How To Become A Pathologist

Stan T.Career, Requirements

How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More


Pathologists diagnose presence and stage of diseases using laboratory techniques and patient specimens. Study the nature, cause, and development of diseases. May perform autopsies.

Becoming One
Very Hard
Doctoral degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Interest Match

Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take


Degree Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree
License or certification Required
Duration to become one 10 to 12 years
Difficulty to become one Very Hard

Pathologists need a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, which first requires a Bachelor’s degree.

Pathologists often earn undergraduate degrees in Premedical Studies, Biology, or Chemistry before attending medical school.

After completing medical school and a residency program, Pathologists need to earn a state license and board certification.

Pathologists Requirements

Step 1: Study Chemistry and Biology In High School

Aspiring Pathologists should study Chemistry and Biology in high school, as this career requires strong Science skills.

Pathology summer programs and internships are available for high school students and recent high school graduates. These programs provide a closer look at the field of Pathology and may increase your chances of getting into a competitive Pathology program.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a Bachelor’s degree is required before earning a Doctor of Medicine (MD). Common majors include Biology and Chemistry. Aspiring Pathologists typically earn a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) in Biology or Chemistry with a focus on Pre-Medical Studies.

BS programs typically take four years to complete. During your first two years, you will take foundational courses, such as Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. The last two years of your Bachelor’s program includes more advanced studies and may provide training in clinical settings.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

After earning a Bachelor’s degree, you may look for entry-level work to gain experience before enrolling in medical school or a Master’s degree program. Examples of entry-level jobs include Clinical Laboratory Technician and Research Laboratory Technologist. This is an optional step that can help round out your education and training.

Step 4: Earn a Master’s Degree

Earning a Master’s degree is another optional step that provides additional laboratory training and clinical experience. Suitable Master’s programs include Pathology, Biochemistry, and Microbiology.

A Master’s degree can also prepare you for entry-level work in the field of Pathology. A Master’s degree is often the educational requirement for working as a Pathologist Assistant or a Laboratory Manager.

Step 5: Earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) Degree

Pathologists require a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, which typically takes four years to complete. Before enrolling in a medical school, you need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

The MCAT is administered jointly by the American Association of Colleges and Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The first two years of medical school focus on coursework and lab work. During your last two years, you will start rotations, which involves working in a variety of medical settings, such as hospitals and clinics.

Step 6: Complete a Residency Program

After completing your MD program, you begin a residency program that focuses on Pathology. Residency programs typically last two to four years and may involve work in a hospital or clinical setting where you interact with patients.

If you plan on pursuing a subspecialty of the Pathology field, such as Chemical Pathology or Dermatopathology, consider looking for a fellowship program after completing your residency program. Fellowships provide specialized training for the various subspecialties of Pathology and may last one to three years.

Step 7: Become Licensed and Certified as a Pathologist

You will need to become licensed to practice medicine in your state and board-certified by the American Board of Pathology. The board certification requirements include the completion of an MD program, a residency program, and an exam.

Applying for a state license may also require an exam. Medical licensing requirements vary by state and often include verification of your education and training.

Step 8: Start Looking For Work as a Pathologist

After becoming licensed and certified, you may start working as a professional Pathologist. Look for work at hospitals, clinics, forensics departments, pharmaceutical companies, and other workplaces in the healthcare field.

Step 9: Earn a Doctor of Philosophy In Pathology

If you decide to move from practicing Pathology to researching Pathology, you may need to earn a PhD. A Doctor of Philosophy in Pathology typically requires two or three years of study and the completion of original research.

What degree do most Pathologists have

Doctoral degree

We did a survey to ask other Pathologists what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Post-Doctoral Training

Doctoral degree

First Professional degree

How long does it take

10 to 12 years

Pathologists need to earn a Bachelor’s degree and an MD degree, which each take four years to complete. You also need to complete a residency program, adding another two to four years to your training.

Learn more about Pathologists

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