Skip to main content

Pathology Specialty at a Glance

Students interested in a career in pathology should have a solid understanding of medical disease and surgery.

Match Statistics

Mean USMLE Step 2 CK score: 239.5
USMLE Step 2 CK 25th percentile: 230
USMLE Step 2 CK 75th percentile: 251
Average number of research experiences: 3
Average number of abstracts, presentations and publications: 5

  • Why should a student choose pathology?

    Pathology is for those who aspire to become expert diagnosticians operating at the interface between medicine and science. Those who choose a career in pathology:

    • Enjoy the intellectual rigor of a dynamic practice landscape grounded in science, featuring cutting-edge technologies alongside tried-and-true methods.

    • Are attuned to detail and excel in meticulous tasks.

    • Would like a chance at individual work and excellence.

    • Think creatively and are big-picture thinkers with dynamic leadership skills, inspiring others with their vision.

    • Would like to practice in diverse settings, from quiet offices with microscopes to bustling surgical suites and patient clinics.

  • Are there things students should be doing in Phase 1 (year 1 and 2) to prepare?

    As pathology is commonly behind the scenes compared to other medical specialties, early recognition of your interest in the field will allow you to better pay attention to pathology and appreciate its critical role in modern health care. Consequently, declare your interests as early as you can, though if your interests do not develop until later, that is okay. It is also acceptable to explore interests in pathology at the same time as interests in other medical specialties

  • What electives are recommended for students pursuing pathology?

    The pathology survey rotation at IU Health Pathology Laboratory is recommended in July or earlier of the fourth year of medical school to provide exposure to diverse subspecialties within pathology, ensuring students are confident in their career choice. However, the rotation's drawback is limited time with faculty members, making it challenging to obtain a meaningful letter of recommendation. Additionally, a month-long rotation in a specific anatomic or clinical pathology subspecialty at the IU Health Pathology Laboratory is advised, allowing students to work closely with faculty members and obtain meaningful letters of recommendation. Subspecialties include surgical pathology, dermatopathology, neuropathology, forensic pathology, clinical microbiology and others. Attending the 4 p.m. surgical pathology daily quality control conference on any pathology rotation is crucial as faculty members who run the conference may provide strong letters of recommendation, having closely interacted with rotating medical students.

  • What sub-Is are recommended for students pursuing pathology?

    Although not a strong preference, doing a sub-I in internal medicine may allow for exposure to the greatest diversity of diseases. Since pathology does not require an internship year and since pathology requires a significant amount of clinical correlation, we recommend that students get as much clinical exposure to medicine as possible prior to residency.

  • Is an away rotation recommended for pathology?

    Away rotations are often a great way to show your strong desire in a specific program, but away rotations are relatively uncommon in pathology and not doing one would not be expected to put a student at a significant disadvantage.

  • How important is research? Does it have to be specific to pathology?

    Scholarship/research (whether in pathology or in any other area) is viewed as a plus by pathology residencies, but it is not a common requirement (other than perhaps at the couple largest research institutions in the country). Spending time doing research only significantly adds to an applicant's CV if they have a work product to show for their time (e.g. a poster at a national meeting or being a co-author on a publication).

  • How long is pathology residency training?

    Pathology training programs are most commonly four years, resulting in dual board certification in anatomic and clinical pathology. Focused programs in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology and neuropathology are available, among others.

  • Are there any pathology specific recommendations regarding letters of recommendation?

    At least one letter of recommendation should be from a pathologist, though commonly applicants have two or more letters from a pathologist. It is particularly useful to solicit a letter from a pathologist who works with pathology trainees and who can comment on if you know what you are getting into and how you may perform — relative to other pathology residents — once your training begins. Pathology training will likely be different from anything you have done in your medical training to-date. It is important that you fully understand how you will practice medicine as a pathology trainee.

  • What are some useful resources for students considering this specialty?
  • How does career mentoring at IU School of Medicine work in pathology?

    John-Paul Lavik, MD, PhD, residency program director, serves as the pathology mentor for any student who wishes to explore pathology as a potential career.