Pathology is a clinical specialty in which scientists collect and analyze blood, tissue, and body fluid samples to diagnose diseases. There are several different pathology jobs available to individuals with varying levels of education and experience, such as laboratory technicians, technologists, and licensed physicians. In addition, there are many different areas of specialization within the field, such as cytology, hematology, dermatopathology, and forensic studies. Most pathology jobs are found at hospitals and other clinical settings, though some pathologists work in private research laboratories and universities.
Licensed pathologists are medical doctors who use their expert knowledge of the nature of disease to make diagnoses and suggest treatment options. Some pathologists work in medical laboratories, supervising experiments on tissue and blood samples and interpreting the results. They may perform autopsies or biopsies to discover the causes of certain maladies. Other pathologists specialize in providing direct care, using the results of physical examinations and laboratory tests to confirm diseases and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Certified clinical laboratory technologists and technicians hold many pathology jobs. A technologist is usually in charge of operating lab equipment and performing the actual tests on samples. He or she might use chemical agents to check the contents of a blood sample or employ a microscope to examine suspicious cells. Laboratory technicians typically act as assistants to technologists, and may be in charge of collecting samples for study, setting up lab equipment and experiments, translating results into reports, and cleaning the lab.
Pathologists, technologists, and technicians frequently specialize in one or more areas of pathology. Cytopathologists, for example, study individual cells from various parts of the human body in order to detect irregularities, such as cancer. Hematology experts analyze blood samples and facilitate safe blood transfusions, while dermatopathologists specialize in diagnosing various skin disorders. Forensic pathologists and their assistants perform autopsies on deceased persons to identify causes of death, in hopes of using such information to help future patients.
Hospitals provide the largest number of different pathology jobs, since many pathologists directly engage with hospital patients. Other pathologist jobs can be found in research institutions and independent laboratories, which provide services to doctors in private practice. Forensic pathologists frequently work in coroner's offices, which may be located inside a hospital or in a separate facility. In addition, an experienced pathologist may choose to teach medical science courses at a college or university, preparing the next generation of medical experts for their future pathology jobs.