Difference Between Pathologist & Immunologist

Pathologists and immunologists both perform health-related research as a regular part of their duties. They focus on different areas of medical research, however. This article compares these careers and their similarities and differences.

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Comparing Pathologists to Immunologists

Pathologists and immunologists are both, in a sense, medical detectives. They use their investigative talents for different purposes. While pathologists determine the source of a medical disease or cause of death, immunologists investigate treatments for allergic reactions and immunologic disorders so that they can produce immunizations to treat patients with.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Pathologist Medical Degree $199,592 (2017)** 15% for physicians and surgeons, all other
Immunologist Medical Degree $171,218 (2017)** for allergist-immunologists 15% for physicians and surgeons, all other

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Pathologists vs Immunologists

Pathologists and immunologists perform research related to their specific fields. Pathologists may work with a doctor who's performing an autopsy to help determine the cause of the patient's death, or they may assess tests done on biological samples to isolate the cause of a patient's illness. Immunologists focus on developing immunizations that can prevent allergic reactions or treat the symptoms of an allergic reaction or immunologic disorder. Immunologists see patients and provide them with allergy treatments, while pathologists seldom see patients. Both professionals spend a lot of time performing tests as part of their research and then documenting their findings.

Pathologist

Pathologists are investigators who determine what issues are affecting a patient or what has caused a person to die. In addition to a medical degree, pathologists also need to complete a residency in pathology. Pathologists spend most of their time working in laboratories, and their hours will vary depending on where they work. They need to be self-motivated and capable of working independently, because they don't usually interact with patients.

Job responsibilities of a pathologist include:

  • Review test results
  • Analyze results to determine diagnoses
  • Present reports to physicians
  • Recommend treatment options
  • Collaborate during an autopsy

Immunologist

Immunologists, also known as allergists, must have a medical degree, and they are required to be certified in their field. Those who work in hospitals may work day and evening hours, while those who work in medical offices may primarily work during standard business hours. Key skills for immunologists include active listening in order to fully understand what patients say about their allergy symptoms; critical thinking in order to find the best treatment option for each patient; and speaking, since they must explain complex medical information in a way patients can follow.

Job responsibilities of an immunologist include:

  • Conduct research on specific allergens
  • Identify potential treatments for allergies
  • Test treatments to determine effectiveness
  • Document results of research

Related Careers

Those considering a career as a pathologist may also be interested in working a s medical examiner, since medical examiners determine how a person died. An alternate career option or those interested in pathology or immunology is medical scientist, since medical scientists do health-related research to determine what causes diseases and also help create treatments for illnesses.

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