Online Pathology Assistant Degree Program Information

Pathology assistants work under the supervision of pathologists to examine surgical specimens, such as biopsies and resections, and conduct autopsies. While online pathology assistant programs are not available at this time, several schools do offer-campus based training that can lead to a Master of Science. Continue reading to learn more about admission and degree requirements, course topics and salary potential.

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Essential Information

Based upon information obtained from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are less than ten schools in the United States that offer pathology assistants' programs. Programs that have been approved by the NAACLS are especially designed to help students acquire the knowledge and technical training they need to obtain important industry certifications. Students can also pursue national certifications through the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants (AAPA). The majority of the degree programs lead to a Master of Science, and as of January 2014, none of them can be completed online.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific information for pathology assistants, it does report that individual facilities and states may require clinical and medical laboratory technologists to be certified and/or licensed. Pre-licensure requirements can include a bachelor's degree in a relevant field of study, a passing score on an exam and a professional certification.

Alternative Degree Options

Some schools do offer undergraduate degree or graduate certificate programs in medical laboratory science that have been approved by the NAACLS. The programs can help students prepare for the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) exam and usually culminate in a Bachelor of Science. While all or most of the coursework can be completed entirely online, students will also have to participate in a site-based, clinical residency. Online graduate certificates may require approximately 12-36 credits to complete and can provide clinical lab and medical professionals with additional information about cellular and clinical pathology, human anatomy, genetics and immunology.


Master of Science in Pathology Assistants' Programs

Bachelor of Science in Pathology Assistants' degrees are rare; most programs lead to a Master of Science. In general, the programs are designed to teach students how to dissect and examine human tissue or assist in autopsies. Learning outcomes include successful preparation for the ASCP exam. Qualified graduates may be able to find positions in hospitals, independent pathology labs, medical examiner offices or university medical centers, among other facilities.

Admission requirements typically include a substantial background in anatomic pathology and lab work, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and a writing sample. Completion of undergraduate and prerequisite coursework in general and organic chemistry, biology and microbiology is also required.

Program Information and Requirements

A Master of Science program typically takes two years to complete and includes both classroom and clinical components. Most instruction takes place during the first year, and students may also learn about pathology lab procedures. During the second year, assistants-in-training participate in clinical rotations at hospitals or other related facilities. Some programs offer anatomic pathology clerkships.

Course Topics

Students in a pathology assistants' program learn about the relationship between anatomical structure and functions. Topics in general pathology are covered, including cellular variations, environmental pathology, pediatric disorders and tissue injuries, among other subjects. Some of the common courses found in a Master of Science program are described below.

Autopsy Pathology

Students become familiar with all aspects of a postmortem exam, as well as the procedures used in autopsy services and hospital morgues. The importance of documentation, such as consent forms, death certificates and postmortem findings, will be discussed. Future pathology assistant also receive instruction in evisceration and organ block dissection.

Structure and Development

This course helps students acquire an in-depth understanding of human gross anatomy and microanatomy. Through lectures and lab work, aspiring professionals learn how to dissect cadavers, pursue topics in embryology and work with histological slides.

Systemic Pathology

This is a comprehensive course of study that covers the diseases associated with the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, reproductive and respiratory systems. Through computer-based lab and lecture work, students learn about the disorders that can affect the bones, nerves, organs and skin, among other anatomical areas.

Career Information

According to the BLS, opportunities for medical laboratory technologists are projected to increase by 14% from 2012 to 2022. As compared to all other occupations, this constitutes a fast-as-average rate of growth (www.bls.gov). In January 2014, PayScale.com reported a median annual salary for pathology assistants nationwide of $51,879 (www.payscale.com). In the same month, Salary.com projected a median annual salary of $74,993 for pathology assistants (www1.salary.com).

Continuing Education

According to the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants, professionals who were certified through the ASCP must participate in the organization's Certification Maintenance Program. To maintain their certifications, individuals must complete a total of 45 credits over a 3-year period, with a minimum of one safety point and 20 points in anatomic pathology required.

AAPA continuing education credits can be earned by attending hospital lectures, taking quizzes and viewing videotaped presentations. Pathology assistants can also earn points by conducting workshops, displaying posters at the yearly conference and serving on committees, among other activities. An entire year of credits can be earned by attending the association's annual conference. Additional points can be obtained by renewing membership in the ASCP.

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