Pathologist

Healthcare
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Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Six year jobs forecast

The information is supplied by LMI For All

The role

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What's it like?

You would diagnose, prevent, treat and study illness by looking at cells and tissue samples from patients and dead bodies.

There are five main areas you could work in:

  • Chemical pathology/clinical biochemistry - study of chemicals in the blood
  • Haematology - study of disorders of the blood
  • Histopathology - study of disease in human tissue
  • Medical microbiology and virology - study of infection
  • Immunology - study of the immune system

You would work with doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

Your work would play an important part in the diagnosis of disease. It would be your responsibility to make sure that patients get the right treatment as early as possible.

Your daily tasks would depend on your specialism, but in general you would:

  • Look at blood and tissue samples to see if disease is present
  • Explain test results to other staff and give advice on the next steps
  • Treat diseases and make sure blood transfusions are safe
  • Develop vaccines against infectious diseases and inherited conditions
  • Research and develop new tests and treatments
  • Manage laboratory staff
  • Go to meetings to discuss the treatment of patients

You could become a forensic pathologist, specialising in performing autopsies on dead bodies to discover the cause of death. You would try to find out whether people died accidentally or by suicide or murder. You may sometimes have to go to court to give evidence in criminal cases.

You could also work as a veterinary pathologist and study animal disease. In this case you would have to train as a vet before specialising in pathology.

Working conditions

Environment

Pathologists work in laboratories, clinics and hospital wards. If you work in a laboratory, you will usually have to wear a lab coat. You will also wear protective gear such as safety goggles, a face mask or rubber boots depending on the work you are doing.

Hours

You will usually work Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. You may be expected to work occasional weekends and night shifts in emergencies. There are often part-time hours and opportunities for flexible working.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Working as part of a team
  • Taking the lead
  • Accuracy
  • Using computers
  • Finding solutions to problems
  • Paying attention to detail
  • Making decisions

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

You'll need to become a doctor and specialise in pathology as your career progresses. 

Your training would include:  

  • A 5-year degree in medicine (SCQF Level 10), recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • A 2-year foundation course in general training
  • 6 years of specialist training to become a consultant in a pathology specialism

The Royal College of Pathologists has more information about becoming a pathologist.

To enter a medical degree (SCQF level 10) requires National 5 qualifications and at least five Highers at AAAAB or above, usually achieved at one sitting. Most people also study Advanced Highers in science subjects. 

If you have five good Highers but do not have the science subjects required, Dundee University runs a 6-year course which includes a pre-medical year (SCQF level 10).

Glasgow Kelvin College offers an Access to Medical Studies (SWAP) for adults who do not have the required qualifications.

Perth College and the University of Highlands and Islands offer a Higher National Certificate (SCFQ level 7) Pathways to Medicine course requiring National 5 qualifications and at least one Higher.

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by most courses)
  • Chemistry (required by most courses)
  • Biology (required by most courses)
  • Physics (required by most courses)
  • Human biology (required by some courses)
  • English
  • Care
  • Social subjects such as psychology

You will also need

Before applying to medical school you must sit the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT).

You need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

You should be fit and healthy.

You must provide evidence that you do not have, and have been immunised against, Hepatitis B.

Helpful to have

Any extra qualifications that show your understanding of the sciences, health and medicine such as Skills for Work Health Sector (SCQF level 4/5) or Laboratory Science (SCQF level 5).