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What to expect working as a Pathologist in the NHS

  • June 24, 2020

A Pathology career offers a great range of variety and combines both clinical and laboratory work. From investigating infertility to researching neurological disorders, pathology careers are incredibly diverse – each focuses on a different area of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Whilst there are many areas of Pathology that you can choose to have a specific interest in, all jobs in Pathology are very broad and require a detailed knowledge of medicine.

The 5 Areas of Pathology

There are 5 main areas of Pathology that an individual can choose to work in, each with their own branch of further sub-specialties and areas of interest.

1) Chemical Pathology (The study of chemicals in the blood)

Chemical Pathologists are qualified doctors who combine both laboratory and clinical skills. Their two main roles are to manage the biochemistry laboratories (sample analysis units) and to work alongside any patients who have metabolic disturbances.

As a Chemical Pathologist you will be working closely with GP’s (who often request tests) and Endocrinologists (to oversee specialist tests). In general, Chemical Pathologists work with adult patients however some may choose to have a specific interest in Paediatric cases. 

The only subspecialty in Chemical Pathology is ‘Metabolic Medicine’ – which explores Inherited Metabolic Disease (MD), the genetic inherited disorder of the metabolism.

2) Haematology (The study of blood disorders)

Hematologists diagnose and clinically manage disorders of the blood and bone marrow. There main role is to provide an advisory and consultancy service to all of the hospital specialists and general practitioners whilst also managing diagnostic laboratories and undertaking the care of outpatients and inpatients.

As a Haemotologist you will be working with patients of all ages and managing both benign and malignant conditions. You will also be working closely with biomedical scientists and research teams. Many larger hospitals will employ teams of academic Haemotologists. 

Within the field of Haemotology there are varying opportunities to develop special interests and subspecialties. These include but are not limited to:

  • Haemoto-oncology
  • Haemostasis and Thrombosis
  • Disorders of Blood Production and Destruction
  • Transfusion Medicine
  • Paediatric Haemotology

3) Histopathology (The study of disease in human tissue)

Histopathologists are Doctors who diagnose and study disease using medical interpretation of cells and tissue samples. Histopathology determines the cause of death by performing autopsies and is integral to cancer management through staging and grading of tumours.

Working as a Histopathologist in the NHS will mean that you will be a member of the multi-disciplinary team alongside Oncologists, scientists and doctors from other clinical specialties, assessing cancer patients and planning their further investigation into treatments. It is important to note, that in comparison to other branches of Pathology, patient contact may be limited – although you will see patients to explain their diagnosis/treatment or see parents of the deceased to explain the cause of death.

As an aspiring Histopathologist you will firstly train in General Histopathology. Once you reach ST3 level you can then choose to have further sub-specialty interests. These include but are not limited to:

  • GI
  • Breast
  • Neurology
  • Dermatology

4) Medical Microbiology and Virology – the study of infection

Medical Microbiology and Virology (MMV) are both laboratory based specialties, involving the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the spread of infection in hospitals and the community.

Practicing in either of these specialties will mean that you won’t usually be working directly with patients, but will liaise between clinical colleagues in the hospital, GP’s and other laboratory staff. There are no sub-specialties within medical microbiology and virology however you may have a specific interest in a technique such as nucleic acid amplification or extraction.

5) Immunology (The study of the immune system)

The final area of Pathology is Immunology; the diagnosis and treatment of the immune system. Immunologists will often work in specialist laboratories that provide testing for immunological disorders as well as treating people with autoimmunity, immune deficiency and allergies.

Immunologists will see patients with possible immune issues, deficiencies and allergies and work in both outpatient and inpatient departments offering ward consultations. Immunologists may develop sub-specialty interests such as:

  • rheumatology
  • HIV medicine
  • transplantation

Where will I be working?

Due to the specialism being so multi-disciplinary and having multitudinous strands, as a Pathologist you could work in a large variety of different environments including specialist laboratories, clinics, hospital wards and even histopathology centres. Every blood test, biopsy sample, cancer screening test or search for infection made within the NHS will involve a pathology team and where the team is located depends on the branch of Pathology as stated previously.

Relocating to the UK

If you are an international Pathologist who would like to relocate to the UK , email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your relocation journey to the UK.

Are you a member of our Facebook group? When you join IMG Advisor, you join a community of doctors all looking to relocate to the UK and join the NHS. We post a series of blogs and vlogs to the group each day. We will also be on hand to answer all of your relocation queries.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 60 videos covering everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS.

Listen to BDI Resourcing on the go with IMG Advisor the Podcast! You can listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Buzzsprout. We have a number of episodes with tips and advice on relocating to the UK and the routes you can take to achieve this.

Finally, we have just launched our new Instagram, so if you are a member, feel free to follow us to view our posts and IGTV: @bdiresourcing


Health Careers. 2020. Pathology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 June 2020]. 2020. Pathologist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 June 2020].

Pathologists, T., 2020. Careers In Pathology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 June 2020].

Pathologists, T., 2020. Immunology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 June 2020]. 2020. | British Society For Immunology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 June 2020].


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