The Job and What's Involved

Pathologists are concerned with the causes of disease and the study of disease processes. They improve treatment prospects by helping to find accurate and early diagnoses. Pathologists also help to reduce the risks of disease spreading.

Pathologists specialise in one branch of pathology.

Branches include:

Clinical Biochemistry (also known as chemical pathology) - using biochemical tests to diagnose diseases in which the body's chemistry goes wrong, e.g. diabetes, and advising on the management of patients.

Haematology - concerned with a wide range of blood disorders, such as leukaemia and blood clotting. It is also concerned with blood transfusion.

Histopathology - deals with diagnosing disease from studying tissue samples. The tissue may be taken from a patient on the ward or in the operating theatre or may be from an autopsy.

Forensic Pathology - is a specialised branch of histopathology.

Immunology - the study, diagnosis and management of conditions involving the immune system such as asthma, HIV and rheumatoid arthritis.

Medical Microbiology and Virology - the diagnosis, management and control of infection, both relating to patients and to the community.

Pathologists work closely with other doctors, and with clinical and biomedical scientists.

Pathologists sometimes work long hours. Much of the work takes place in laboratories. Many pathologists, depending on their specialism, work directly with patients in hospital consulting rooms and wards.

Pathologists in specialty training earn between £28,976 and £45,562 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most pathologists work in the National Health Service (NHS). Others work for universities, research councils and in the pharmaceutical industry. There has been a steady increase in the number of pathologists and there are now just under 2,500 consultant pathologists in England. There is, however, still a shortage.

Education and Training

To become a pathologist, it is first necessary to study for a degree in medicine. For more general information about becoming a doctor, see our job guide for a Doctor.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

When doctors have completed their medical degree they undertake a two-year foundation programme of general training. They then decide whether they wish to train in pathology or in another specialty.

Specialty pathology training takes five to six years and leads to entry to the General Medical Council specialist register. Pathologists are then able to apply for a post as a consultant.

Pathologists may have to relocate to take up a consultant post.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A pathologist should:

  • Have a strong interest in the science of medicine and in laboratory work.
  • Be interested in the care and well-being of people.
  • Be able to work as part of a multidisciplinary team.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are opportunities for pathologist to work abroad, for example with voluntary organisations in developing countries.

Get Further Information

The Royal College of Pathologists,
2 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AF
Tel: 020 7451 6700

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