Tab Format
Physician, Clinical Pathologist

ActivitiesAccording to the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) "The pathologist functions in three broad areas, as an investigator, as a teacher, and as a diagnostician. Fundamental to the discipline of pathology is the need to integrate clinical information with physiological, biochemical and molecular laboratory studies, together with observations of tissue alterations."

OutlookFaster-than-average-job growth

Median IncomeAccording to the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) 2006 Resident Council Fellowship Job Market Survey, of the 278 respondents offered at least one job, 44% were offered a starting salary from $150,000-$250,000.

Work Context & ConditionsPathologists in hospital and clinical laboratories practice as consultant physicians. As teachers, they impart this knowledge of disease to their medical colleagues, medical students, and trainees at all levels. As scientists, they use the tools of laboratory science in clinical studies, disease models, and other experimental systems to advance the understanding and treatment of disease.

Minimum Education RequirementsM.D.

SkillsLearning Strategies, Monitoring, Critical Thinking, Instructing, Active Listening, Writing, Time Management, Active Learning, Complex Problem Solving, Judgment and Decision Making, Coordination, Reading Comprehension, Speaking, Science

AbilitiesOral Expression, Deductive Reasoning, Problem Sensitivity, Written Comprehension, Near Vision, Speech Clarity, Inductive Reasoning, Written Expression, Oral Comprehension

Job Description
Job CategoryLife, Physical, & Social Science

Job DescriptionAccording to information given by the ASCP "pathologists are problem-solvers, fascinated by the process of disease and eager to unlock medical mysteries. They make it possible to apply scientific advances to improve the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnosis and treatment and play a particularly important role in preventive medicine by ruling out diseases or detecting them early."

According to the ASIP "In clinical hematology, for example, pathologists review all abnormal blood smears. They may also obtain bone marrow samples from patients. In examining the smears and microscopic sections from these sources, the pathologist may encounter problems as diverse as identification of malarial parasites, investigation of causes of anemia, detection of blood-borne infections, or definitive diagnosis of malignant diseases such as leukemia.

In most hospital settings the pathologist in charge of the blood bank functions as an immunohematologist, who is in charge of procurement and processing of blood and blood products. In clinical chemistry, the pathologist supervises the technical staff in performance of tests to determine the concentration of organic and inorganic substances in body fluids. Toxicology is often part of the clinical chemistry service, involving the pathologist in therapeutic drug monitoring and detection of illicit drugs and poisons. Testing for immune reactions and allergies is a growing area of laboratory activity.

Other areas of concern to the clinical pathologist are the development of comprehensive information systems and the maintenance of quality control and quality assurance procedures."

Working ConditionsAccording to the ASCP, "Pathologists work in many areas of the medical laboratory. A pathologist usually serves as Director of the Laboratory. In the blood bank, pathologists and medical technologists ensure that the blood or blood products people receive are safe. In microbiology, microorganisms bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that can cause infections are identified and the most effective drugs to use to treat a particular infection are determined.

In clinical chemistry, many hundreds of tests are available that measure the amounts of materials such as glucose and cholesterol in the blood, urine, spinal fluid, or other body fluids. In immunology, tests that measure the body's response to infection or disease are performed. Many infections, including hepatitis and AIDS, are diagnosed by detecting the antibodies that the patient's immune system makes to fight the infection. In diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis, the body actually makes antibodies against itself.

A popular perception is that the pathologist's major responsibility is performing autopsies. Although an autopsy is an important part of the diagnosis and treatment of deadly diseases and provides valuable information to the patient's doctor and family, it is only a small part of the typical pathologist's practice. Pathologists who specialize in performing autopsies to investigate unexpected or suspicious deaths and determine the causes are known as forensic pathologists or medical examiners."

Salary RangeAccording to the American Society for Clinical Pathology 2006 Resident Council Fellowship & Job Market Survey "Of the 278 respondents offered at least one job, 12% were offered less than $100,000 per year, 39% were offered a salary from $100,000-$150,000 (down from 52% in 2005) 44% were offered a starting salary from $150,000-$250,000, and 5% were offered a starting salary greater than $250,000 per year. In 2005, 28% of respondents reported being offered greater than $150,000 per year."

Education RequiredAccording to the ASIP, "Medical schools offer elective courses in pathology in addition to the required basic science course. Some medical schools offer year-long student fellowships in pathology for medical students, usually following the sophomore year in which the general pathology course is given. Under certain circumstances, candidates for primary certification by the American Board of Pathology may receive advanced pathology training credit for this period.

Medical school graduates need four to five years of accredited residency training to prepare for a career in pathology. There are accredited training programs in many hospitals throughout the United States and Canada, and many varied opportunities for subspecialty study. During training, the resident becomes familiar with all activities of a pathology department.

Most pathology residents receive training in both anatomic pathology (AP) and clinical pathology (CP), although it is possible to train in only one. Specialty certification for the medical practice of pathology is the responsibility of the American Board of Pathology (ABP) which offers primary specialty (AP and CP) and subspecialty examinations for certification. Four full years of approved training are required for AP/CP, and three years for AP or CP alone. All applicants for primary certification are required to have one additional full year of clinical training, clinically related research, or an additional year of pathology training."

Recommended High School CoursesInformation unavailable at this time

Postsecondary Instructional ProgramsEducation and Training, English Language, Personnel and Human Resources, Administration and Management, Mathematics, Communications and Media, Chemistry, Biology, Computers and Electronics, Medicine and Dentistry, Clerical

Certification and LicensingFollowing this training, candidates requesting certification must pass an objective written and practical examination. As in other medical disciplines, Board certification is not required for practice, but it is highly prized as evidence of professional competence. A recertification examination is given 10 years after the initial board certification.

According to the American Board of Pathology: "The clinical pathology examination is a one-day examination composed of written and practical sections. The practical section has two parts. One part is primarily image questions, whereas the second part contains questions with graphs, charts, karyotypes, pedigrees, red cell panels, formulas, and other problem-solving exercises. A candidate must pass both the written and the practical portions in order to pass the examination.

Individual topics included in the subject content areas of the clinical pathology examination include, but are not limited to: Blood Banking/Transfusion Medicine, Chemical Pathology, Hematology, Medical Microbiology, Laboratory Management, and Molecular Pathology.

The written examination consists of 180 multiple-choice questions and is administered with a time limit of 3 hours. The practical examination with images contains 90 questions and has a time limit of 1.5 hours. All questions are in the one-best-answer format. The second part of the practical examination consists of 90 questions with a time limit of 2.5 hours."

Skills, Abilities, & Interests
Interest Area
InvestigativeInvolves working with ideas and requires an extensive amount of thinking.

Work Values
Social StatusLooked up to by others in their company and their community.
AchievementGet a feeling of accomplishment.
VarietyDo something different every day.
CreativityTry out your own ideas.
SecurityHave steady employment.
Ability UtilizationMake use of individual abilities.
Working ConditionsGood working conditions.
ActivityBusy all the time.
AutonomyPlan work with little supervision.
RecognitionReceive recognition for the work you do.
CompensationGet paid well in comparison with other workers.
ResponsibilityMake decisions on your own.

Learning StrategiesUse multiple approaches when learning or teaching new things.
MonitoringAssess how well someone is doing when learning or doing something.
Critical ThinkingUse logic and analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.
InstructingTeach others how to do something.
Active ListeningListen to what other people are saying and ask questions as appropriate.
WritingCommunicate effectively with others in writing as indicated by the needs of the audience.
Time ManagementManage one's own time and the time of others.
Active LearningWork with new material or information to grasp its implications.
Complex Problem SolvingSolving novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings.
Judgment and Decision MakingBe able to weigh the relative costs and benefits of a potential action.
CoordinationAdjust actions in relation to others' actions.
Reading ComprehensionUnderstand written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
SpeakingTalk to others to effectively convey information.
ScienceUse scientific methods to solve problems.

Oral ExpressionAble to convey information and ideas through speech in ways that others will understand.
Deductive ReasoningAble to apply general rules to specific problems to come up with logical answers, including deciding whether an answer makes sense.
Problem SensitivityAble to tell when something is wrong or likely to go wrong. This doesn't involve solving the problem, just recognizing that there is a problem.
Written ComprehensionAble to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Near VisionAble to see details of objects at a close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Speech ClarityAble to speak clearly so listeners understand.
Inductive ReasoningAble to combine separate pieces of information, or specific answers to problems, to form general rules or conclusions. This includes coming up with a logical explanation for why seemingly unrelated events occur together.
Written ExpressionAble to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Oral ComprehensionAble to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

More Information
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Job OutlookThe year 2006 marks the 10th year in which the ASCP Resident Council has tracked the job market for pathology residents and fellows. The data show that the job market is favorable, while the fellowship market is slightly more competitive this year compared with the past two years. Eighty-five percent of those applying for jobs received at least one offer. Of those applying for fellowship positions, 88% received at least one offer,

There are approximately 13,000 to 14,000 board certified pathologists in the United States who practice their specialty in community, university, and government hospitals and clinics, in independent laboratories, or in private offices, clinics, and other health care facilities. Some pathologists devote their careers to research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases.

More InformationAmerican Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society for Investigative Pathology, American Board of Pathology , Association of Pathology Chairs, College of American Pathologists

ReferencesAmerican Society for Clinical Pathology on the Internet at and

Outlook for the Future on the Internet at
Working conditions on the Internet at

American Society for Investigative Pathology: Brochure, “Pathology: A Career in Medicine and Clinical Pathology on the Internet at and

American Board of Pathology on the Internet at

O*NET ONLINE , Physicians and Surgeons, on the Internet at

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, Physician and Surgeons, All Other, online at