Based upon information obtained from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are less than ten schools in the United States that offer pathology assistants' programs. Programs that have been approved by the NAACLS are especially designed to help students acquire the knowledge and technical training they need to obtain important industry certifications. The majority of the degree programs lead to a Master of Science, and as of 2016, none of them can be completed online.
Despite this, other graduate options may be available with some online components. For instance, specialized master's in the field of speech language pathology can be found online, as can clinical pathology graduate certificates. All pathology education expects students to have a background in anatomic pathology coursework and lab experience, and clinical rotations are a typical in-person requirement even for distance learning options.
Pathology Assistant Master of Science
Bachelor of Science in Pathology Assistants' degrees are rare; most programs lead to a Master of Science. In general, the programs are designed to teach students how to dissect and examine human tissue or assist in autopsies. Learning outcomes include successful preparation for the ASCP exam. Qualified graduates may be able to find positions in hospitals, independent pathology labs, medical examiner offices, or university medical centers, among other facilities.
Admission requirements typically include a substantial background in anatomic pathology and lab work, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and a writing sample. Completion of undergraduate and prerequisite coursework in general and organic chemistry, biology, and microbiology is also required.
Information and Requirements
A Master of Science program typically takes two years to complete and includes both classroom and clinical components. Most instruction takes place during the first year, and students may also learn about pathology lab procedures. During the second year, assistants-in-training participate in clinical rotations at hospitals or other related facilities. Some programs offer anatomic pathology clerkships.
Students in a pathology assistants' program learn about the relationship between anatomical structure and functions. Topics in general pathology are covered, including cellular variations, environmental pathology, pediatric disorders, and tissue injuries, among other subjects. Some of the common courses found in a Master of Science program are described below.
Students become familiar with all aspects of a postmortem exam, as well as the procedures used in autopsy services and hospital morgues. The importance of documentation, such as consent forms, death certificates, and postmortem findings, will be discussed. Future pathology assistant also receive instruction in evisceration and organ block dissection.
Structure and Development
This course helps students acquire an in-depth understanding of human gross anatomy and microanatomy. Through lectures and lab work, aspiring professionals learn how to dissect cadavers, pursue topics in embryology, and work with histological slides.
This is a comprehensive course of study that covers the diseases associated with the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Through computer-based lab and lecture work, students learn about the disorders that can affect the bones, nerves, organs, and skin, among other anatomical areas.
According to the BLS, opportunities for medical and clinical laboratory technologists are projected to increase by 14% from 2014 to 2024. As compared to all other occupations, this constitutes a much-faster-than-average rate of growth. In 2016, PayScale.com reported a median annual salary for pathology assistants nationwide of $73,348. In 2016, Salary.com projected a median annual salary of $77,331 for pathology assistants.
Continuing Education Information
According to the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants, professionals who were certified through the ASCP must participate in the organization's Certification Maintenance Program. To maintain their certifications, individuals must complete a total of 45 credits over a 3-year period, with a minimum of one safety point and 20 points in anatomic pathology required.
AAPA continuing education credits can be earned by attending hospital lectures, taking quizzes, and viewing videotaped presentations. Pathology assistants can also earn points by conducting workshops, displaying posters at the yearly conference and serving on committees, among other activities. An entire year of credits can be earned by attending the association's annual conference. Additional points can be obtained by renewing membership in the ASCP.
A Master of Science in Pathology Assistant degree program cannot be found online and is extremely rare in traditional format in the United States; however, related pathology graduate programs may be available with online components to their curricula. ASCP certification is available for pathology assistants and must be renewed every three years through continuing education credits.