Also referred to as a “PA,” a pathologist assistant is a certified professional who assists a supervising pathologist in diagnosing diseases and determining the cause of an illness or death of an individual. Professionals in this field typically choose one of two specialty areas to work in: surgical pathology or autopsy pathology. PAs will prepare and assist with postmortem exams, along with intricate dissection of human tissue for analysis purposes. The path to becoming a pathologists’ assistant can be lucrative, but requires a high level of education, typically a master’s degree in health science with a strong background in chemistry, biology, and math.
Skills and Duties
- Examine tissue samples
- Prepare biological tissues for testing
- Determine what the supervising pathologist should examine for the diagnosis of a patient
- Process lab specimens; examine specimens; dissect specimens; photograph specimens
- Review medical history of the deceased patient
- Gain legal approval for performing an autopsy (specific to autopsy pathology PAs)
- Assist in postmortem exam or autopsy (specific to autopsy pathology PAs)
- Coordinate specimens for organ transplantation or for research (specific to autopsy pathology PAs)
Salary InsightsAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for pathologists' assistants in 2016 was $101,480¹. The lowest ten percent earned $65,620 while the top ten percent of earners took home over $142,210¹.
Employment for pathologists' assistants is expected to grow 37% between 2016 and 2026¹
¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physician Assistants, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm (visited October 27, 2017).