Anatomical pathology technician

Two anatomical pathology technicians


Anatomical pathology technicians assist specialised doctors in pathology in conducting post-mortem examinations, keeping records of the samples, specimens, organs and the respective findings and taking care of their appropriate disposal under supervision, following the orders of the doctor of medicine.

Excludes people performing patients’ treatment.
Excludes people performing assistance in medical treatment.

Anatomical pathology technicians typically do the following:

  • receive the deceased and place them into refrigerated storage
  • record the identity of the deceased
  • take care of the deceased’s personal belongings
  • take samples and specimens, weigh organs as they’re removed and make a record of findings during the post-mortem examination
  • ensure equipment, instruments and rooms are clean and appropriately kept
  • sterilise instruments and make sure they’re ready for use
  • liaise with coroners where the cause of death is suspicious or unknown
  • clean the deceased and reconstruct ready for release to the undertaker
  • administer the day-to-day running of a mortuary
  • arrange and conduct viewings for relatives in the mortuary quiet room
  • provide information and advice to relatives on issues such as death certificates and funeral arrangements.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to anatomical pathology technician:

assistant pathology technician
technician in anatomical pathology
pathology technician
pathology laboratory services technician
assistant in anatomical pathology
anatomical pathology technologist
mortuary technician
anatomical pathology technical assistant
pathology laboratory technician

Working conditions

Anatomical pathology technicians often work in clinical conditions. Wearing protective clothing, such as rubber gloves and boots, is part of their routine. This protective gear helps anatomical pathology technicians manage dead bodies both safely and efficiently.

Anatomical pathology technicians typically work about 40 hours per week. Depending on the employer, working in a shift pattern is possible.

Minimum qualifications

An associate’s degree in life science or a related field that includes a substantive amount of science courses, such as biology and chemistry, is generally the minimum required to work as an anatomical pathology technician.

For advanced opportunities as an anatomical pathology technician, a bachelor’s degree and comprehensive training through graduate studies is recommended. While the bachelor’s degree can be in any field, a life science major offers the most relevant courses. Graduate studies in pathology include coursework and clinical experience in forensic pathology, hematopathology, immunohistochemistry and molecular pathology.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Anatomical pathology technician is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Anatomical pathology technician career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to anatomical pathology technician.

cytology screener
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clinical perfusion scientist
clinical coder
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Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of anatomical pathology technician. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of anatomical pathology technician with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

biomedical scientist advanced
specialist pharmacist
specialist biomedical scientist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of anatomical pathology technician.

  • Hygiene in a health care setting: The procedures related to maintaining a hygienic environment within a health care setting such as hospitals and clinics. It can range from hand washing to cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment used and infection control methods.
  • Microbiology-bacteriology: Microbiology-Bacteriology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Health care occupation-specific ethics: The moral standards and procedures, ethical questions and obligations specific to occupations in a health care setting such as respect for human dignity, self-determination, informed consent and patient confidentiality.
  • Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
  • Infection control: The routes of transmission and methods of preventing spread of common and important infecting organisms together with the methods available for sterilisation and disinfection of pathogenic organisms in the prevention of infection.
  • Sterilization techniques: The methods and techniques used to destroy or remove microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria that can contaminate medical instruments or any type of material in a health care setting.
  • Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
  • Legal requirements related to mortuary services: The legal obligations and requirements for hospital and coroner post-mortem examinations. The requirements for death certifications and related documentation and for organ removal.
  • Medical informatics: The processes and tools used for the analysis and dissemination of medical data through computerized systems.
  • Pathological anatomy: Pathological anatomy is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Pathology: The components of a disease, the cause, mechanisms of development, morphologic changes, and the clinical consequences of those changes.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of anatomical pathology technician.

  • Follow control of substances hazardous to health procedures: Adhere to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) procedures for activities that involve hazardous substances, such as bacteria, allergens, waste oil, paint or brake fluids that result in illness or injury.
  • Conduct visits to the postmortem room: Guide all visitors to the post-mortem room, making sure they wear the appropriate protective clothing and follow correct procedures. Deal sympathetically with the relatives who may visit the mortuary for identification or viewing of the deceased persons.
  • Select hazard control: Perform appropriate selection of hazard control measures and risk management
  • Cope with unusual stimuli in the mortuary facility: Deal with strong smells and traumatic sights of deaths from road traffic collisions, suicides or suspicious death cases and keep calm and mental clarity.
  • Take samples during autopsy: Collect samples from the deceased body such as bodily fluids and tissues for clinical examination, transplant purposes or research.
  • Perform mortuary facility administration: Implement the day-to-day running of the mortuary service by ensuring the instruments are clean and sterile, placing the bodies into cold storage departments, tracking the samples of the deceased and keeping accurate records related to the activities in the mortuary room.
  • Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Provide information on mortuary services: Provide information support related to documentation such as death certificates, cremation forms and any other type of documents required by authorities or families of the deceased.
  • Observe confidentiality: Observe the set of rules establishing the nondisclosure of information except to another authorised person.
  • Assist with reconstructing the body after autopsy: Assist with the reconstruction and cleaning of the deceased body after post-mortem examinations.
  • Carry out an autopsy: Open the deceased person`s body and remove the organs for examination, interpreting the findings in the context of the clinical history.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
  • Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
  • Work with authorities related to mortuary services: Liaise with police, funeral directors, spiritual care personnel and the families of the deceased.
  • Manage infection control in the facility: Implement a set of measures to prevent and control infections, formulating and establishing health and safety procedures and policies.
  • Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of anatomical pathology technician. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Forensic pathology: The legal procedures and techniques used to determine the cause of death of an individual, as part of an investigation of criminal law cases.
  • Osteology: The scientific study of human and animal skeletons, bone structure and specific bones. Osteology examines the bone structure as a whole and specific bones. The research can focus on diseases, function or pathology of bones.
  • Medical terminology: The meaning of medical terms and abbreviations, of medical prescriptions and various medical specialties and when to use it correctly.
  • Toxicology: The adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, their dose and exposure.
  • First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of anatomical pathology technician. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

3212 – Medical and pathology laboratory technicians

  1. Anatomical pathology technician – ESCO
  2. Anatomical Pathology Technician: Salary and Career Facts –
  3. Anatomical pathology | Health Careers – NHS
  4. Anatomical pathology technician | Explore careers – National Careers Service
  5. Anatomical pathology technologist job profile |
  6. How to become an anatomical pathology technician | UK
  7. Featured image: By National Library of Medicine – History of Medicine –, No restrictions
Last updated on January 17, 2023

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