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Renal Pathology: Education Requirements and Career Options

Sep 27, 2019

Renal pathology requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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There are many steps involved in becoming a renal pathologist. After completing medical school and a pathology residency, these medical professionals enter fellowship programs that focus on various diagnostic techniques. They must also apply for a medical license, though board certification is optional.

Essential Information

Renal pathology is a medical specialty that involves the diagnosis of kidney disease through examination of tissue biopsies using various types of microscopy. Becoming a renal pathologist requires a medical degree and 4-6 years of specialized training after medical school.

Required Education Medical degree plus pathology residency and renal pathology fellowship
License Medical license required by state law
Certification Voluntary certification as a diplomate in anatomic pathology or clinical pathology
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $200,890 for various types of physicians and surgeons not listed separately

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Renal Pathology Education Requirements

Prospective renal pathologists must complete medical school, a residency in pathology and a fellowship in renal pathology. They also must hold a medical license in the state where they'd like to work, and they might seek voluntary certification from the American Board of Pathology (ABP) as a diplomate in anatomic pathology (AP) and/or clinical pathology (CP).

Medical School and Residency Program Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical school generally requires an undergraduate degree for admission and takes four years to complete (www.bls.gov). Students might complete clinical rotations in internal medicine or pathology during their third and fourth years of medical school.

Pathology residency programs typically last 3-4 years and focus on anatomic pathology, clinical pathology or both. Residents learn to take and prepare samples and to use different techniques and tools to evaluate samples. They also learn diagnostic skills through studying specimens, participating in case study conferences and doing research with faculty.

Renal Pathology Fellowship Information

Renal pathology fellowships are available to those who have completed a pathology residency. These 1- to 2-year programs involve training in specific techniques for evaluating renal biopsy tissue samples and studying specimens in order to build the knowledge base necessary for accurate diagnosis. Training in immunofluorescence, electron and light microscopy and presentation of findings from samples are common learning tools in renal pathology fellowship programs.

Certification Maintenance Information

ABP diplomate status lasts for ten years. Pathologists can keep their certification current by taking part in lab-related improvement and quality assurance activities, continuing education and peer evaluation (www.abpath.org).

Career Options for Renal Pathologists

Renal pathologists spend much of their time in labs examining tissue samples. Due to the large amount of time spent in a laboratory and interacting with nephrologists and primary physicians, renal pathologists do not typically operate private practices. Rather, they work in hospitals or other medical centers or in medical schools. In addition to diagnostic lab work, renal pathologists might teach and/or do research.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect employment data for renal pathologists, it does provide employment and salary statistics for physicians and surgeons in general. According to the BLS, the average salary for the group of physicians and surgeons that includes pathologists was $203,880 in 2018. The BLS projects that jobs for physicians and surgeons will increase faster than average over the 2018 to 2028 decade.

Renal pathologists complete up to 6 years of post-doctoral training in order to develop the skills needed to diagnose kidney diseases. They spend most of their time working alongside other physicians and medical experts in hospitals and medical school labs.

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