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How do you become a pathologist?

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Quick Answer

Those interested in becoming a pathologist must earn a bachelor’s degree, graduate from medical school and train as a pathology resident for four to five years. Pathologists must then become licensed and certified to work in their state.

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Medical schools require certain courses for admission, although undergraduate majors are left up to the individual. Pathologists generally major in biology, chemistry or related fields, with some continuing their education to earn an optional master’s degree in those fields. Pathology candidates must graduate from a U.S. or Canadian medical school. They can also earn an M.D. from another school accepted by the American Board of Pathology, which provides certification to pathologists. In addition to these medical schools, the ABP also accepts certification from accredited osteopathic colleges of medicine.

After graduation from medical school, candidates must apply for and obtain a medical license in their state. Then they must complete an accredited pathology residency in Canada or the United States. The ABP requires these programs to provide an average of 48 weeks of training within a year. Candidates for anatomic and clinical pathology certification must complete 18 months practicing in each specialty, with an additional 12 months in a specialty decided by the candidate. Candidates must complete 50 autopsies, with no more than five of them fetal, to receive ABP certification as a pathologist.

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