How to Become an Anatomical Pathology Technician: Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become an anatomical pathology technician. Research the education and training requirements, and learn the step-by-step process to begin a career as an anatomical pathology technician.

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Anatomical Pathology Technician

So you think you might like to become an anatomical pathology technician? Anatomical pathology technicians work in laboratories to prepare and analyze human blood and other tissues and cells for diseases. They work under the direct supervision of pathology technologists and pathologists. Technicians must follow safety precautions when dealing with samples that may possibly carry infectious disease.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree; some employers prefer a bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Medical technology or life sciences
Licensure or Certification Requirements vary by state
Experience On-the-job training; may also be obtained via internships
Key Skills Detail-oriented, dexterity, compassion, physical stamina, ability to operate and maintain laboratory equipment
Salary (May 2018) $52,330 per year (Median salary for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important. Employers look for someone with at least an associate's degree, and some employers prefer a bachelor's degree. The degree field is medical technology or life sciences. The requirements to become licensed or certified can vary by state. Most employers look for someone with experience, which can sometimes be obtained through on-the-job training or through internships.

Key skills:

  • Detail oriented
  • Dexterity
  • Compassion
  • Physical stamina
  • Ability to operate and maintain laboratory equipment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians is $52,330.

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

The level of postsecondary education required for medical technicians in fields such as anatomical pathology can vary widely. Most commonly, however, an associate's degree is required. These degree programs take about two years to complete and should include courses in chemistry, biology, and mathematics. A bachelor's degree may be required for more advanced technician or technologist positions.

Step 2: Choose a Specialization

Students can specialize in different ways of anatomical pathology techniques, which narrows the would-be technician's training and certification focus. Types of pathology technicians include histotechnicians and medical technicians. A medical technician assists in examining all types of anatomical samples for disease, while a histotechnician prepares only tissue biopsies and samples for a pathologist to examine under a microscope.

Step 3: Get Experience

After or in concurrence with general postsecondary education, additional training in medical laboratory techniques is required. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredits these training programs available for histotechnicians, medical technicians, and pathology assistants. Those who do not choose to complete an NAACLS-accredited program should seek professional laboratory experience. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) requires at least one years' experience in a lab in place of the successful completion of a training program.

Step 4: Get Certified

Many professional credentialing boards offer certification for aspiring pathology technicians, including the American Medical Technologists. The ASCP offers certifications for both histotechnicians and medical laboratory technicians, including exams for those looking to advance their careers by becoming pathology technologists or specialists. Certifications typically must be renewed every few years and may require continuing education credits.

Start with a college degree, choose a specialization, gain some experience, and then get certified are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as an anatomical pathology technician.

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