Pathology Assistant: Employment Info & Requirements

Mar 25, 2019

Pathology assistants team up with pathologists, doctors and nurses to diagnose diseases through the examination of biopsies and fluids. If helping others to live a longer, healthier life and assisting in the treatment of diseases sounds like a rewarding line of work, look into a career in pathology assisting.

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Career Definition for a Pathology Assistant

Pathology assistants work alongside pathologists, clinical laboratory technologists or medical scientists and examine biopsies and bodily fluids in order to diagnose diseases. On a typical day, pathology assistants arrange, choose and record tissue samples for analysis, as well as maintain and sterilize equipment. While examining samples, pathology assistants run sophisticated pathology tests, including immunohistochemical staining and frozen section diagnosis. Pathology assistants may work in hospitals, medical laboratories, medical schools or healthcare systems.

Education Bachelor's degree in biology or a related field
Job Skills Efficiency, detail-oriented, organized, tech-savvy
Median Salary (2019)* $81,731 (for pathology assistants)
Job Growth (2016-2026)** 14% (for medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

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

Required Education

While earning a four-year bachelor's degree in biology or a related field, a prospective pathology assistant will take classes in pathology, anatomy, microbiology and biochemistry. Many pathology assistants have also earned master's degrees and have work experience in related fields like histotechnology, medical technology and autopsies. Pathology assistants must also obtain a state license by passing a standardized exam.

Skills Required

Pathology assistants should be organized, meticulous and efficient. They must pay close attention to detail and keep medical samples organized and clearly labeled. Since many pathology tests use advanced technology, they should be familiar with existing technology and willing to learn about new technologies.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to PayScale.com, the median annual income of a pathology assistant was $81,731 as of March 2019. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment opportunities for medical and clinical laboratory technicians will increase by 14% between 2016 and 2026. Pathology assisting opportunities should be plentiful in rural and inner-city areas because these locations have difficulty enticing employees to relocate.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Veterinary Technologist or Technician

Those interested in being supervised by a veterinarian while completing medical tests to diagnose animals' injuries and illnesses may want to consider a profession as a veterinary technologist or technician. The BLS predicts a much-faster-than-average employment growth of 20% from 2016 to 2026; these techs earned an annual median wage of $33,400 in 2017. Training ranges from two to four years, and techs are required to be licensed, certified or registered in most states.

Chemical Technician

With an associate degree in chemical technology or applied science, in addition to on-the-job training, these techs learn to assist chemical engineers and chemists in the development and research of chemical processes and products. For this occupation, the BLS reported median earnings of $47,280 per year and predicts slower-than-average job growth of 4% from 2016 to 2026.

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