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How to become an anatomical pathology technologist

To become an anatomical pathology technologist in the NHS, you should apply for training opportunities on our recruitment website.

What is an anatomical pathology technologist?

Anatomical pathology technologists work in hospital mortuaries assisting pathologists with post-mortems. The purpose of a post-mortem is to examine a body to determine the cause of death.

Starting your career as an anatomical pathology technologist

Choosing subjects at school

To apply for a trainee anatomical pathology technologist job, useful subjects include:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • English
  • Maths

Speak to your guidance teacher or careers adviser about subjects offered at your school.

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

Education and training pathway

As a trainee anatomical pathology technologist, you’ll complete a Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Science (Anatomical Pathology Technology). It is equivalent to SCQF level 6. You’ll also learn the skills and knowledge you need to:

  • assist with a standard post-mortem
  • arrange viewings of the deceased
  • keep records
  • oversee legal documentation

This is a distance-learning course accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health.

Academy for Healthcare Science

The Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) maintains voluntary registers for healthcare science professions not covered by statutory registration and regulation. These registers are accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA).

Once you complete your training, you can join the Academy for Healthcare Science Practitioner Register.

Find out more about the Academy for Healthcare Science.

Get to know the role

As an anatomical pathology technologist, you’ll make sure mortuary and post-mortem services run smoothly.

Tasks include: 

  • receive and release bodies from the mortuary
  • take samples for clinical examination, transplant or research
  • record samples, specimens and organs
  • deliver samples of tissues and fluids
  • appropriate disposal of samples, specimens and organs
  • reconstruct and clean the deceased after examination
  • maintain the mortuary and post-mortem room
  • make sure equipment and instruments are kept sterile and ready for use
  • help with viewings in the mortuary quiet room
  • record accurate identification of the deceased
  • prepare legal documents
  • provide death certificates and cremation forms
  • offer advice on funeral arrangements

You'll need these skills:

  • attention to detail
  • communicating
  • collaborating
  • empathy

You’ll also be expected to have good knowledge of:

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

Anatomical pathlogy technologists work with: 

  • pathologists
  • general practitioners
  • junior doctors
  • nurses
  • paramedics
  • porters
  • Procurator Fiscal
  • police
  • funeral directors
  • chaplains
  • bereavement coordinators

You'll spend most of your time in the mortuary suite. In this job, you’ll need to wear protective clothing, such as:

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

Learning and development

During your career, you’ll be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up to date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (AAPT) provides: 

  • training courses 
  • conferences 
  • seminars  

Visit the AAPT website for more about training and CPD courses.

Career progression 

You can progress your career by taking additional qualifications. The Level 4 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology is for associate anatomical pathology technologists. It provides training in advanced practices, mortuary procedures, and managerial skills.

With additional qualifications and experience, you could progress into a senior role. You’ll have added responsibilities, such as mentoring trainees and managing mortuary staff.

Professional bodies

When you become a qualified anatomical pathology technologist, you can also join these professional bodies:

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