Last updated July 12, 2024

A patient is rushed to the emergency room after fainting on the street. He regains consciousness and complains of severe stomach pain.  Because there are many possible reasons for this pain, a pathologist must step in to help solve the mystery.

The pathologist will analyze the patient’s blood and look for abnormalities. If surgery is necessary, he or she will also examine tissue samples. The pathologist's tests and conclusions will help the medical team identify the cause of the patient’s pain. Once they’ve found the cause, they can begin treatment.

Pathologists are doctors who study the cause and development of disease. Most choose a specialty such as genetics or forensic pathology. Forensic pathology is the use of pathology for legal purposes, one of which is deciding cause of death.

Did You Know?

Most pathologists help living people and study their diseases, not corpses.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Spend years studying and training, and a lifetime keeping up with advances in medicine
  • Balance heavy workloads with your personal life
  • Work closely with other doctors
  • Improve and save lives, or serve justice and solve the mysteries behind deaths

It Helps To Be...

A crack investigator and a good communicator. You’ll need to listen carefully as doctors and patients describe symptoms. Each patient presents a new set of variables. The ability to recognize the common threads among diseases makes a pathologist's advice and expertise particularly valuable.


Make High School Count

  • Take plenty of challenging math and science classes including AP® courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus.
  • Enhance your communication skills through English composition, speech, and drama classes.
  • Sign up for psychology to learn about human nature and explore the mind-body connection.
  • Volunteer at a health clinic, hospital, women’s clinic, or eldercare facility.

Did You Know?

Forensic pathology is only one of many specialties in this field. Others include pediatric pathology, chemical pathology, and molecular genetic pathology.