Throughout history, encountering a new disease has always been a daunting prospect, sparking fear and uncertainty. However, in such times, a particular group of doctors consistently steps up to investigate, understand, and uncover details about diseases: pathologists. Without their keen insights, many medical mysteries would remain unsolved, leaving healthcare providers and patients grappling with uncertainty. 

No matter the nature or complexity of the disease, there are different types of pathologists equipped with the knowledge and skills to decipher its mysteries and guide effective patient care. So, keep reading to learn more about this field, its significance, and the many areas of healthcare it touches.

What Is Pathology?

Pathology is the branch of medical science dedicated to studying diseases, their origins, and their impact on the body. It is centered around detailed examinations of various biological materials, including tissues, organs, bodily fluids, and post-mortem samples, in order to understand the nature and progression of different illnesses.

Pathologists, as specialized medical professionals within this branch, provide crucial insights into the nature of diseases through their analyses and interpretations, enabling medical specialists and general practitioners to make informed decisions regarding patient care. Though often operating behind the scenes and without direct patient interaction, these professionals are an indispensable part of medicine.

What Does a Pathologist Do?

Pathologists encompass a wide range of duties and responsibilities, contributing significantly to the field of medicine. Some everyday tasks performed by these professionals include:

  • Conducting blood examinations to identify bleeding disorders and abnormalities in blood chemistry and cells;
  • Studying pap smears to detect cervical cancer or precancerous changes, as well as identifying human papillomavirus (HPV) related abnormalities;
  • Performing fine needle aspirations on lymph nodes, the thyroid, and other tissues to detect malignancies;
  • Running blood sugar tests to assist diabetic patients in determining appropriate medication dosages;
  • Examining biopsies to diagnose cancer and other medical conditions accurately;
  • Conducting autopsies to investigate the underlying disease processes and determine the cause of death;
  • Providing expert consultation and interpretation of laboratory results to aid in patient diagnosis and treatment planning.

Different Types of Pathologists


Given the vast array of diseases and medical conditions that exist, there is a pressing need for different types of pathologists. Below, we’ll explore some of them and their specific areas of expertise, highlighting the critical roles they play in healthcare.

Blood banking/Transfusion medicine pathologist

Blood banking and transfusion medicine pathologists help ensure the safety and effectiveness of blood transfusions. They oversee every aspect of the transfusion process, from blood donation to compatibility testing and quality assessment of blood products. Their meticulous attention to detail and expertise in transfusion medicine ensure that patients receive compatible and safe blood transfusions, minimizing the risk of adverse reactions and transfusion-related complications.

The average salary for this type of pathologist is approximately $56,574 per year. However, it’s important to note that this figure can vary significantly based on several factors, such as years of experience, level of education, geographical location, and specific industry or employer.


Cytopathologists specialize in examining cellular specimens to detect abnormalities indicative of disease. They analyze cells for signs of cancer or precancerous changes using techniques such as Pap smears and fine needle aspirations. By providing early detection and accurate diagnosis of cellular abnormalities, these professionals play a crucial role in guiding patient treatment plans and improving clinical outcomes.

Cytopathologists typically command an average annual salary of approximately $56,614. However, the range of their hourly wages is notably broad, spanning from as high as $43.99 to as low as $13.70.


This type of pathologist is an expert in diagnosing a wide range of skin diseases and disorders by examining skin tissue samples. They use advanced microscopy and molecular techniques to analyze skin lesions, distinguishing between benign and malignant conditions. Through their detailed analysis and interpretation of skin pathology, dermatopathologists play a crucial role in accurately diagnosing skin-related conditions and guiding appropriate treatment strategies for patients.

Dermatopathologists rank among some of the highest earners within the medical profession, with an impressive average annual salary of $316,666. The earning potential in this field is notably wide-ranging, with salaries spanning from $200,000 for those in the 25th percentile to top earners at the 90th percentile, making as much as $392,500 annually. 


Hematopathologists are the type of pathologists who employ advanced techniques to analyze blood and bone marrow samples, identifying abnormalities in blood cell development and function. This includes detecting conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, and anemia. Their expertise helps ensure accurate diagnosis, treatment planning, and disease monitoring in patients with hematological disorders.

As a hematopathologist professional, you can anticipate an average annual salary of $67,070. However, it’s essential to note that salaries in this field exhibit considerable variability, with some individuals earning six-figure incomes. Among the top earners, salaries can reach as high as $101,500 annually. 


These professionals specialize in diagnosing diseases that affect the nervous system by analyzing tissue samples from the brain and spinal cord. Using advanced techniques like microscopy and molecular analysis, they can identify neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors. Their extensive knowledge of neuropathology helps in understanding the complexities of neurological disorders and developing personalized treatment strategies for each patient.

The exceptionally specialized expertise of neuropathologists contributes to their commanding very high salaries in the medical field. With their profound understanding of the nervous system, neuropathologists earn an average annual salary of $374,999.

Chemical pathologist

Chemical pathologists evaluate body fluids and metabolic processes to diagnose various medical conditions. They utilize laboratory techniques to assess biochemical imbalances associated with diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and metabolic disorders. By interpreting laboratory results, chemical pathologists provide valuable insights into patients’ overall health status, as well as help guide treatment decisions and monitor disease progression.

This type of pathologist earns an average annual salary of $75,743. The range of their compensation is broad, reflecting the diverse factors influencing earnings. Hourly wages for chemical pathologists can soar as high as $69.95, highlighting the value placed on their specialized skills and knowledge.

Surgical pathologist

Surgical pathologists are indispensable diagnosticians who analyze tissue samples obtained during surgical procedures. By closely examining the microscopic features of tissues, they can identify abnormal cellular changes indicative of various pathological conditions, including cancer. This level of diagnostic accuracy helps clinicians choose the most effective treatment options and provide accurate prognoses, which leads to better patient care and outcomes.

As with many surgical positions, surgical pathologists enjoy lucrative salaries commensurate with their expertise and responsibilities. With an average annual pay of $224,999, these professionals are well-compensated for their roles. Moreover, for top performers in the field, salaries can escalate even further, with some earning up to $245,000 annually.

Forensic pathologist

Forensic pathologists, as the name suggests, are experts working in the field of forensic science. They play a vital role in investigating the cause and manner of death by conducting comprehensive autopsies and analyzing evidence. By examining the deceased individuals, forensic pathologists piece together the circumstances surrounding their death, carefully documenting any signs of trauma or evidence of foul play. Their expertise is extremely valuable, as it provides critical insights to law enforcement agencies and contributes to the resolution of legal inquiries.

In forensic pathology, professionals can anticipate a rewarding compensation package with an average annual salary of $219,325. However, for those at the top of their field, particularly individuals in the 90th percentile, earnings can soar significantly higher, reaching up to $307,000 annually.

Medical microbiology pathologist

These professionals are responsible for diagnosing and managing conditions related to infectious diseases by carefully analyzing pathogens from clinical specimens using advanced laboratory techniques. They can identify a wide range of microbial agents, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, which allows for the tailored selection of antimicrobial therapies. Their expertise in medical microbiology is essential for stopping the spread of infectious diseases and ensuring the best possible outcomes for patients through effective treatment strategies.

Medical microbiology pathologists also earn satisfactory salaries, which are influenced significantly by factors such as experience, location, education, and more.

Molecular genetic pathologist

In molecular genetics, specialized pathologists focus on DNA and genetic mutations to understand inherited diseases. Using advanced molecular techniques, they carefully examine genetic abnormalities associated with various conditions, including cancer, genetic syndromes, and inherited disorders. Their extensive knowledge of molecular genetics helps to develop personalized treatment plans based on the unique genetic makeup of each patient, leading to better outcomes and improved therapeutic effectiveness.

Molecular genetic pathologists in the United States typically command an annual average salary of $237,500. Moreover, for those in the 90th percentile, earnings can reach up to $280,000 annually. This substantial compensation reflects these professionals’ specialized expertise and critical role in analyzing genetic material to diagnose and manage various medical conditions. 

Pediatric pathologist

These pathologists diagnose and manage diseases and developmental anomalies in children. They study tissue samples collected from pediatric patients and are experts in identifying pathological manifestations specific to this patient category, including genetic disorders, congenital anomalies, and pediatric cancers. Their specialized knowledge and expertise help provide accurate diagnoses and develop tailored therapeutic approaches for children.

These pathologists earn an average annual pay of $337,500. The salary range for professionals in this field is diverse, currently spanning from $285,000 at the 25th percentile to $378,500 at the 75th percentile. However, top earners, situated at the 90th percentile, can command even higher salaries, reaching up to $391,500 annually.

The Bottom Line

All in all, while the work of pathologists may not always be visible to patients, its profound impact resonates throughout the healthcare system. Their dedication to scientific inquiry has been instrumental in our collective efforts to combat emerging health threats and safeguard public well-being. 

If any of these specialized paths within pathology intrigue you, we invite you to consider joining our MD program. Let us guide you on your journey toward becoming a pathologist, where you can make a tangible difference.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which pathology field is the best?

The best pathology field depends on individual interests and preferences. Each specialty offers unique opportunities, so it’s essential to explore different areas and choose the one that aligns best with your career goals and interests.

What type of pathologist makes the most money?

While all pathology fields offer competitive salaries, some subspecialties tend to have higher earning potential. For example, Neuropathologists, Pediatric Pathologists, and Forensic Pathologists are among the top earners. However, salary ranges vary significantly for all types based on experience, location, and employer.

What types of jobs are available in the field of pathology?

Various job opportunities are available in the field of pathology, including roles such as general pathologist, neuropathologist, forensic pathologist, cytopathologist, chemical pathologist, and many others. Pathologists can work in hospitals, research institutions, diagnostic laboratories, academia, and government agencies, contributing to patient care, medical research, and public health initiatives.