Postgraduate Medical Councilof Western Australia Careers Portal
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*WA figures sourced from NHWDS & MET

Pathologists use their pathological skills and training to study disease, or any condition that limits the quality, length or enjoyment of life.

The work of a pathologist is essential in a patient's health journey to diagnose conditions such as cancer connective tissues disease, neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases and much more. It involves analysing the specimen and reporting, diagnosing, dissection or ‘cutting up’ specimens to be examined. A pathologist is also involved in multidisciplinary meetings, advice to colleagues in other specialties and educating and supervising trainees.

The study and research that pathologists undertake also contribute to solving significant health care concerns such as immunisation against infectious diseases, organ transplantation, safe blood transfusion, genetics and forensics.

Pathologists can work in the public sector, private sector, research, academia or education. There are many different subspecialty areas that the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) provides training in and additional information on these can be found here.

Typically, a pathologist’s day involves showing cases to other pathologists to get their opinions, preparing cases and doing research. As a pathologist you’ll generally work office hours. Each week you might also be involved in a teaching meeting and attend a weekly dermatology clinic.

PathWest is the only public pathology provider in WA. For additional information on working with them please visit their website
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What's a typical day like?

As a pathologist you will need an interest in:
  • Following guidelines
  • Working independently
  • Methodical, structured approach to work and reporting
  • Involvement in multidisciplinary meetings
  • Working on a patient without direct interaction with the patient
  • Regular working hours
  • Processing specimens that can be smelly and repetitive
  • Being curious.
 
How do you get to participate in a pathology observership?

To get into training currently you need to have done a minimum of two years postgraduate but the more years you’ve done the better. Usually you’ll commence pathology training in PGY3 or PGY4 but there’s quite a lot of variation. 

As a pathologist you will do quite a lot of processing of specimens that can be quite smelly and repetitive. To help you determine whether this is the right job for you and given there is no opportunity to do a pathology term in PGY1 or PGY2 it’s worth looking into an observership for a couple of weeks which can usually be done at SCGH or FSH. To organise an observership try contacting the Director of Training – Dr Yancey Wilson and she will be able to organise an observership for you.

Once you know you want to do pathology you can sit the Basic Pathological Sciences (BPS) exam. Some trainees sit this in their first year of pathology training and others do it in medical school. Additional information about the BPS can be found here.

Starting pathology is like you’ve started again. What you learnt in medical school doesn’t really cut it. There are pathologists who have been working in this career for 30 years and are still learning new things. It’s very interesting and cutting edge (being curious is a good thing). There isn’t a specific curriculum for exams and everything is based on WHO textbooks that only get updated every five years and there can be quite a lot of changes so there’s quite a lot to study for.

The training program generally takes five years unless you take additional time to complete your exams and then this can be extended to six years. It’s centralised so you get employed through SCGH and move through public and private labs around Perth (there are no rural rotations). There’s no on call and generally your weekends and public holidays are free. Perth has a reputation across Australia as being a good place to train. There’s a good teaching focus and you will learn a lot.

As a registrar you will do two to three days of ‘cut ups’ a week, where you can see the pathology with the naked eye versus under the microscope. On the other days you will have you will do reporting and tutorials scattered throughout the week depending on what’s available, what site you’re at and if you have upcoming exams.

For further information about training to become a pathologist, refer to the Royal College of Pathologists Australia RCPA - General Information

Applications are advertised around June each year via the JobsWA website.


What's a typical day for a registrar pathologist?
When is a good time to complete the BPS exam?
What's challenging about the training program?
Overview of pathology training program
What's good about the training program?
What PGY level is common for applying?

N.B. Career prospects are dependent on both the supply of specialists and the projected future demand for services provided by medical specialists (including general practitioners). The complex interplay of supply and demand is currently being modelled at both a state and national level and will be included when it's available.