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Medical Pathologist: Job Description, Salary and Career Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical pathologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and training to find out if this is the career for you.

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Medical pathology--which includes clinical and anatomical pathology--focuses on diseases in humans. The field requires extensive education and medical licensure. Both the monetary compensation and employment outlook for medical pathologists is strong.

Essential Information

Medical pathologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and studying diseases using laboratory methods. Many of these jobs require completion of medical school, as well as post-graduate training though residencies. Licensure is required for all kinds of physicians, and board certification is available for pathologists. Since many medical pathologists spend the majority of their time in the laboratory, this career may be best-suited for individuals who do not desire much patient contact.

Required Education Completion of medical school and a residency
Additional requirements Medical license; board certification is optional but often preferred
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $191,098 for medical pathologists

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

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Job Description for a Medical Pathologist

Medical pathologists are usually either clinical or anatomical pathologists. Clinical pathologists mainly examine body fluids, including blood, urine and bone marrow. They may conduct toxicology tests seeking the presence of illegal drugs and poisons, run a hospital blood bank and test patients' immune functions to detect allergies and toleration of transplant organs. Anatomical pathologists analyze samples of tissue and cells to aid in determining the diagnosis and cause of diseases. Once samples have been removed via surgery, biopsies or fine needle aspirations, anatomical pathologists may freeze and examine them under a microscope to view any abnormalities.

Although they most often work in hospitals, medical pathologists also can be found in clinics, medical schools, and the military and government agencies. They are considered the 'doctor's doctor' because they aid doctors in making diagnosis, treatment and management decisions in hospitals and clinics. After consulting with clinicians, they conduct prescribed tests, analyze the results and prepare reports based on their findings.

In medical schools and government agencies, medical pathologists may work in research and teaching positions. They use sophisticated technology, such as electron microscopy and computer modeling, to make discoveries about the origins and functions of diseases. As teachers, they may lecture in classrooms but are just as often found working in laboratories with students on an individual basis.

Medical Pathologist Salary and Career Outlook

According to PayScale.com, medical pathologists earned a median yearly salary of $191,098 as of January 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the number of jobs for all physicians and surgeons was forecast to increase 14% in the period between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This growth was expected in part due to healthcare needs caused by an increase in the senior citizen population. Because the elderly are particularly susceptible to diseases like cancer, medical pathologists, who are instrumental in diagnosing cancer, should be increasingly in demand.

The duties of medical pathologists are determined by whether they are clinical or anatomical pathologists. They usually perform a number of tests and studies, either in clinical settings or laboratories.

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