What does a pathologists’ assistant do?
A pathologists’ assistant is a highly trained, certified allied health professional who is qualified by academic and practical training to provide services in anatomic pathology under the supervision of a licensed, board-certified, or board-eligible anatomic pathologist.
Services in both surgical and autopsy pathology include processing a variety of laboratory specimens, comprehensive macroscopic examination, and evaluating all surgical pathological specimens. Pathologists' assistants also perform postmortem examinations including prosection, assisting the pathologist with rendering the provisional anatomic diagnosis, composing the clinical history, recording the macroscopic anatomic findings, and submitting tissue sections for microscopic examination.
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
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
Higher education requirements for a pathologists’ assistant include:
- Bachelor’s degree in one of the life sciences, i.e. biology, chemistry
- Pathologists’ assistant program (a two-year program that results in a master’s degree)
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
New or recent pathologists' assistant graduates can expect a median annual salary of $80,000 - $100,000 (may be higher or lower depending on a variety of factors).
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
median annual salary
years of higher education
job growth projected from 2020-2030
Pathologists’ assistant programs at Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic offers a six-month Pathologists’ Assistant Internship in Rochester, Minnesota, and a six-month Pathologists' Assistant Clinical Rotation at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, to select students already enrolled in an accredited Pathologists’ Assistant training program.