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Mayo Clinic pathologist assistants examine a sample

What does a pathologists’ assistant do?

Working under the supervision of a pathologist, a pathologists’ assistant examines, dissects, and processes tissue samples. These highly trained health professionals may perform forensic and hospital autopsies, while others conduct surgery on specimens for diagnoses.

Scope of practice

Pathologists’ assistants work with pathologists, medical laboratory scientists, doctors, and nurses. Common tasks and duties include:

  • Submitting tissue samples for testing
  • Examining body parts removed during surgery
  • Performing postmortem examinations
  • Photographing the body and individual organs
  • Research and training pathology residents, pathologists’ assistant students, and other pathology lab personnel

Work environment

Pathologists’ assistants work in hospitals, pathology labs, forensic labs, and morgues. They spend most of their time on their feet in the lab. Hours for the job can vary, but they typically have regular, weekday schedules. Some weekend work may be available.

Becoming a pathologists’ assistant

Individuals interested in becoming a pathologists’ assistant should take advantage of math and science courses in high school, to prepare for college courses in these subjects.

Higher education requirements

Typically, higher education requirements for a pathologists’ assistant includes:

  • Bachelor’s degree in one of the life sciences like biology or chemistry
  • Pathologists’ assistant program (typically a two-year program that results in a master’s degree)

Certification process

After completing a pathologists’ assistant program, you must become certified through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). In order to take the certification exam, you must have a bachelor’s degree and must have completed an accredited pathologists’ assistant program within a five-year period. To remain certified, you must complete continuing education coursework every three years.

Career opportunities and outlook

Pathologists’ assistants can expect a median annual salary of $86,000.

According to the American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants, the demand for qualified pathologists’ assistants is growing. This is due in part to increased pressure to control health care costs.

With additional experience, some pathologists’ assistants take on administrative, supervisory, or teaching roles.

By the numbers

Pathologists’ assistant programs at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic offers a two-month Pathologists’ Assistant Internship in Rochester, Minnesota to prepare students for a career as a pathologists’ assistant.

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