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What are the Different Pathologist Careers?

By Britt Archer
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Pathology is the study of parts of the body, as well as diseases, to further understand how diseases affect the body. While this explanation may sound simple and straightforward, there are many branches to the study of pathology and many different sorts of pathologist careers. Pathologists may work with both living and dead bodies, or choose to work with one or the other, depending upon the individual's chosen career path.

There are two main types of pathologist careers, anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. An anatomical pathologist is concerned with the diagnosis of disease using biological processes of the human body. An anatomical pathologist may use the chemical and microscopic processes of the body, specifically of the organs and tissue samples, to determine what disease is afflicting or has afflicted a person. Anatomical pathology encompasses the fields of cytopathology--the diagnosis of disease via cells--as well as surgical pathology and forensic pathology.

Clinical pathologist careers are slightly different from anatomical pathologist jobs. Clinical pathologists often work laboratory jobs in a pathology lab, or path lab, to test bodily fluids such as urine, saliva and blood, to determine disease. Clinical pathologists may work closely with other medical professionals to ensure that laboratory equipment is up to date and running smoothly. Those seeking pathologist careers may choose to focus on either anatomical or clinical pathology, although many choose to work with both. When both clinical and anatomical pathologies are practiced, the practitioner is referred to as a general pathologist.

Pathology is not limited to humans. Increasingly, the field of veterinary pathology has been in demand. Veterinary pathologists may work closely with veterinarians, or more commonly with drug companies, to determine disease and effects upon animals' bodies. Similarly, phytopathology, or the pathological study of plants, focuses on diseases that affect plants. Phytopathology studies why plants become sick, and how their diseases may benefit future crops, other plants and humans, or how they might become a detriment them.

Those seeking pathologist careers usually must complete a bachelor's degree or higher in the field of pathology. In the United States, medical pathologists must be accredited by a licensing board. For those seeking pathologist careers that are more specialized, such as veterinary pathology, phytopathology or forensic pathology, additional education may be required. The average annual salary for pathologists is dependent upon geographic location, experience and the type of facility where they are employed. Pathologists in the United States earned between $169,000 US Dollars (USD) and $610,000 USD per year as of May 2009.

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Discussion Comments
By anon241074 — On Jan 17, 2012

"limit his focus to such a small part of the body." The skin is the largest organ of the body. C'mon Truman 12.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 17, 2011

I've always thought that being a coroner pathologist would be one of the hardest medical professions around. I think about it like this. It is the job of all doctors to figure out what is wrong with the body. A regular physician can ask questions, run tests and observe the way the body responds to treatment.

But a coroner has to determine all the same information, just using far fewer tools. The dead don't have much to tell. When you think about all that can go wrong with the body and all that must be checked and tested to determine an accurate cause of death you begin to respect the work of the coroner a lot more.

By truman12 — On Oct 16, 2011

I had a good friend whose dad was a dermapathologist. What he did was test moles and other skin tissue samples for evidence of skin cancer.

He was an amazingly smart guy and I always kind of wondered why he wanted to limit his focus to such a small part of the body. But I guess that skin cancer is a very real threat for all of us and we should be glad that competent people choose to focus on it. Also, and I don't mean to be crass when I say this, it must have paid really well because their house was crazy. That's probably not the only reason he did it, but I'm sure that it helped.

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