Pathology Job Market

In my opinion Pathologists will be in surplus relative to the job supply for at least the next 10 years. If this is true anyone who begins residency training in Pathology now stands a chance of never finding an attending level position in Pathology.

There have been significant losses of Pathologist job positions in the US for the following reasons:

First, mergers and acquisitions have increased the workload per Pathologist, thereby reducing the total number of Pathology positions needed in the US. For example, when I began training in July 1991, the hospital where I trained was averaging around 2,000 surgical cases per pathologist per year. The company which owned the hospital bought out several nearby hospitals. Each time the company bought a hospital it would merge half of their Pathologists into the existing group and lay off the other half. As a result, the workload increased exponentially with each new acquisition but no one could leave - there were no other jobs in the area, as the company had bought most of the hospitals. The workload is now well over 3,000 surgical cases per Pathologist per year (plus large numbers of cytology slides).

Secondly, the Pathology residency programs in the US are training large numbers of Pathologists many of whom will never get a job in the field. I'll go into more detail on this later.

Thirdly, administrative duties and Clinical Pathology duties have largely been turned over to non-MD administrative and technical staff. This decreased workload has generally been reflected in lower numbers of Pathologists. Generally, loss has been by attrition. If the workload decreases, you close job positions as people retire, move on, etc. This is not a problem for people who are already working but it kills the chances new Pathology graduates have in finding jobs.

Fourthly, there are large numbers of Pathologists over age 70 who are clinging to their job and refusing to retire. This decreases the number of positions available to people who are graduating from residency.

Here are some estimates I have of the numbers involved:

Let's say that the US Population is about 270,000,000 (latest census estimate). If there are roughly 6,000 surgical specimens per 100,000 population per year then there are 16,200,000 surgical specimens examined in the US per year. A full-time Pathologist working very hard doing only Surgical Pathology would average about 4,000 specimens/yr. Therefore the entire Surgical Pathology load of the US could be done by 4050 Pathologists.

Let's guess that the US Cytopathology load could be done by 2,000 Pathologists, Autopsy by 1,000 and Clinical Pathology by 1,000.

There is a need for a minimum of 8,050 Pathologists (an educated guess). HOWEVER THERE ARE CURRENTLY ABOUT 14,000 PATHOLOGISTS IN THE USA, AN OVERSUPPLY OF 73%. If every Pathology training program was closed, this oversupply would last at least 10 years.

Committee for Improvement in the Pathology Job Market
Visit our Web page at: