Physiology and pathology are two distinct fields in science, but are related in the sense that both include studying cells. Read more to learn if working in physiology, pathology and related sciences appeals to you.
Physiology studies the physical, mechanical and biochemical processes of living organisms. As a physiologist, you could examine cellular systems, genes, tissues and organs. You might perform research for drug companies. You could become an exercise physiologist and devise fitness plans to improve patients' health and body functions.
Pathology studies the causes and progress of diseases, examining tissues, organs, body fluids and cells. Pathologists are specialized physicians who can help living patients. Some pathologists work in morgues and uncover causes of death by conducting autopsies. As a pathologist you may use a microscope to see if diseases are present in a patient's sample or use other lab methods to study diseases. You might report your findings to other medical professionals or criminal justice officials.
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognizes the specialties of clinical and anatomic pathology (www.abms.org). Hematology and forensic pathology are among the 11 pathology subspecialties, according to ABMS.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that most physiologists and miscellaneous biological scientists earned between $40,100 and $106,320 as of 2011 and job opportunities were expected to grow 6.3% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com said the majority of exercise physiologists made between $28,148 and $54,035 as of 2012.
The BLS predicted jobs for physicians and surgeons would increase 24% between 2010 and 2020. PayScale.com reported most medical pathologists earned between $64,892 and $288,959 as of 2012. Most physician assistants, including pathologist assistants, made between $60,690 and $120,060 as of 2011, the BLS said, and job opportunities were expected to rise 29.5 % between 2010 and 2020.
The type of physiology degree program you may pursue depends upon your career goals. Majors include physiology and neuroscience, animal or human physiology and integrative physiology.
A bachelor's degree in physiology may qualify you for entry-level clinical and research jobs. With a bachelor's degree you might work as a research technician, medical writer or science teacher at middle or high schools. A master's degree in physiology may open doors to more advanced research, clinical and teaching careers as well as many public health positions. A bachelor's or graduate degree in exercise physiology could lead you to jobs in health fitness or therapy. Some bachelor's and master's degree programs in physiology will prepare you to enter medical, dental or veterinary schools.
A doctoral degree in physiology might allow you to operate your own research laboratory and seek funding grants. You could supervise research in academia, hospitals, industry or government facilities. A doctoral degree may qualify you to teach undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.
To become a pathologist you must first go to medical school and earn a Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. Then you'd complete specialty pathology training in a residency program lasting three or four years before getting certified by the American Board of Pathology, according to the ABMS. You may seek further training for one to two years before getting certified in a pathology subspecialty, the ABMS said. Doctors must obtain a license to practice within the United States.
A doctoral degree in pathology could prepare you for jobs in research, academia or biotechnology. Some universities offer pathologist assistant programs leading to a master's degree. As an assistant, you could dissect specimens, get samples ready for testing and conduct autopsies, as well as perform other duties directed by a pathologist.