Pathology is the study of body parts and diseases in order to learn more about how diseases affect the body. While this explanation may appear simple and straightforward, pathology has many branches and pathologists can work in a variety of settings. Depending on the pathologist’s chosen career path, they may work with both living and dead bodies, or they may choose to work with one or the other.
Anatomical pathology and clinical pathology are the two main types of pathologist careers. An anatomical pathologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis of disease through the use of biological processes in the human body. An anatomical pathologist can determine what disease is afflicting or has afflicted a person looking at the chemical and microscopic processes of the body, specifically the organs and tissue samples. Anatomical pathology includes cytopathology, which is the study of disease through cells, as well as surgical pathology and forensic pathology.
Anatomical pathologist jobs differ slightly from clinical pathologist jobs. Clinical pathologists frequently work in a pathology lab, also known as a path lab, where they test bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, and blood to diagnose disease. Clinical pathologists may collaborate with other medical professionals to ensure that laboratory equipment is current and operating properly. Pathologists can specialize in either anatomical or clinical pathology, though many choose to work in both fields. A general pathologist is a medical professional who practices both clinical and anatomical pathologies.
Human pathology is not the only type of pathology. The field of veterinary pathology is becoming increasingly popular. To determine disease and its effects on animals’ bodies, veterinary pathologists may collaborate closely with veterinarians or, more commonly, drug companies. Similarly, phytopathology, or the study of plant diseases, is concerned with diseases that affect plants. Phytopathology investigates why plants become ill, as well as how their diseases may benefit future crops, other plants, and humans, or how they may harm them.
Pathologists typically need a bachelor’s degree or higher in the field of pathology to work as pathologists. Medical pathologists in the United States are required to be licensed a licensing board. Additional education may be required for pathologist careers that are more specialized, such as veterinary pathology, phytopathology, or forensic pathology. Pathologists’ average annual salary is determined their geographic location, experience, and the type of facility where they work. As of May 2009, pathologists in the United States earned between $169,000 and $610,000 USD per year.