Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Pathology


A consulting specialist, the pathologist is truly the doctor’s doctor, with expertise in one or more fields of anatomic pathology and laboratory medicine. A pathologist deals with the causes and nature of disease and contributes to diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment through knowledge gained by the laboratory application of the biologic, chemical, and physical sciences. The practice of pathology is most often conducted in community hospitals or in academic medical centers, where patient care, diagnostic services, and research go hand in hand. (Source: AAMC Careers in Medicine)

Associated Societies

Quick Facts

The following information comes from the National Resident Matching Program's Charting Outcomes in the Match 2014 (PDF)  based on matched applicants in the United States.    

Advice for MS1 and MS2 Students

Q: What particular activities should first and second year students get involved with who are interested in pursuing this specialty?

Join a Pathology Interest Group; talk with the pathology faculty about opportunities in the pathology department to see if this specialty interests you.

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?

Yes, research, publications and presentations all help to strengthen your application in pathology.

Q: If so, do these need to be specialty specific research experiences?

It does not have to be pathology specific. Any research or publications are helpful to communicate your interest in scholarly activity.

Q: Does class rank matter?

Not particularly but doing well in the first two years of medical school is always looked on favorably during residency interviews and prepares you to do well on your Step 1 exam. 11 percent of U.S. seniors who match are in AOA.

Advice for MS3 and MS4 Students

Q: When should I ask for letters of recommendation (LORs)?

Ideally you should ask for letters in May but absolutely no later than July, allowing your letter writers adequate time to upload your letter prior to the ERAS application submission date of Sept. 15. Your personal statement and CV should be ready as well as many letter writers will request this in order to write you a strong letter.

Q: How many LORs do you need?

A minimum of three.

Q: Is a letter from a chair required?


Q: Do all letters need to be written by members of this specialty?

No but at least one should be from a pathologist that you’ve worked with. Other letters should be from clinicians you worked with on rotation who can write a strong letter in your favor.

Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?


Q: What electives would you recommend for someone who is interested in pursuing this specialty?

You should do a block in pathology to show dedication to the field. Other helpful electives include dermatology, infectious disease, and radiology.

Q: Should a student interested in this specialty do away rotations?

It’s not required, but it can be helpful to do an away rotation to see pathology at an institution different from your home institution. It’s also helpful if you’re looking at a specific institution and would like to make a good impression.

Q: Which month is recommended to take off to interview?

Most pathology interviews occur during November and December.

Similar Specialties to Consider

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

Along with the rise of universal healthcare, other factors are driving change in the pathology market.  These include an aging population and the rising prevalence of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. We are also seeing an upsurge of new testing methods to support initiatives such as personalized medicine, also known as genomic medicine, and point-of-care testing.  Just as demand for laboratory services is rising, there is downward pressure to use fewer resources. Industry consolidation is as prevalent in laboratories as in other areas of healthcare, with increased economies of scale expected to deliver more test results at a lower cost.  (Source: Wilkinson, 2016)

Additional Information

See the Career Essentials Pilot Page regarding specialty specific advice for more detailed information and resources.


Wilkinson, M. (2016, February 23). A clinical look at the future of pathology. Laboratory News.

Last edited on 10/04/2016.