If working with dead bodies sounds like an ideal day, consider a career as a morgue technician or pathology assistant. Both involve postmortem examinations and work at the direction of licensed medical professionals. Both professions also offer substantial opportunities for women. Several differences separate these two careers, including the necessary education and job duties.
Assisting the Pathologist
Pathologists examine tissue from bodies for evidence of disease, and their assistants aid them in completing their tasks. Pathologists' assistants have earned a bachelor's degree in pathology. There is no licensing requirement, but the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants does offer certificates for assistants who meet certain requirements. Though they are allowed to perform numerous laboratory duties without supervision, most of their research work requires direction from a licensed pathologist. As an assistant, you may also perform administrative duties, like answering calls and maintaining the pathologist's schedule.
Maintaining the Morgue
Morgue technicians are also called coroner or forensic technicians. Their major responsibility is to manage the upkeep of the morgue and assist the medical examiner in preparing for autopsies. Technicians ensure that all equipment is in working order and necessary supplies are in stock. When a death occurs, the technician transports the body from the location of death to the morgue. You catalog the deceased's belongings, label the body and properly store it. If you have adequate credentials, you are allowed to prepare the body for autopsy and assist the examiner during the procedure. Following the autopsy, the technician is responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the area for the next examination.
Pathology assistants generally work in hospital laboratories, private research labs and teaching facilities, according to the AAPA. Morgue technicians work in hospital and city morgues. While assistants are required to have college degrees, technicians generally only need a high school or GED diploma. The salaries between the two professions differ greatly. Pathologists' assistants earn an average yearly salary of $72,000, according to Explore Health Careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies morgue technicians as medical assistants. The average salary for these positions is listed at $28,860 per year.
The similarities between these two careers are plentiful. Both work with postmortem bodies. Pathology assistants extract tissue from the bodies for further examination by the pathologist. Morgue technicians process bodies and prepare them for autopsy. Technicians have to maintain the upkeep of the morgue examination area, while pathology assistants maintain the examination area in a laboratory. Employees in both careers work various schedules, depending on the needs of the employment facilities.
Assistants Vs. Technicians
In choosing between these two careers, consider the amount of education you are willing to obtain. Generally, the more education you acquire, the more options for employment you have. Pathology assistants are qualified to work as morgue technicians and take part in the autopsy procedure with direct supervision. However, not all technicians are qualified to be pathology assistants, due to the educational requirements. You should also contemplate the amount of clinical work you want to perform. While pathology assistants are able to take part in research and examinations, morgue technicians generally perform duties that are less clinical in nature.
- American Association of Pathologists' Assistants: What Is a Pathologist's Assistant?
- Explore Health Careers: Pathologist's Assistant
- UVA Medical System Job Description: Autopsy Job Description
- Santa Cruz County: Coroner Forensic Technician
- City of Denver: Forensic Autopsy Technician
- Mott Community College: Autopsy Assistant Certificate
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical Assistants
- Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images