Pathologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Diagnoses the presence and stage of diseases using laboratory techniques and patient specimens. Studies the nature, cause, and development of diseases. May also perform autopsies.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Examines microscopic samples to identify diseases or other abnormalities.
  • Diagnoses diseases or studies medical conditions using techniques such as gross pathology, histology, cytology, cytopathology, clinical chemistry, immunology, flow cytometry, and molecular biology.
  • Writes pathology reports summarizing analyses, results, and conclusions.
  • Identifies the etiology, pathogenesis, morphological change, and clinical significance of diseases.
  • Analyzes and interprets results from tests such as microbial or parasite tests, urine analyses, hormonal assays, fine needle aspirations (FNAs), and polymerase chain reactions (PCRs).
  • Communicates pathologic findings to surgeons or other physicians.
  • Reads current literature, talks with colleagues, or participates in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in pathology.
  • Consults with physicians about ordering and interpreting tests or providing treatments.
  • Plans and supervises the work of the pathology staff, residents or visiting pathologists.
  • Reviews cases by analyzing autopsies, laboratory findings, or case investigation reports.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would sit most of the time. There's some walking and standing. You may have to lift and carry things like books, papers or tools weighing 10 lbs. or less.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours
  • Overtime work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Histopathologist -- Studies human or animal tissue to provide data to delineate cause and progress of disease that impairs body function.
  • Immunopathologist -- Studies role of the immune system in disease processes, looking at how the immune system responds to disease and where this response can go wrong.
  • Veterinary Pathologist -- Examines animal tissue and fluid samples to diagnose diseases.
  • Clinical Pathologist --