A pathology degree is not for the faint of heart. A medical pathologist is a doctor who studies diseases and the causes of why people die. A pathologist can also work with live patients to determine the cause of a disease, or to determine which disease a person has. Because of this, lab work is considered a large part of a pathologist's job and is where a pathologist spends most of his or her time.
Often a medical pathologist will work in a hospital, a morgue or with a forensic science team, although rarely, some people with pathology degrees do set up private practices. Increasingly, pathologists are hired by drug manufacturers to test how their trial medications affect people, and remain on hand if something goes wrong. Obtaining a pathology degree is not easy, and to work as a medical pathologist, a person often must have more than four years of schooling from an accredited university. Continuing education is often necessary to keep up to date on current practices, and more schooling may be required if a person wishes to specialize in a certain area, such as hematology (the study of blood), for example, or neuropathology (the study of the brain).
To obtain a pathology degree, a person generally must first complete a bachelor’s degree in a medical or scientific field. Biology and pre-medical studies are both good choices for someone who wants to become a pathologist. These four years are often followed by a two-year postgraduate degree in one of any number of approved pathology programs, and hours of clinical lab work are often a requirement as well. Undergraduate pathology courses are also available to help prepare students for the necessary postgraduate studies.
Most colleges and universities offer some form of training for students who are pursuing a career in pathology, although there are specific pathology colleges such as the New York Medical Pathology College for students in the United States. As with most medical careers, after obtaining the required pathology degree students must also pass applicable licensing examinations depending upon their geographic location and the job they are seeking. The demand for pathologists is expected to grow, as there is always a demand for researchers and those who can determine how and why a human body has failed to work properly. As more people age and as medical technology advances, the need for individuals with a pathology degree is expected to remain steady, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.