How to Become a Pathologist


Pathologists study diseases in patients and help with their diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. There are several different types of pathologist; some mainly work in laboratories, whereas others work directly with patients.

A pathologist examines patients and samples, diagnoses diseases and works with the prevention and treatment of these illnesses. They generally work in hospital laboratories, but their job may entail direct patient contact, depending on their specialisms. 

There are five main specialisms of pathology, as well as some sub-specialisms: 

  • Clinical pathologists work in labs and clinics. They will use biochemical tests for the diagnosis and treating of patients. 
  • Haematologists work with blood disorders, including bone marrow conditions. 
  • Histopathologists use medical examples from cells and tissues to diagnose diseases, as well as study their progression in the body. Forensic histopathologists perform autopsies to analyse the cause of death. 
  • Medical microbiologists and virologists study contagious diseases and try to prevent infection in hospitals and the community.

The duties of a pathologist vary depending on their specialism, but they generally entail: 

  • Examining patients and diagnosing what tests need to be carried out to determine their condition. 
  • Working closely with clinical staff, offering expert opinions on what tests should be administered on patients. 
  • Educating other healthcare professionals using their medical expertise. 
  • Interpreting test results and advising about next steps. 
  • Researching and staying up to date with new information. 
  • Sometimes, teaching junior staff. 

Pathologists should have a degree in medicine. This qualification generally takes 5-6 years to obtain, although it can be done in a shorter time if they already have a science degree. After the degree pathologists will undertake foundation training, where they will work as a junior doctor with a specialism in pathology. Candidates will then study one of the pathology specialisms. 

Before applying for a degree, pathologists should have a strong portfolio of work experience. They can gain this by volunteering at a hospital or shadowing a doctor.

As this job entails much patient contact, often with patients in distressing situations, pathologists should be empathetic and able to relate to people. They will also need to have collaborative skills as they will be expected to work with other professionals. Later in their career, pathologists may need to train junior doctors and manage other employees, so they should exhibit managerial skills.

Other pathologist skills include problem-solving and decision making. Their entire job revolves around diagnosis, so they will frequently need to come up with solutions to problems based on their expertise. They should also have the motivation to be constantly learning; continuous professional development is a large part of a pathologist’s career. 

Pathologists may need to work nights, weekends, or be on call – especially while they are training. Some pathologists assume a part-time role later in their career. 


What degree is most commonly held by a Pathologist?

  • Bachelor of Applied Sciences- Health Services/Allied Health
  • Master of Medicine, Pathology
  • Bachelor of Applied Science , Pharmacology and Chemistry
  • Bachelor of Health Science

Career Transportability across Countries

Transportability: Medium
Pathology is required in countries all over the world, and the pool of highly trained professionals is small; therefore, experienced pathologists may find the opportunity to work abroad. However, they may have to retrain and learn about a medical system that is different from their native. As pathology can be a customer-focused role, cultural awareness and potentially, knowledge of a local language are desired.

What is the Salary of a Pathologist?

Experience Average salary | year
Pathologist 1-3 yrs $45,098 £30,000 $42,978
Pathologist 3-5 yrs $61,300 £38,000 $82,490
Senior Pathologist 5-10 yrs $85,098 £56,000 $95,000

What skills are needed to become a Pathologist?

  • Healthcare
  • Pathology
  • Clinical Research
  • Research
  • Speech Therapy
  • Medicine
  • Hospitals
  • Cancer
  • Public Speaking
  • Anatomic Pathology
  • Microsoft Office
  • Customer Service
  • Medical Education
  • Speech
  • Teaching
  • Life Sciences
  • Molecular Biology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Language Disorders
  • Healthcare Management
  • Early Intervention
  • Dysphagia
  • Pediatrics
  • Leadership

Pathology Courses

A lot of information goes into being a pathologist, and candidates should want to be refreshing this constantly. Therefore, supplementary courses are recommended. At FutureLearn, we have courses like histology and microscopy and genomic medicine, which will be beneficial to gain an all-round knowledge in pathology.
  • Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare

    Explore the field of medical humanities - the intersection of the arts humanities and healthcare - with this free online course

  • Genomic Medicine and Research: A Community Approach

    Learn how translational research in genomics can deliver health social and scientific benefits to communities

  • AI for Healthcare: Equipping the Workforce for Digital Transformation

    Learn how artificial intelligence is transforming healthcare and how it can be used to support change in the healthcare workforce

  • Histology: Using Microscopy to Study Anatomy and Identify Disease

    Get an introduction to histology the study of anatomy at a microscopic level and use histopathology to identify disease

  • Genomic Medicine: Transforming Patient Care in Diabetes

    Learn how developments in genomics are transforming our knowledge and treatment of conditions such as diabetes

  • Bacterial Genomes: Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacterial Pathogens

    What's antimicrobial resistance and how can we detect it Explore the clinical relevance of AMR and the methods used to detect it

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

We partner with over 170 world-class universities, institutions and industry leaders to create world-class courses to help you with your career. Whether you’re just starting out, wanting to deepen your knowledge or change direction, FutureLearn and our partners can help. These are just a few of our world-leading partners.