Pathologists’ Assistants

Also Known As
Pathology Assistant Pathology Technologists

What are the roles of Pathologists’ Assistants in Canada?

Pathologists’ assistants help with autopsies and examinations of surgical specimens, or perform autopsies under a pathologist’s supervision. They assist pathologists by preparing and running medical laboratory tests, examinations, and experiments, and by analyzing medical data in order to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease and illness.

What are the main duties of Pathologists’ Assistants in Canada?

  • prepare for autopsies by getting patients’ medical records and arranging for radiographic examinations
  • help with autopsies and surgical specimen examinations or perform them under pathologists’ supervision
  • dissect, examine, weigh, and photograph organs and specimens
  • collect tissue samples for chemical analysis and record findings
  • help with analysis of medical samples
  • study tissues for medical diagnosis, treatment, and prevention purposes
  • prepare bodies for release to funeral homes after autopsies
  • discard specimens according to established safety procedures
  • clean and maintain instruments, equipment, and supplies

What are the desired traits of Pathologists’ Assistants in Canada?

Pathologists’ assistants should be precise and pay attention to detail, and they should be able to follow instructions and be well organized and methodical, but be able to work quickly and accurately.  They should have normal colour vision and be good with their hands, and they should enjoy working with laboratory equipment. They should have excellent interpersonal, communication, and problem-solving skills, and be able to work well assisting medical personnel or working with co-workers and the public.

Where do Pathologists’ Assistants work?

Pathologists’ assistants typically work in hospital laboratories, but they may also be employed by:

  • private medical laboratories
  • public health laboratories
  • forensic laboratories
  • university research laboratories
  • environmental laboratories
  • veterinary laboratories
  • industrial laboratories
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • biotechnology firms

What might the typical work conditions be?

Hours of work vary in this occupation. Pathologists’ assistants may work full-time, part-time, or casual hours. In research laboratories, they often work standard weekday hours. In diagnostic clinical laboratories, pathologists’ assistants often work rotating day, evening, and night shifts (including weekends and holidays).

Pathologists’ assistants work in laboratory environments where they may spend a lot of time standing or sitting, and performing tasks that may be repetitive. Pathologists’ assistants are at risk for exposure to infectious body fluids, dangerous chemicals, or hazardous radiation, and they must follow safety precautions to reduce the risk.

What qualifications are Canadian employers looking for?

Employers want to hire people who have either a Bachelor’s or Master’s of Science degree or an equivalent combination of training and experience as a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, medical lab tech, or histotechnologist. Employers’ expectations of pathologists’ assistants are increasing as the role of this occupation changes and takes on more responsibility.

Employers often prefer that potential employees are members of a professional association, such as the Canadian Association of Pathologists (pathologist’s assistant section) or American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants. Some Canadian employers may require certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

What communication skills do employers expect?

Employers may test for language ability because it is important for workers to understand instructions and share information to complete tasks properly and work safely.

Pathologists’ assistants use communication skills on the job in many ways:

  • They refer to standards of practice, laboratory policies and procedures, health and safety guidelines, and other regulations and standards to ensure processes, procedures, and practices follow industry standards and institutional requirements. For example, they may review the rules about preserving biological specimens, or procedures for disposing of files and other records that may contain confidential information about patients.
  • They review specimen identification labels to make sure the data is accurate and complete. They study labels to check that information, such as the patients’ names and identification numbers and the names of the referring physicians, have been entered correctly.
  • They complete test result forms. They use these forms to track the collection, preparation, and analysis of specimens. They also fill in forms to record the quality of specimen preparation, whether testing procedures were done normally, and the final test results.
  • They refer to graphs contained in medical journals, textbooks, trade publications, and web sites to learn about pathologies. They may have to locate and collect data from many graphs and accompanying texts to fully distinguish between health and disease.
  • They meet with supervisors or directors to obtain guidance and approvals, to review quality control data, and to talk about work performance, unique test results, laboratory schedules, and other administrative issues. They may also meet with supervisors or directors to present their analyses and recommendations for new equipment.

To review examples of how other Essential Skills are used by pathologists’ assistants in the workplace go to Explore Careers by Essential Skills on the Working in Canada website.

The ability to speak and write in multiple languages can be an advantage in Canada’s multicultural environment.

What is the wage for this occupation?

Wages are affected by the workers’ level of education, work experience, and job responsibilities, plus the job location, work conditions, and whether the workforce is unionized or not. The numbers provided below reflect a national average for low, median (mid-point), and high wages (before taxes). These wages are for the occupational group 3112, which includes medical laboratory techs and pathologists’ assistants, which includes pathologists’ assistants.

Low Median High
$17.25 per hour $29.88 per hour $39 per hour
$35,880 per year $62,150 per year $81,120 per year

For wage information in specific parts of Canada, go to Explore Careers by Wages on the Working in Canada website.

What opportunities for advancement are available to Pathologists’ Assistants?

With education and experience, workers may progress to supervisory or senior management positions, or they may choose to teach or work in private industry.

Where can I find out more about Pathologists’ Assistants in Canada?

The Canadian Association of Pathologists works for high quality standards for patient care by providing national leadership and promoting excellence in pathology and laboratory medicine practice, education, and research. Check out the pathologists’ assistants section of the site.

The American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants (AAPA) provides pathologists’ assistants with education, networking, and professional support, as well as promoting public and professional awareness of the profession.

The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)is the world’s largest professional membership organization for pathologists and laboratory professionals. ASCP’s purpose is to provide excellence in education, certification and advocacy on behalf of patients, pathologists and laboratory professionals all over the world.

Health Canada is the Canadian federal department that helps Canadians maintain and improve their health. For a description of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments’ roles, see the Health Care System Delivery.

Many health jobs in Canada are with provincial and territorial government health services. Some of the provincial organizations that post job openings or career opportunities are listed below:

Note: These websites tend to change frequently.