Anatomical pathology technologist

Anatomical pathology technologists (APTs) work in mortuaries. In addition to assisting pathologists conduct post mortems, they might:

  • receive and release bodies from the mortuary
  • reconstruct and clean the deceased after the post mortem
  • deliver samples of tissues and fluids
  • complete administrative tasks

The role also includes meeting with:

  • families of the deceased
  • funeral directors
  • police
  • chaplains or other spiritual staff

Starting your career

Subject choices

Useful school subjects for APTs could include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Work placements and volunteering

While you can’t do work experience in the mortuary, you may still find it helpful to get experience of working in healthcare through a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to start your journey as an APT.

Find out more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.

Modern Apprenticeships

Start or continue your journey by taking a Modern Apprenticeship. Relevant Modern Apprenticeships for APTs include:

The role

As an NHSScotland anatomical pathology technologist, you’ll ensure that our mortuary and post-mortem services run smoothly.

What you’ll do

Your tasks could include:

  • administrative work, including record keeping and legal documents
  • shadowing and observing your workplace mentor
  • recording accurate identification of the deceased
  • taking samples for clinical examination, transplant or research
  • recording samples, specimens and organs
  • appropriate disposal of samples, specimens and organs
  • reconstructing the deceased after examination
  • talking with a wide range of people
  • maintaining the mortuary and post-mortem room
  • making sure equipment and instruments are kept sterile and ready for use
  • looking after the belongings and effects of the deceased
  • helping with viewings in the mortuary quiet room
  • providing death certificates and cremation forms
  • offering advice on funeral arrangements
  • assisting doctors in gaining signed consent for a post mortem

Top skills

The most important skills for APTs are:

  • teamwork
  • attention to detail
  • communication
  • empathy
  • focus
  • observation
  • research

You’ll also be expected to have knowledge of:

  • anatomy
  • health and safety
  • infection control
  • manual handling
  • the diversity of religious and cultural beliefs about death
  • the Human Tissue Act and coronial law

Who you’ll work with

You could be working with:

  • pathologists
  • general practitioners
  • junior doctors
  • nurses
  • paramedics
  • porters
  • Procurator Fiscal and police
  • funeral directors
  • chaplains
  • bereavement coordinators
  • family of the deceased

Working environment

As an APT, you will spend most of your time in the mortuary suite. As a result of this environment, you’ll likely need to wear protective clothing, such as:

  • theatre scrubs
  • surgical gloves
  • theatre gown
  • apron
  • mask
  • hair covering
  • visor or goggles
  • boots

Did you know?

While you don’t need to go to university to become an APT, a BSc in Anatomical Pathology is currently being developed.

Learning and development

Once you become an APT, you must be aware of any changes to mortuary policies and procedures. You’ll also have to keep up to date on developments in your area of work.

When you’re in the role, you’ll study qualifications awarded by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), including:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology

If you would like to progress into more senior roles, you can then take the Level 4 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology. This qualification will give you training in advanced practices and mortuary procedures and managerial skills.

You can also go to educational events held by the Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (AAPT). The AAPT have a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme that you can use to record your additional qualifications and achievements.

With additional qualification and experience, you could progress into a senior APT role. At this senior level, you’ll have added responsibilities, including:

  • training and mentoring APT trainees
  • managing mortuary staff

You might also teach other healthcare professionals, such as nurses who need last offices training.

Professional bodies

When you’re working as an APT, you can become a member of: