What they do

Pathologists are experts in the nature, causes and processes of diseases. Over 70% of all diagnoses involve pathology tests. Pathologists provide the evidence to diagnose cancers, infectious diseases and diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Pathologists play an important role in blood transfusion services as well as solving tough cases using tissue testing including blood, body secretions and tissue samples to determine the cause of illness or death.

There are approximately 33 pathologists in Western Australia, all of whom work in the metropolitan area.

Working conditions

Pathologists work in laboratories predominately in large public or private practices, or in public and private hospitals. They are exposed to most aspects of medical practice however may not be directly involved in patient care.

Pathology is very much a team effort with pathologists working very closely with scientists, laboratory technicians and other medical specialists.

In general, all disciplines of pathology provide a good work/life balance with the option of part time work and flexible working hours.

Working conditions are usually comfortable however pathologists may sometimes deal with unpleasant conditions due to a patient's infection or illness. Maintaining strict hygiene practices is important.

Tools and technologies

Pathologists use tools for viewing , cutting, embedding and sectioning and aspirating specimens to diagnose disease. Overall laboratories are highly technical workspaces with elaborate instruments and computer technologies which need to be managed by the pathologist.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a pathologist, you must first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in pathology.

To become a medical practitioner, you need to study a degree in medicine. Alternatively, you can study a degree in any discipline followed by a postgraduate degree in medicine.

Some universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

To specialise in pathology, doctors can apply to the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.

To be eligible for this specialist training, on completion of your medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for a minimum of two years (internship and residency).

Required registration and licensing

To work as a pathologist in Western Australia, you will need to obtain registration from the Medical Board of Australia.