If you are interested in anatomy and medicine, but not in becoming a doctor, you may want to become a pathologists' assistant ("pathologists' assistant" is the name preferred by the professional association, by the way, and not "pathologist's assistant"). Pathologists' assistants are allied health professionals who work with and for pathologists. They prepare tissue for examination under microscopes, perform immunohistochemical staining, and assist with autopsies. Pathologists' assistants may also teach other professionals in training about anatomy, pathology, microscopic photography, and other topics related to the field. They may also have administrative and managerial duties in the office.
Pathologists' assistants work with pathologists in a parallel fashion to the way physicians' assistants work with physicians -- under supervision and with a clear line of demarcation in regard to job duties and responsibilities.
Pathologists' assistants work in medical examiners' offices, large hospitals, government facilities, university research centers and medical schools.
The job outlook for pathologists' assistants is bright. In some locations, skilled pathologists' assistants make over $100,000 per year.
Decide if this is the right path for you. Pathologists' assistants work with human tissues and cadavers. The work requires education, dedication, and skill. A career as a pathologists' assistant is rewarding and challenging, but it is not for everyone. You should explore this career more on your own by visiting the website of the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants. You may also want to call your nearest large hospital or medical school to see if you can arrange an informational interview with a working pathologists' assistant.
Get trained. There are eight programs accredited by NAACLS (the National Accrediting Agency for Laboratory Sciences). With the exception of Wayne State, which offers a bachelor's degree, the following are master's degree programs:
Get certified. After completing your education, you will be ready to take the pathologists' assistant certification examination offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). There are also routes to certification for those individuals who were trained on the job.