Page Content
Mayo Clinic pathologist assistants examine a sample

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

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

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)

Certification process

After completing a pathologists’ assistant program, you must become certified through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). 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

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 healthcare costs.

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

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.

Browse similar careers

Mayo Clinic histology technician analyzing samples

Histology technician

Mayo Clinic medical laboratory scientist working in a lab

Medical laboratory scientist

Mayo Clinic molecular genetic technologist analyzing samples

Molecular genetics technologist