their cultural and religious attitudes. This includes conducting viewing's in the mortuary quiet room and providing information for documents such as death certificates, cremation forms and other paperwork.

APTs often train other healthcare staff, such as doctors, nurses, paramedics and porters, who need to be aware of mortuary procedures and practices.

APTs usually work 37.5 hours a week, with some shifts and weekend work. Occasional overtime is required, as the workload can be unpredictable. Part-time work and job sharing are possible.

They work indoors in a mortuary. Hospital mortuaries may be in a basement.

APTs wear sterile protective clothing for post-mortem work. This includes surgical scrubs (gowns and trousers), disposable gloves, a face mask and boots. They may also wear a sealed visor and respirator during high-risk examinations, for instance when people have died from an infectious disease.

APTs have to cope with unpleasant sights and smells as some deaths are caused by fire, violence or accidents. Their work involves standing for long periods.

Trainees normally start on around £15,000 to £18,000. Higher-level APTs may earn from around £20,000 to £27,000.

APTs with managerial responsibilities may earn from around £30,000 to £45,000.

They may be paid extra for being on call or if they work in London.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are fewer than 1,000 APTs working throughout the UK, mainly in large towns and cities. That number has remained stable over the past few years. There tends to be competition for vacancies.

Most APTs work in NHS hospital or local authority mortuaries.

Vacancies are advertised in regional newspapers and on the NHSjobs website. The Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (AAPT) also features jobs and training opportunities on their website.

Education and Training

There are no set minimum qualifications required to become a trainee APT. However, most employers prefer applicants to have GCSE's (A*-C) in English, maths and a science (preferably biology) or other qualifications, such as:

BTEC Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in applied science, either medical or forensic.

BTEC Higher National Certificate or Diploma in biomedical science.

Diploma in society, health and development.

Diploma in science.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

APTs begin their training with a short period of observation, followed by practical work supervised by a pathologist and more senior APTs.

During the first two years of work, an APT is expected to study towards the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Certificate in Anatomical Pathology Technology. Training is available by day or block release, usually totaling 40 hours. It may be possible to take a two-week residential course instead.

Topics covered include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathology
  • Post-mortem room techniques
  • Hygiene, hazards and precautions
  • Relevant law and codes of practice
  • Administration and documentation

As well as completing a practical assessment record book and attending the course, students take a two-hour written examination. Successful candidates can then apply to be an Associate Member of RSPH.

Once qualified, APTs can take further study leading to the RSPH Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology. This requires a further year of training.

Technologists can join the AAPT as a Student, Certificate Member or Diploma Fellow. AAPT provides continuing professional development (CPD), help and guidance to its members.

APTs may join the Voluntary Registration Council's voluntary register if they meet one or more of the criteria:

  • RSPH Certificate in Anatomical Pathology Technology along with two years' post-certificate practical experience.
  • RSPH Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology.
  • At least six years' training and experience, with evidence to support competent practice.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An APT should:

  • Be prepared to learn scientific methods, anatomy and physiology.
  • Be practical and good with their hands.
  • Have tact and sensitivity for working with bereaved relatives.
  • Have good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Be health and safety conscious.
  • Have a responsible attitude to work.
  • Enjoy working methodically, accurately and with attention to detail.
  • Have a strong stomach for dealing with unpleasant sights and smells.
  • Be able to stay detached and objective.
  • Be able to use a computer.
  • Be able to work well as part of a small team.
  • Understand and respect different religious and cultural beliefs.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and the RSPH Diploma, it is possible to move into management positions or advanced technical work.

Get Further Information

Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (AAPT),
12 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL
Tel: 020 7278 2151

NHS Careers
Tel: 0845 606 0655
Websites: and

Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH),
3rd Floor, Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane, London SW8 5NQ
Tel: 020 3177 1600

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