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How do I get a Pathology Degree?

By Britt Archer
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A pathology degree is not for the faint of heart. A medical pathologist is a doctor who studies diseases and the causes of why people die. A pathologist can also work with live patients to determine the cause of a disease, or to determine which disease a person has. Because of this, lab work is considered a large part of a pathologist's job and is where a pathologist spends most of his or her time.

Often a medical pathologist will work in a hospital, a morgue or with a forensic science team, although rarely, some people with pathology degrees do set up private practices. Increasingly, pathologists are hired by drug manufacturers to test how their trial medications affect people, and remain on hand if something goes wrong. Obtaining a pathology degree is not easy, and to work as a medical pathologist, a person often must have more than four years of schooling from an accredited university. Continuing education is often necessary to keep up to date on current practices, and more schooling may be required if a person wishes to specialize in a certain area, such as hematology (the study of blood), for example, or neuropathology (the study of the brain).

To obtain a pathology degree, a person generally must first complete a bachelor’s degree in a medical or scientific field. Biology and pre-medical studies are both good choices for someone who wants to become a pathologist. These four years are often followed by a two-year postgraduate degree in one of any number of approved pathology programs, and hours of clinical lab work are often a requirement as well. Undergraduate pathology courses are also available to help prepare students for the necessary postgraduate studies.

Most colleges and universities offer some form of training for students who are pursuing a career in pathology, although there are specific pathology colleges such as the New York Medical Pathology College for students in the United States. As with most medical careers, after obtaining the required pathology degree students must also pass applicable licensing examinations depending upon their geographic location and the job they are seeking. The demand for pathologists is expected to grow, as there is always a demand for researchers and those who can determine how and why a human body has failed to work properly. As more people age and as medical technology advances, the need for individuals with a pathology degree is expected to remain steady, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon300951 — On Nov 01, 2012

Well NextCorrea, there has to be a person who does it right? If there were no one to choose this job, then a lot of people wouldn't know if they had cancer or not, and there are different types of pathology. The one you are thinking of is anatomic pathology, which is what I want to do someday.

That does not just consist of doing autopsies, but you can work in a hospital setting doing lab work and answering questions for people, such as why did my aunt die, or do I have cancer and what type? Why did I have my kidney removed and how bad was the damage? Things of that nature.

Everyone wants answers, and needs them even in legal cases. Pathologists can work for many different departments. It might seem creepy but someone has to do it, and certain people such as myself find it interesting.

By nextcorrea — On Aug 23, 2011

I know that this is silly of me to think, but I can't help but think that anyone who would want to become a pathologist is just a little bit creepy. Who would want to spend their whole career cutting apart human bodies? You would surround yourself with so much death. I know they do important work but I have to wonder about the people that make this kind of choice.

By backdraft — On Aug 23, 2011

I wonder if competition for pathology jobs comes down to where and applicant went to school as it so often does with doctors in other fields?

People often talk about the ivy league, but it is really with medical school like no others that the gap between the great the good and the OK is as wide. Elite medical schools give graduates their choice of jobs around the world. This training alone is considered credential enough to work in almost any practice.

Pathology is a little different though. It is a medical science but it kind of has a reputation as being a lesser pursuit. So are there really good pathology schools? And do their graduates have an easier time finding jobs?

By tigers88 — On Aug 22, 2011

I think we get a really distorted view of the kind of work that a coroner or a pathologist does. Countless portrayals of medical pathologists on TV have reduced the practice to just a miraculous evidence finding mechanism for the police. But I would imagine that the reality of this kind of work is far more complicated than we ever see.

Think about how much a pathologist would have to know and recognize. To systematically dismantle the body and look for any flaw or mistake or clue of disease. That would take and amazing comprehension of the body and all its systems.

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