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Job Description

Pathologists diagnose diseases by examining cells and tissue samples, and sometimes through performing autopsies.  There are five main areas within pathology:

  • Chemical pathology/clinical biochemistry - study of chemicals in the blood
  • Haematology - study of disorders of the blood
  • Histopathology - study of disease in human tissue
  • Medical microbiology and virology - study of infection
  • Immunology - study of the immune system

Responsibilities will depend on which specialism you are involved in but in general they will include:

  • Studying blood and tissue samples to see if disease is present
  • Sharing test results with other staff and advising on next steps for patients
  • Treating disease and make sure blood transfusions are safe
  • Developing vaccines against infectious diseases and inherited conditions
  • Researching and developing new tests and treatments

Other specialisms include forensic pathology which involves performing postmortems on dead bodies to discover the cause of death.  

Entry Requirements

To become a pathologist you'll need:

  • 5-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council
  • 2-year general training foundation course
  • 5 or 6-year specialist training programme in pathology

For your degree course you will usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths and a science
  • 3 A levels including chemistry and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject

If you do not have qualifications in science, you may be able to take 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 a course in medicine, you may be asked to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to check your suitability for a career in medicine.

Career Tips/Further information

There's a lot of competition for places on medical degree courses. Most university admissions departments will expect you to have done some relevant paid or voluntary experience.

You will need to register with the General Medical Council.

You can find more information about becoming a pathologist at the Royal College of Pathoglogists.

Career Path and Progression

With experience you may go on to leading a team or managing a department.

You could progress to teaching and training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Required Skills

  • knowledge of medicine and dentistry
  • knowledge of biology
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • complex problem-solving skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

Salary Range

£27,689 to £74,661

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