What Is a Pathologist Technician?

Pathologist technicians use complex equipment in medical laboratories.
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Pathologists are physicians who study the nature of disease at the microscopic level by evaluating and testing the tissues and fluids of the body. They examine dead bodies during autopsies and assist doctors during surgeries to provide a diagnosis on biopsies. The pathologist technician or assistant helps the physician by preparing, processing, and examining tissue and fluid specimens in a medical laboratory.

Working as a Pathologist Technician

    Pathologist technicians assist in the collection and preparation of tissue and body fluid samples. The work involves preparing slides for evaluation and testing and maintaining the quality standards in the preservation and storage of specimens in the laboratory. To evaluate specimens, technicians must use complex lab equipment to perform microscopic examinations and testing of tissues and body fluids. The position also requires the individual to assist pathologists during autopsies.

Training for a Career

    Pathologist assistants must have a bachelor's degree and complete a separate pathologist assistant training program. Pathologist assistant programs require two years of study in courses such as molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, microscopic human anatomy, pathology and immunology. These programs also require students to complete clinical rotations to develop their skills in surgical pathology methods.

Obtaining Credentials

    The American Society for Clinical Pathology offers a specialist certification for pathologist assistants. To qualify for the certification examination, applicants must have a bachelor's degree and complete a pathologist assistant program within the five years prior to applying for the credentialing exam. The American Society for Clinical Pathology requires that the pathologist assistant program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. The certification examination consists of 100 multiple-choice questions in areas such as the fundamentals of pathology, anatomy, anatomic pathology techniques, laboratory operations and autopsy pathology. Certified pathologist assistants must participate in the certification maintenance program to maintain the credential. To maintain certification, pathologist assistants must complete a minimum of 45 points during the three-year certification period, which includes one point in safety, 20 points in anatomic pathology and the balance of the points in management, anatomic pathology, education and clinical specialties. The American Society for Clinical Pathology counts one contact hour in formal education courses as one point. Pathologist assistants may earn points by completing courses offered by their employer, teleconferences, self-instructional courses and publishing journal articles.

Earnings for Pathologist Technicians

    In a 2013 wage survey conducted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, certified pathologist assistants earned an average hourly rate of $46.32. Pathologist assistants working as supervisors or managers in a laboratory earned an average hourly rate of $48.74 per hour in 2013.

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