How to become a Pathologist in Australia

How to become a Pathologist in Australia

Pathologists are highly trained physicians who primarily study the nature, effects and causes of disease. Performing most of their work in laboratories, Pathologists analyse fluids and tissue samples to determine and identify the nature of any diseases present. They then generate reports for the primary care physician detailing their process and findings, indicating probabilities and possibilities, and outlining suggested treatments.
Another major aspect of the work of a Pathologist is post-mortem examination and diagnosis, otherwise known as autopsy. Pathologists are responsible for analysing and inspecting deceased patients or victims to identify if any disease is present, determine the cause of death and reveal other pertinent medical information. An autopsy might, for example, conclude that a patient was killed by a particular object, that they suffered from a disease or condition or that external factors such as drugs or poison contributed to death.
In order to become a Pathologist, you must first study and become a doctor then spend a minimum of 5 years training with an accredited pathologist as well as completing a number of assessments and exams.

If you feel that laboratory work, scientific detection and the challenge of identifying the cause and effect of a myriad of illnesses sounds interesting and fulfilling, here are some steps you can take toward becoming a Pathologist.

Step 1: Head to medical school.
To become a Pathologist you will first need to study and become a doctor. After completing a pre-medical bachelor degree, prospective Pathologists are required to attend an accredited medical school to earn either a Doctor of Osteopathy degree (D.O.) or a Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree. Both of these degrees take four years and may include studies in Pathology.

Step 2: Internship.
In Australia, doctors who are straight out of medical school are prohibited from practicing medicine independently, they must first complete a one-year internship. In this time you will undertake closely supervised training in a variety of areas such as general medicine, emergency medicine and general surgery.

Step 3: Residency.
Once you have successfully completed your year of internship you will move on to residency. Your residency will be from one to three years, working in a hospital, developing your skills and experience before proceeding to specialist training. As a resident doctor, you will be working as part of a team under the supervision of the registrar and various specialist consultants.

Step 4: Specialty training with an Accredited Pathologist.
Now that you are an accredited doctor, it’s time to apply for specialty training. This involves passing an initial examination and selection process, then an average of five years of training. During this time you will carry out research and work under the direct supervision of an accredited Pathologist who will monitor and assess your performance. Only once you have successfully completed your specialty training can you begin to practice as an independent Pathologist.

What does a Pathologist do?
A Pathologist is a specialty physician who uses tissue samples and bodily fluids to diagnose, study and treat diseases. Though they are not often directly involved in patient care, the Pathologist is a vital and valuable resource in any medical team. They diagnose cancer, analyse blood samples to identify infectious diseases and recommend treatments to the primary physician.
Pathologists are also responsible for performing autopsies, not only to determine a person’s cause of death but also to gain information about the genetic progression of diseases in order to aid researchers in developing future treatments.


  • Testing and analysing samples to identify diseases and determine health of patients.
  • Documenting and recording findings and conclusions.
  • Consulting with primary physicians to diagnose and treat conditions.
  • Conducting autopsies to identify cause of death and disease progression.

Skills for Success.
A Pathologist is essentially a medical detective, so you will need to be open-minded and good at pattern recognition in order to think outside the box and make the deductions required to identify different diseases and causes of death. Pathologists are methodical and meticulous but must also be good at communicating their findings to other physicians and medical professionals. They need to be able to integrate clinical data with laboratory studies and have an analytical approach to problem-solving. To be a successful Pathologist you will also need to be tech-savvy, as the majority of your work will involve complex lab equipment.

Skills & Attributes

  • Attention to detail.
  • Good verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Methodical and meticulous worker.
  • Open-minded and enthusiastic approach to problem solving.
  • Ability to recognise visual patterns.
  • Desire to maintain up-to-date knowledge of current research and techniques.

Average Salaries

How much can you earn as a Pathologist?
On average, a Pathologist can expect to earn around $104,014 but there is a huge range in what a Pathologist can make, depending on their experience and abilities, so this is an indicator only according to Payscale 02/18

min $50 K
max $297 K
av $104 K