Neuropathologists are specialized doctors who study diseases that affect the nervous system. Some of the conditions neuropathologists are concerned with include Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease. Unlike most doctors, neuropahtologists spend more time examining and analyzing tissue samples than working directly with patients. Many neuropathology jobs also include teaching and research responsibilities.
A neuropathologists' primary duties are examining and analyzing specimens obtained from patients. These specimens may be from nerve, muscle or brain tissue or cerebral spinal fluid. In many cases, these samples are obtained during a biopsy or other procedure and sent to the neuropathologist. In some cases, they meet with patients and perform biopsies themselves. They work with other medical staff including neurosurgeons and neurophysiologists to assess and manage patient care and treatment.
Many neuropathologists work in teaching hospitals and universities and teach graduate and medical students as a part of their job description. In addition, they might conduct research on neurological diseases to better understand how the disease progresses and to develop treatments. Research often involves studying tissue from patients with a particular disease.
Neuropathologists must be certified by the American Board of Pathologists. After completing a four-year medical degree and obtaining a state license to practice medicine, neuropathologists must undergo additional training. They complete a graduate medical education program in pathology for primary certification in anatomic or clinical pathology approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Neuropathologists may also opt for a combination primary certificate in both anatomic and clinical pathology. Then they must get a subspecialty certification in neuropathology which requires two years of neuropathology training. They must complete a one year of anatomic pathology training for the subspecialty certification if they do not have an anatomic pathology or combination primary certification. Neuropathologists must complete continuing education courses throughout their careers to maintain their medical licenses and certifications.
Although the Association of American Medical Colleges does not break down pathologist salary information by subspecialty, as of 2010, pathologists earned an annual salary between $239,000 and $331,842. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for specialty medical practitioners was $356,885 in 2010.