Pathologists are doctors who study human tissues in laboratory conditions to help establish diagnoses, determine causes of death and share their findings with other medical professionals. If you like the idea of this kind of work, but do not want to spend the required time in medical school and residency, a master's degree through a medical school can prepare you for a career as a pathology assistant.
Colleges typically design pathology assistant programs for students with bachelor's degrees in science fields, such as cytotechnology and laboratory science. Other options include nursing, medical technology and forensic sciences, but any science background may be acceptable. A minimum grade point average for earlier work may be required, such as West Virginia University’s 3.0 minimum. The few bachelor's programs available, such as Wayne State University in Detroit, may have similar standards. WSU requires a 2.5 cumulative GPA with a minimum grade of C in prerequisite courses such as cell biology, genetics, organic chemistry and an elementary functions mathematics course.
Most pathology assistant programs are offered at schools in the midwest. The pathology assistant program at Indiana University's medical school teaches students how to freeze and prepare tissue for the pathologist's study, perform testing and examination on cadavers and deal with administrative duties of a clinic or hospital department. Courses build on the science base with upper-level study of areas such as histology, anatomy, and autopsy and forensic techniques. Students participate in a practicum during their second year of study. At the University of Maryland, first-semester students take "Structure and Development (Anatomy, Histology and Embryology)" and a minimum grade of C is required to continue in the program. Classes then cover pathology, histology and laboratory administration. Clinical rotation beginning the first summer after entry into the program includes work at hospitals like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical Center. The program boasts a 100 percent passing rate for the American Society of Clinical Pathology certification exam. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago offers a similar program.
The program at West Virginia University's medical school leads to a master's degree in health science, rather than the more general master's in science and is one of the few pathology assistant programs offered in the southern U.S. Students may be accepted with any undergraduate major, but coursework in medical technology, biology and forensic science study is necessary. Students study areas such as pathology, microbiology, disease mechanisms, microanatomy and forensic photography in the first year. The second year entails brief pathology review courses, but focuses on clinical experience. Duke University in North Carolina also awards a Master of Health Sciences degree appropriate for pathology assistant studies, requiring similar coursework and clinical rotation, culminating in an oral presentation.
Drexel University's pathology assistant program accepts no more than 17 students out of 60 to 70 applicants. First-year students study with some laboratory work and spend the second year in clinical rotation. Drexel's program differs from some in the support students receive, including counseling in educational or personal issues, various support groups, academic assessment, assistance in dealing with stress and free individual and group tutoring. Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, includes a course on medical imaging. Students at Quinnipiac meet weekly at the Veterans Administration Medical Center throughout the academic part of the program to prepare for clinical experiences.
- Indiana University School of Medicine: Pathologists Assistant
- West Virginia University: Pathologists' Assistant Program Curriculum
- University of Maryland School of Medicine: Pathologists' Assistant Program
- Drexel University College of Medicine: Pathologists' Assistant (PathA) Program Frequently Asked Questions
- Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science: Curriculum
- Quinnipiac University School of Health Sciences: Pathologists' Assistant
- Duke University School of Medicine: Pathologists' Assistant Degree Requirements
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.