Pathology residency involves training medical graduates in the many disciplines of pathology, including diagnosing illness and disease, consulting on patient treatment and examining specimens in a lab setting. It’s also among the least competitive residencies. Compared to or , it has fairly high match rates. However, if you really want to match to pathology, you’ll need to demonstrate why it is your choice of specialty. In this blog, we’ll look at what you can expect from a pathology residency, the latest match data, and tips on how to match to a pathology residency program.
Listen to the blog!
- Brookwood Baptist Health Program
- University of Alabama Medical Center Program
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine Program
- University of Miami/Jackson Health System Program
- Yale-New Haven Medical Center Program
- Danbury Hospital Program
- Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Program
- SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University Program
- Boston University Medical Center Program
- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Mount Sinai Hospital) Program
- Memorial University Anatomical Pathology
- Dalhousie University Department of Pathology
- Université Laval Département biologie moléculaire, biochimie médicale et pathologie
- Université de Sherbrooke Département de pathologie
- McGill University Department of Pathology
- The University of Montreal Department of Pathology
- Queen’s University Department of Pathology
- University of Ottawa Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
- University of Toronto Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology
- McMaster University Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine
- Western University Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
- University of Manitoba Department of Pathology
- University of Saskatchewan Department of Pathology
- University of Alberta Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
- University of Calgary Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
- University of British Columbia Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
A pathology residency deals with the nature of disease and illness, working with a medical team to diagnose patients and devise a treatment plan. Pathologists study tissues, cells and bodily fluids in a laboratory setting to diagnose and monitor disease and help develop treatments. They use their analytical and observational skills to further our medical knowledge and improve pathways of treatment. Pathology residency involves training in both anatomic pathology and clinical pathology. While anatomic pathology involves observing and examining samples to diagnose illness, clinical pathology is all about lab-testing.
Pathology is not the , due to its consistently high match rates. However, it can receive a large number of applicants for only a few positions. While there are over a hundred pathology residency programs in the US, there may be only a handful of positions in any program. Pathology residency program directors may also be quite selective when choosing applicants, as they want to see a commitment to the specialty, and some applicants may choose pathology as a “safety” option.
If you’re curious about , pathologists are among the and earn a pretty comfortable living around the $300,000+ mark. Another advantage of a medical career in pathology is that the specialty is always in high demand and you will have good job security. On the downside, pathology residency has a fairly high rate of burnout and stress, as do most residencies, and the job of a pathologist is not as “high-profile” as say, a surgeon.
Even so, a pathology residency offers a diversity of clinical work, consultation and collaboration with medical professionals from all different specialties, and it can be rewarding to help advance medical knowledge and science.
Pathology residency is broken into two main parts. Your post-graduate year 1 will typically focus on anatomic pathology (sometimes called diagnostic pathology in Canada), with clinical rotations in the surgical specialties and autopsy pathology. In PGY-3, there will be a transition to clinical pathology, with electives and rotations in the pathology subspecialties. The curriculum and pathways of your pathology residency will depend on the program itself and your areas of interest.
Here are the easiest and hardest residencies to match to!
Within the realm of pathology there are a number of subspecialties. You can pursue a to gain further training in a chosen subspecialty and to enhance your understanding of a specialized area. Here are a few of the subspecialties within pathology you can explore, from medical consultation to a focus on forensic pathology.
- Blood Banking-Transfusion Medicine
- Chemical Pathology
- Clinical Informatics
- Forensic Pathology
- Medical Microbiology Pathology
- Molecular Genetic Pathology
- Pediatric Pathology
- Selective Pathology
According to the most recent match data from the NRMP, the match rate for MD seniors into pathology was 89.3%, with a fill rate of 39.5%. There were just over 600 positions offered at 166 programs in the US.
For DO seniors, the pathology residency match rate was 78.4%, with a fill rate of 14.2%.
MD Match Rate in Pathology
DO Match Rate in Pathology
Pathology residency has a fairly high match rate for all types of medical school graduates, so it is an attractive option for those worried about going . However, it’s critical to know what . Similar to DO school admissions committees, pathology residency program directors want to know you are not choosing pathology because it is a “safe choice” or because it is not considered as competitive.
In order to match to pathology residency programs, you’ll need to register for the Match. In the US, this is done through the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) and by creating and submitting an . In Canada, applicants need to register and apply through the Canadian Resident Matching Service () R-1 Main Match. Note that IMG applicants will need to apply through one of the to be eligible.
Pathology only has categorical residency programs, meaning you’ll need to match into one of the available pathology residency programs in order to match. You won’t be required to take a and you’ll complete your training at a single 4-year program. You may then choose to get further training in a pathology subspecialty through a fellowship.
Matching to pathology residency programs, while not the most competitive, still requires choosing your programs selectively. Each curriculum might be different, or the culture of one program may not suit you. When deciding , carefully research and consider the pros and cons of each individual program. Try to narrow your list down to a top 10.
Both the CaRMS and ERAS applications will typically include submitting a , recommendation letters, standardized test scores and going to residency interviews where you’ll answer . You’ll also be asked to submit your to determine which programs are right for you.
When creating your application, keep in mind these qualities that are most important to pathology residency program directors:
- Interpersonal skills
- Interactions with faculty and staff during interviews/visit
- Commitment to the specialty
Of course, only the top two in this list will be readily apparent in your application materials. The rest will be revealed during your interview or visit to the program during the match cycle.
Even so, there are ways to ensure good word of mouth before you interview at a program, too. If you’ve completed any away rotations at one of your target programs, or have previously worked with any of the current residents, they may already be familiar with your work and have a positive impression of you. This is why networking is an important, often undervalued factor when applying for residency. You never know who will be evaluating you or interviewing you for a position, so making a strong first impression starts well before you even apply.
Here are some more tips on how to match to a pathology residency!
#1 Get broad experience across specialties
Pathologists need a broad base of medical knowledge across the different specialties. During a pathology residency, you’ll often have rotations in the other medical specialties with a focus on pathology. This is because pathologists often consult with medical professionals from many different disciplines on a huge variety of patients and cases. Your knowledge and experience in medicine should be broad and varied, so it’s important to ace all your and demonstrate strong knowledge and experience in each one.
#2 Get experience in pathology
Acing your pathology clinical rotation in med school will of course look good on your , but it never hurts to gain a little outside experience with pathology, especially if you’re applying to one of the top programs.
For instance, research isn’t usually a hard requirement to get matched to pathology, but it’s a nice plus if you’re applying to a more competitive pathology residency or want to stand out. Similarly, having some experience working with a pathologist or having a from a pathologist are nice things to have, but not a necessity.
#3 Earn a good test score
Strong or test scores are often used to “weed out” applicants, so earning high test scores can help you pass the first round of elimination when applying to pathology residency. Good test scores also show that you are prepared for residency and are hard-working and dedicated.
#4 Don’t neglect your application
Your application is your chance to shine, so don’t forget to take your time and craft a strong and other application materials. Just because pathology is “easier” to match doesn’t mean you can slack on your application. You want to show residency programs that you are committed and dedicated, or you’ll be easily bypassed in the early rounds of application decisions.
#5 Ace your interview
Your interview is where you’ll really demonstrate all those qualities pathology residency directors are on the lookout for. You’ll need to know , and be ready to answer even the toughest . If your interview involves a visit with the program’s staff, residents and facilities, consider your entire visit as part of your evaluation.
Program directors want to see that you are a good fit with their program, so show strong interpersonal skills, a positive attitude and genuine interest. Ask questions about the program and show your curiosity.
It doesn’t hurt to prepare yourself ahead of time with three important strategies:
1. Research the program thoroughly. Learn it top to bottom.
3. Come prepared with questions and observations of your own to ask
With a little advance preparation and some easy advanced steps, you can ace your residency interview at any program!
1. How long is a pathology residency?
Pathology residency is usually 4 years in total and can be followed by a medical fellowship.
2. How intense is pathology residency?
Pathology residency can be quite intense, as there is a large volume of work and residents are required to work through a variety of rotations in different specialties and subspecialties. The pace of pathology residency can be fast, the work hours long and the work demanding. Pathology residents do experience a higher level of burnout, like many medical residents, but this can be managed with the right techniques.
3. Are pathology residency programs competitive?
Generally, no, pathology is not the most competitive specialty. However, this does not mean that a match to a pathology residency is guaranteed. Residency program directors are looking for applicants who have a genuine interest in the specialty and are committed to residency training in pathology, so they will be looking to “weed out” applicants.
4. How do I match to a pathology residency?
To match to a pathology residency, you should first and foremost demonstrate a genuine commitment to the specialty, strong interpersonal skills, good communication and a good residency application.
5. What is the match rate for pathology?
The match rate for pathology is typically in the high 80s or low 90s, so it’s quite favorable and not as competitive as some other residency programs. Pathology also has a relatively high match rate for DOs and IMGs, making it an attractive option for medical graduates interested in pathology.
6. What is the most in-demand pathology subspecialty?
Pathology in general is an in-demand specialty, but the most in-demand subspecialty for pathologists is cytopathology, or the study of cells to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.
7. How much do pathologists make?
Pathologists are among the more well-paid doctors, making around $300,000+ a year in the US.
8. Should I apply for a pathology residency?
Pathology may not be the of choice for everyone, but if you’re considering applying for a pathology residency, it’s advisable to learn a bit more about the specialty. Talk with practicing pathologists or residents about their experiences and why they decided to pursue pathology.