What is a Pathologist

A pathologist is a physician who studies and diagnoses diseases with great precision. They address the four main components of a disease, namely the cause (or etiology), the mechanisms of its development (pathogenesis), the structural changes of the cells (morphology), and the consequences of these changes (clinical manifestation). Pathology itself is divided in to two sections, those being clinical pathology (based on the diagnosis of a disease through clinical and laboratory analysis) and anatomical pathology (involving the microscopic, chemical, immunological, and molecular examination of organs and tissues). For more on job duties, please visits our pathologist job description page.

Work Environment

Pathologists work in community, university, and government hospitals and clinics, as well as in private offices and clinics. They may also work in other health care facilities, such as nursing care or private hospitals, or in independent laboratories.

Though they often work with various forms of disease, their work environment tends to be quite clean and sterile; the needs of a properly functioning research space and hospital require a well-cleaned pathology department. The area will also be well-lit, and incorporate many instruments to aid in the diagnoses.

Work Schedule

Pathologists will have a varying work schedule depending on the industry worked, and the needs and demands of that industry at any given time. In a hospital, the work will tend toward regular business hours, with a strong potentiality for emergency care and diagnosis. In a laboratory setting, however, one will almost always find a regular forty-hour work week, with only occasional overtime requirements; these will be particularly present when working for an institute like the Center for Disease Control, should there be an outbreak of some form.

Mean Annual Pathologist Salary

The average annual pathologist salary is $246,164 according to Salary.com. The lowest 10% of  pathologist salaries are less than $178,615. The top 10% of radiologist salaries reach more than $337,332.

Pathologist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$246,164 per year
$118.35 per hour
Top 10% Salary$337,332 per year
$162.18 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary
$178,615 per year
$85.87 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2012691,400 (All Physicians)

Job Outlook

The job outlook and prospects for pathologists are expected to be excellent, with a coming growth of between 15% and 20%. While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not divide its information on physicians by field, the aging population and a continued growth in the understanding of various diseases will lead to an increased need for pathologists’ skills. At present, there are approximately 13,000 to 14,000 pathologists employed in the United States.

What Affects a Pathologist’s Salary

According to the latest report at Salary.com, the average salary of a pathologist in the United States is approximately $246,164 per year. This is influenced by a number of factors, including experience, geographic location, and industry worked. Specialization is of particular consideration, as there are many areas for pathologists to specialize in. Position is also worth considering, as pathologists have several avenues for salary increases in that department.

Education and Specialization 

Pathologists require a long period of training, including the standard eight years of university classes for a bachelor’s degree and medical degree, followed by a three- to four-year residency. This residency will be in either clinical or anatomical pathology, depending on the focus of the pathologist.

This residency can be followed by a fellowship in an area of specialization. Pursuing a specialization in areas such as surgical pathology, cytopathology, forensic pathology, hematopathology, and cytogenetics (among many others) can lead to pathologist salary gains.

Experience and Position 

Starting salaries for pathologists range from $125,000-150,000, and within ten years of experience, one can find their salary nearing the average of $249,000; this is a difference of around $100,000.

Further to this, greater experience brings the possibility of positional changes and subsequent salary gains. Heading a pathology department in a hospital, for example, will bring a higher wage. Similarly, leading a research team in a laboratory as the experienced pathologist will bring wage improvements, as will teaching in a university.


While the data specific to pathologists isn’t available from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, that for all physicians is, and from this conclusions about the general fields of work can be drawn. Working in a general medical or surgical hospital will bring a lower wage, while working in a medical or diagnostic laboratory will bring a higher one. For pathologists, however, running a private clinic will generally bring the highest wages. 


With a relatively small number of available pathologists across the country, those areas with particular need will tend to offer higher wages to draw in more candidates. As such, Mississippi has the highest average salaries, followed closely by Minnesota and Maine. South Dakota and New Hampshire are the last of the top five states with the best salaries.