What is a Pathologists' Assistant?

A Pathologists' Assistant (PA) is a health care professional trained to practice as a physician extender in the surgical and forensic pathology laboratory setting where, under the direction and supervision of a pathologist, the PA (or Path Assistant) ensures quality healthcare delivery. 

The Pathologist' Assistant practices in a wide scope of clinical settings and is trained to:

  • provide accurate gross examinations and dissections of human anatomic pathology specimens;
  • perform postmortem examinations,
  • prepare tissues for tumor triage and other pathologic tests;
  • train pathology personnel, medical students and pathology residents;
  • instruct in anatomy, physiology, gross pathology, gross dissection skills, and autopsy techniques;
  • photograph surgical and forensic specimens;
  • assist in, perform, and conduct research.

Where does a Pathologists' Assistant practice?

The majority of Pathologists' Assistants work in academic (medical school/university) and community hospitals, but many are also employed in private pathology laboratories, forensic pathology laboratory and morgues, reference laboratories, government healthcare systems, and medical teaching facilities.

What is the job outlook for the Pathologists' Assistant profession?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), the career outlook for those in a physician extender capacity, such as pathologists' assistant, is strong with a job growth of 37% expected from 2016 to 2026. This growth is much faster than the average (7%) predicted for all positions.

The salary for pathologists' assistants varies depending on the area of the country one practices. According to Payscale.com, in 2022 the average base annual salary for an ASCP certified pathologists' assistant in the U.S. was $84,914 per year excluding benefits, bonuses and retirement contributions. As with any career, different factors can go into pay including work experience, cost of living in the area, certifications, and specific contract negotiations.