Pathology assistant job description

Written by janine stevens
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Pathology assistant job description
Pathologists' assistants perform tests to allow pathologists to diagnose and treat diseases. (lab image by Alhazm Salemi from

Pathologists' assistants perform diagnostic tests to allow pathologists to diagnose diseases. Much of their work revolves around gross, or visual, examination of surgical specimens as well as assisting in autopsies. Pathologists' assistants can work in hospitals, reference laboratories and academic centres. Some work with pathologists in the pathologist system to help identify causes of death or to gather evidence for criminal investigations.

Education and Experience

To qualify for the position as pathologists' assistant, applicants must have at least a bachelor of science degree. Those with a master's degree in health science are given special consideration. Professionals who have worked as clinical lab technologists or autopsy technicians often succeed in the role of pathologists' assistant.

The American Association of Pathologists' Assistants offers continuing education programs as well as a certification examination. Certification recognises experience in the field, which is looked upon favourably by employers.


Pathologists' assistants must have strong stomachs, as this job requires them to handle bodily fluids, tissue and organs. They must have steady hands, as precise incisions must be made. Attention to detail is vital to succeed as a pathologists' assistant since preparation work for an autopsy must be meticulous to ensure pathologists make correct diagnoses. Those with an aptitude for science excel as pathologists' assistants.


Pathologists' assistants work under the direction of pathologists. They prepare and perform the work that leads up to the pathologist making a diagnosis. They gather patients' clinical information and prepare blood and human tissue specimens for examination. They prepare all equipment needed for postmortem examinations and photograph each specimen to keep detailed records. They may be responsible for dissecting tissue samples or for performing complex surgical resections and autopsies.

Pathologists' assistants may also perform administrative duties, such as obtaining legal authorisation for a patient's autopsy and gathering a patient's medical records. Other possible tasks include data compilation, record keeping and billing.


Pathologists' assistants earn an average of £46,800 annually, according to as of 2009. These salaries often depend on setting and regional cost of living. Full-time pathologists' assistants typically are eligible for medical benefits and retirement packages.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in the overall category of physician assistants to grow by 39 per cent between 2008 and 2018. As the health care industry expands, more responsibility will be placed on physician assistants, including pathologists' assistants.

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