Pathology is the study of disease. Pathologists work with doctors and nurses in hospitals and GPs' surgeries to diagnose, treat and prevent illness.
No, but you wouldn't be alone if you thought this. A survey found that over two thirds of people thought that pathologists worked only with the dead, as shown in television programmes like CSI and Silent Witness. In fact, although some pathologists do perform autopsies (also called 'post mortems'), this is only a small proportion of their work and the majority of pathologists work for the benefit of living patients. Every time someone has a blood test, cervical smear or a lump removed, it's a pathologist who looks at the specimen to work out if there's any disease present or not.
There are 19 different specialties, with their own training programmes and exams. Pathologists work in laboratories, in clinics and on hospital wards.
The four main pathology specialties are histopathology (the study of disease in human tissue such as cancer), haematology (the study of disorders of the blood such as leukaemia ), clinical biochemistry (the study of chemicals in the blood and other fluids) and medical microbiology (the study of infection).
Some of the broader specialties include sub-specialties where pathologists have gone on to specialise in a particular area. Histopathology, for example, includes neuropathology (the study of diseases of the brain and nerves), dermatopathology (the study of diseases of the skin) and paediatric pathology (the study of disorders of babies and children).
To work as a pathologist in any of the pathology specialties you need to qualify as a doctor first before going into pathology training.
Pathologists are doctors who specialise in one of the pathology specialties after completing their basic medical training at medical school and as a junior hospital doctor. Many pathologists choose to complete further training in non-pathology specialties before entering pathology.
So to become a pathologist you need to go to medical school for 5 or 6 years first. You will need good A level results to get into medical school. Most students take a combination of maths, chemistry, physics and biology and obtain A grades.
Doctors in training earn a basic salary, In the most junior hospital trainee post (Foundation Year 1) the basic starting salary is £22,412. This increases in Foundation Year 2 to £27,798. For a doctor in specialist training the basic starting salary is £29,705.
Consultants can earn a basic salary of between £74,504 and £100,446 per year, dependent on length of service.
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In addition to medically qualified pathologists who have completed a medical degree, there are other types of experts are also needed within the various pathology specialties:
You can find out more about pathology at the Royal College of Pathologists or on our Facebook page.