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Pathology Assistant Certification and Diploma Program Information

Pathology assistant programs prepare workers for conducting laboratory pathology tests, dissecting tissue samples and preparing reports for pathologists. Get details on the certification and licensure process, what's needed to apply for admission and courses commonly found in a diploma program.

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Essential Information

Pathology assistant diploma programs are extremely hard to find, but those who complete graduate-level pathologist's assistants programs also earn master's degrees in health science. State standards to work as pathology assistants include earning certification, then licensure.

Pathologist's assistant programs prepare professionals for careers that involve providing pathologists with medical and clerical support, which can include securing medical records and test results, examining specimens, conducting autopsies and documenting medical information. A bachelor's degree in a science field is required, but majors not in the sciences can take coursework to become eligible.

In these 2-year graduate programs, students learn about the different fields of pathology, such as clinical, anatomic, cytopathology, neuropathology and hematopathology. Students also receive extensive experience working in medical laboratories and communicating with other medical professionals.

Education Prerequisites

Most universities require that program applicants already hold bachelor's degrees related to the sciences, particularly chemistry, biology or medical technology. Applicants who hold bachelor's degrees in non-science related fields may still be eligible if they complete prerequisite coursework, which usually includes multiple courses in chemistry, math and biology. Some of these prerequisite courses must include laboratory experience.

Course Topics

Since these programs are designed to prepare students to assist pathologists in multiple fields, course topics often cover all the main pathology subfields. Students are also required to complete clinical rotations that allow them to learn from experienced pathologists in different medical settings. Required coursework for the pathologist's assistant program may include:

  • Anatomical pathology
  • Forensic photography
  • Surgical pathology
  • Diagnostic technologies
  • Autopsy pathology

Possible Career Options

Graduating from this program may only prepare individuals for careers as pathology assistants, but workers in this field still have multiple career options. For example, assistants can specialize in different types of pathology. Assistants can also choose to work in different medical settings, such as:

  • Autopsy facilities
  • Medical teaching institutions
  • Clinical pathology laboratories
  • Hospitals
  • Medical examiner departments

Continuing Education Information

Pathologist's assistants are similar to physician's assistants, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these types of medical professionals are usually required to be licensed in accordance with state guidelines (www.bls.gov). The National Institutes of Health reported that in order for pathologist's assistants to become licensed, they usually must first become certified through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (www.nih.gov).

Before taking the certification exam, an applicant must meet the eligibility requirements, which include a bachelor's degree and completing a recognized pathology assistant program. The certification exam includes multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as anatomy, pathology techniques, laboratory operations and pathology fundamentals. In order to renew certification every three years, workers must complete continuing education coursework in areas such as medical pathology quality control, medical management strategies and anatomic pathology.

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