Histopathologists study organs, tissues, cells and genetics to help provide a diagnosis.
You'll examine patients' organs and tissues by eye and look at cellular samples under a microscope. You'll also undertake studies to provide diagnostic and prognostic information or determine the cause of death.
Life as a histopathology doctor
Most of your time will be spent in a laboratory, working as part of a multidisciplinary team that will include laboratory scientists and doctors from other medical specialties.
You’ll need an in-depth knowledge of both clinical and pathological aspects of diseases. You’ll assess specimens from patients with cancer and play an integral role in planning their treatment by staging and grading their tumour.
Generally, you will handle specimens in the lab or perform autopsies in the mortuary rather than see patients face to face.
You’ll also have responsibility for reporting cancer screening biopsies.
Common procedures include:
- examination and dissection of surgical resection specimens, to select the most appropriate samples for microscope slides
- microscopic examination of tissues, with subsequent construction of clinical reports
- carrying out autopsies
How much can I earn?
How about the benefits?
- make a difference
- flexible and part-time working
- high income early in your career
- work anywhere in the world
- excellent pension scheme
- good holiday entitlement
- NHS discounts in shops and restaurants
- excellent communication skills to manage a wide range of relationships with colleagues
- emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure
- teamwork and the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams, which includes communication and discussion of findings
- problem-solving and diagnostic skills
- organisational ability and effective decision-making skills
- first-class time and resource management for the benefit of patients
If you already have a degree, you could study for a four-year postgraduate degree in medicine.
Some medical schools look to recruit a mix of students from different backgrounds and geographical areas, so your educational and economic background and family circumstances could be considered as part of your application.
What are my chances of starting a career in histopathology?
How to become a histopathologist
After your foundation programme, you can apply for paid specialty training to become a histopathologist which will take five years.
Where a career as a doctor in histopathology can take you
- diagnostic neuropathology
- forensic histopathology
- paediatric and perinatal pathology
In the subspecialty of cytopathology, you could develop additional skills in the cellular analysis of body fluids, for example from cervical smears or elsewhere in the body.
Find a vacancy
These organisations have further information about being a histopathologist, particularly as your career progresses. Take a look.
Association for Clinical Genetic Science
British Academy of Forensic Sciences
The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
And hear from people working as a doctor in histopathology:
Phil da Forno, histopathologist explaining why histopathology appealed to them (The Foundation Programme)