Toxicologist Vs. Pathologist

Toxicology and pathology require extensive medical education and research, with the goal of improving health. Learn about the differences between these careers, including salary, job responsibilities, and related careers.

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Toxicologist vs. Pathologist

If you're interested in the medical field, but not interested in working directly with patients, then a career as a toxicologist or pathologist might be for you. A toxicologist studies medications and other substances and determines the harmful effects. A pathologist studies cells and tissues to determine the presence of disease.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Toxicologist Doctoral or professional degree $84,458 13% (medical scientists, except epidemiologists)
Pathologist Doctoral or professional degree $202,379 13% (physicians and surgeons, all other)

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

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Responsibilities of Toxicologists vs. Pathologists

Toxicologists and pathologists work in the health and medical field, studying certain materials to determine potentially detrimental effects. Toxicologists study substances that may be produced or occur naturally, whereas pathologists study materials that have come from a person's body. In other words, toxicologists work to catch health problems before they occur, and pathologists work to find existing problems so proper treatment can commence. Both of these careers are deeply based in science, problem-solving, and attention to detail, as lives may depend on the research and tests they conduct.


Toxicologists work as medical scientists, conducting studies and doing research regarding the harmful effects of poisons, cleaning and other household substances, and medications. They sometimes research whether certain substances are harmful at all, or if the substance is only harmful with certain exposures or amounts. Some toxicologists also research these effects on other living things, such as animals and the environment. Many toxicologists work in laboratories, either public, such as at a university, or private, such as at a pharmaceutical company. Hours may vary based on the organization, but they usually work 40-hour weeks.

Job responsibilities of a toxicologist include:

  • Designing and executing studies that replicate exposures to certain substances
  • Working with health departments and other organizations to develop health standards, based on their expertise
  • Adhering to a strict safety regimen when handling any substance that is proven to be, or possibly is, toxic
  • Analyzing data to determine causes and treatment for toxicity, pathogens, and diseases


A pathologist is a type of medical doctor that studies cells and tissues for abnormalities. They obtain tissue samples that doctors have collected during surgeries to prepare and examine them, then report their findings back to the doctors. Part of the tissue examination includes how it looks to the naked eye, how it appears under the microscope, and whether the cells are normal or abnormal. Through testing, they may be able to determine where a particular cancer started and the type of cancer. Their work is usually done during a standard work week in medical laboratories, although they may be present during surgeries at various times to offer immediate guidance.

Job responsibilities of a pathologist include:

  • Designing methods to enhance testing procedures
  • Developing entire research programs
  • Analyzing autopsies
  • Writing detailed pathology reports, including diagnosis and other information regarding further testing

Related Careers

If you're looking to become a toxicologist, you may also want to consider a career as an epidemiologist, to study human health patterns and the spread of disease. A career as a radiation therapist may be an alternative to those pursuing a career in pathology, as they work in the fight against cancer.

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