Updated March 9, 2023

Pathology is depended upon by nearly every other medical specialty and subspecialty as it deals with the study of diseases and their treatments. Pathologists spend most of their time completing and interpreting lab tests as well as consulting physicians on how to treat based on their findings.

Pathology can be broken down into two tracts, clinical pathology, and anatomic pathology.  The first works primarily with human tissue while the later, bodily fluids. There are many sub-specialties within pathology which include transfusion medicine, clinical informatics, cytopathology, dermo pathology, hematopathology, neuropathology, and others. For a complete listing of sub-specialties within pathology consult the American Board of Pathology’s page on the American Board of Medical Specialties’’ website, which can be found here.


Medical Graduates interested in becoming pathologists must complete four years in an anatomic/clinical pathology residency. Those looking to pursue a subspecialty will need to complete at least three years in an AP/ CP experience but can then follow it with a residency in a pathology specialty. Individuals may also elect to say their specialization until after they have completed the four-year AP/CP residency. This would require them to apply for a fellowship later. Between 2018 and 2019, 2329 pathology residency spots were available. Of these, IMGs filled 1,053 of them. For information on placement rates of subspecialties within pathology, check out the Accreditation Council for American Medical Graduate’s 2018-2019 Resource Book.

Practicing as a Physician

As of 2021, there were just over 11,000 pathologists practicing in the U.S. This is a slight drop from nearly 13,000 practicing in 2017, and it suggests a need for more graduates to enter the field, especially as the per capita ratio of patients to the general population is low and predicted to drop further in the next few years.

This predicted drop will be caused by the retirement of older pathologists and few to take their place. This will be caused by the relatively low number of pathology residency positions. In order to increase the population of practicing pathologists within the U.S. more residency programs in this specialty must be introduced.

According to Medscape, pathologists earned an average yearly salary of $334,000 in 2022. For more information on the income of pathologists, check out Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report 2022.

Interested in learning more about pathology? A pathology clinical experience could help you decide if it is the correct specialty for you! Create an account with AMO to learn more!