Medical Pathologist: Education Requirements & Career Info
Medical pathology is a form of medicine that studies fluids and tissue samples to identify diseases. Pathologists often work closely with other medical professionals to help determine the cause of a sickness. Like all physicians, medical pathologists need significant graduate schooling.
Medical Pathology Educational Requirements
The medical pathology field comprises anatomical and clinical pathology, and there are also many specializations, such as renal, neurology, dermatology and hematology. Besides diagnosing patients and prescribing treatment, pathologists must be adept at using laboratory equipment to test samples and make determinations. Pathologists are good at science and can apply scientific principles to solving problems.
Like all physicians, medical pathologists must undergo extensive educational requirements, including medical school and a residency program. Those who wish to specialize will need to undergo a fellowship as well.
According to Payscale.com in October 2013, the median salary for medical pathologists was $175,794, with most respondents reporting incomes between $99,254 and $289,376.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least three years of undergraduate study is required for medical school admittance, but most students earn a bachelor's degree before applying (www.bls.gov). While there isn't an undergraduate major specific to medical pathology, aspiring doctors can benefit by choosing a physical science major. Some schools offer pre-medicine programs that include coursework and labs in biology, chemistry and anatomy. Undergraduate students might consider volunteering in research laboratories or at hospitals.
In the first two years of medical school, students complete pre-clinical courses, which include foundational courses in the bodily systems, major diseases and patient care methodology. The last two years include clinical rotations that introduce medical students to a hospital environment. During the clinical years, students complete core and elective experiences of varying lengths. Basic pathology is part of the core requirements, and students can usually take additional pathology electives.
Prospective medical students may use the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) to search from the 135 programs they have approved for accreditation. According to the LCME, students must attend an accredited medical school to be eligible for a residency programs and state licensure (www.lcme.org).
Most medical pathologists choose a 4-year residency that combines anatomic and clinical pathology. Residencies allow individuals to practice biotechnological concepts that include image analysis, cytogenetics and protein biochemistry. Residents receive benefits, such as health insurance and stipends, that may increase as they advance through the program. Those who complete a residency are eligible to become board certified by taking the American Board of Pathology certification examination (www.abpath.org).
Potential residents may consult the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) for accredited residencies and fellowships in pathology. The ACGME's member organizations include the American Medical Association, and the accreditation process is based on professional standards and peer reviews.
Individuals wishing to specialize in pathology will need to complete a fellowship after their residencies. Pathology specialties may be in a specific form of medicine, such as pediatrics or procedural-based medicine. Fellowships last 1-2 years and provide intensive research opportunities while allowing fellows greater freedom with patients and the chance to supervise medical students.
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