Pathologists diagnose disease by examining cells, tissue samples, and sometimes performing autopsies

What does a pathologist do?

Pathologists are doctors who diagnose disease by examining cells and tissue samples, and sometimes through performing autopsies.

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • examining the results of blood tests, smear tests, and tissue removal
  • explaining test results and giving advice on further medical assessments
  • treating diseases and making sure blood transfusions are safe
  • developing vaccines against infectious diseases and inherited conditions
  • researching and developing new tests and treatments
  • organising work in laboratories and supervising other laboratory staff
  • attending meetings with other health professionals to discuss the treatment of individual patients

What do I need to do to become a pathologist?

You can get into this job through a university course.


To become a pathologist you'll need a:

  • five-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council
  • two-year general training foundation course
  • five or six-year specialist training programme in pathology

If you do not have qualifications in science, you may be able to take a six-year degree course in medicine, which includes a one-year pre-medical or foundation year.

If you already have a degree in a science subject, minimum grade upper second class, you could take a fast-track four-year graduate entry programme into medicine.

When you apply for a course in medicine, you may be asked to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to check your suitability for a career in medicine.

There's a lot of competition for places on medical degrees. Most university admissions departments will expect you to have done some relevant paid or voluntary experience.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths, and a science
  • three A levels at grade A in chemistry ,and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject


You'll need to register with the General Medical Council

Other routes

To become a veterinary pathologist, you'll need to train as a vet. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has more information about becoming a vet.

Related skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • IT
  • Leadership
  • People management
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork

Related subjects

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Maths
  • Physics

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

You could work in an NHS or private hospital, or in a laboratory. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career opportunities

With experience, you may go on to lead a team or manage a department.
With experience and entry on the General Medical Council (GMC) Specialist Register, you could apply for senior (or consultant) roles.
You could also progress to teaching and training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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