- Become a specialist doctor analysing cells and tissue samples to diagnose disease
- You may need to perform autopsies in some settings/specialisms
- You can progress to lead a team or department or become a consultant
As a pathologist, you'll help patients get the treatment they need as early as possible. You'll specialise in an area like chemical pathology or clinical biochemistry (studying chemicals in the blood), haematology (looking at blood disorders), histopathology (studying disease in human tissue), medical microbiology and virology (looking at infection), immunology (studying the immune system), forensic (performing autopsies for medical and legal purposes).
- Examining the results of blood tests, smear tests and tissue removal
- Explaining test results and giving advice on further medical assessments
- Treating diseases and making sure blood transfusions are safe
- Developing vaccines against infectious diseases and inherited conditions
- Researching and developing new tests and treatments
- Organising work in laboratories and supervising other laboratory staff
- Attending meetings with other health professionals to discuss the treatment of individual patients
Consultant pathologists working in the private sector may be paid more. You could work in an NHS or private hospital, or in a laboratory. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding, and you might have to wear protective clothing.
To be a pathologist, you'll need knowledge of medicine and dentistry and biology, the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure, thinking and reasoning skills, thoroughness and attention to detail, analytical thinking skills, excellent verbal communication skills, and complex problem-solving skills.
To get into this role, you'll need a 5-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medicine Council, a 2-year general training foundation course, and a 5 or 6-year specialist training programme in pathology.
If you do not have qualifications in science, you could do a 6-year degree course in medicine, which includes a 1-year pre-medical or foundation year.
If you already have a degree in a science subject, minimum grade upper second class, you could take a fast-track 4-year graduate entry programme into medicine.
When you apply for medicine, you might have to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to check your suitability for this career.
Competition is high for medicine degrees, so most university admissions departments will expect you to have some relevant paid or voluntary experience.
You'll need to register with the General Medical Council.
To become a veterinary pathologist, you'll need to train as a vet. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has more information.
With experience, you may go on to lead a team or manage a department. With experience and entry on the General Medical Council (GMC) Specialist Register, you could apply for senior (or consultant) roles. You could also progress to teaching and training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.