An anatomist is someone who specializes in anatomy, the physical structure of an organism. He or she may be a student or a full-fledged expert in the field, focusing on human anatomy, animal anatomy, or plant anatomy. Anatomists are very important to the biological sciences, and they have played a vital role in research and discovery for centuries. Anatomy should not be confused with pathology, which is the study of diseased organisms, although the two fields can sometimes overlap.
An anatomist can work on gross anatomy, which involves structures which can be easily seen by the eye, as well as microscopic anatomy, which involves the examination of samples under microscopy to learn more about details which can only be seen at a microscopic level. Gross anatomy is a part of the training curriculum in many medical schools, with students getting an opportunity to dissect a body to learn about the structures it contains.
An anatomist may work as an instructor in a medical school or science program. Anatomists can also work as researchers in scientific facilities and universities. In addition to dealing with actual specimens which may be dissected and examined, an anatomist can also work with historical texts to study trends in anatomy and scientific knowledge, and he or she may work with medical imaging studies and other types of images which depict anatomical structures of interest.
Some anatomists are primarily interested in specific systems, such as the skeletal system, endocrine system, or cardiovascular system. They devote the bulk of their work to understanding these systems and seeing how they operate, and learning about how systems of the body interact with each other. Others simply want to learn about whole organisms; the field of zootomy, for example, focuses on the anatomy of animals, and information about the anatomy of rare animals may be difficult to find. A phytotomist who focuses on plants may also opt to specialize in a particular family, genus, or species of plants to provide a more complete picture.
People who are interested in anatomy as a career will need at least a bachelor of science degree. Many anatomists have masters or doctoral degrees which allow them to engage in high level teaching and research, and some complete postdoctoral work under the supervision of notable members of the field. Being an anatomist can be a very interesting job, as anatomists get a chance to see what is normally hidden, and to explore the mysteries of the organisms they study.