Pathologists’ assistants participate in autopsies and in the examination, dissection, and processing of tissue specimens.  They work under the direct supervision of a pathologist (physician who examines tissue specimens from patients and performs autopsies to diagnose the disease process involved). Pathologists’ assistants function as physician extenders.


A baccalaureate or master’s degree is required. Prerequisites vary among programs and depend on the degree offered. Baccalaureate programs require a minimum of 60 hours of acceptable credits, plus an additional training program with a minimum of 22 months, with variable specific requirements.

Curricula include both didactic and practical training to provide a sound background in the basic medical sciences and the necessary skills to work in an anatomic pathology laboratory. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, along with general, systemic, pediatric, and forensic pathology.


Pathologists’ assistants are employed in a variety of settings that include community and regional hospitals, university medical centers, private pathology laboratories, and medical examiners/coroners offices. Most work 40-55 hours per week.

Under direct supervision of a licensed and board-certified pathologist, the following services are provided by a  pathologists’ assistant:

Surgical Pathology:  Assisting in the preparation and performance of surgical specimen dissection by ensuring appropriate specimen accessioning, obtaining pertinent clinical information and studies, describing gross anatomic features, dissecting surgical specimens, preparing and submitting tissue for histologic processing, obtaining and submitting specimens for additional analytic procedures, and assisting in photographing gross and microscopic specimens.

Autopsy Pathology: Assisting in the performance of postmortem examination by ascertaining proper legal authorization; obtaining and reviewing the patient’s chart and other pertinent clinical data and studies; notifying involved personnel of all special procedures and techniques required; coordinating special requests for specimens; notifying involved clinicians and appropriate authorities and individuals; assisting in the postmortem examination; selecting and preparing tissue for histologic processing and special studies; obtaining specimens for biological and toxicologic analysis; assisting in photographing gross and microscopic specimens and photomicrography; and participating in the completion of the autopsy report.


American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
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