A cytopathologist examines cells for the purpose of diagnosing and treating disease. To become a cytopathologist, you will typically need an advanced academic background in science as well as good communication skills and analytical abilities. You can begin preparing in high school before going on to earn a bachelor's degree in a cytotechnology or cytology major. After earning this degree, you can then go on to seek graduate education in this field or to earn a medical degree. Finally, you may need certification to pursue a career as a cytopathologist.
Though many people think of college as the start of career preparation, you can begin preparing to become a cytopathologist while you are still in high school. You can do this by taking advanced classes in math and science as well as by excelling in composition courses. The math and science classes will help prepare you for more rigorous classes in college, and the composition courses will help you prepare for effective written communication in college and later as a cytopathologist. Additionally, you may do well to take public-speaking courses if they are available to help you improve your verbal communication skills.
In college, you can prepare to become a cytopathologist by earning a degree in cytology or cytotechnology. In such a program, you will typically learn what cells are made of and how they function, and you will likely study how they interact with each other as well. The subjects you will study as part of this degree program include microbiology, cell function, and molecular biology. Such a program may also include classes in evolutionary and developmental biology, pathology, and cell analysis.
Depending on where you plan to work, you may find that a bachelor's degree alone isn't enough to land the job you want or to give you the best chance for advancement in this field. Instead, you may need to earn a graduate degree, and in some places a degree in medicine is common for cytopathologists. A graduate program in cytology or cytotechnology will typically include a more in-depth and rigorous study of cytology or cytotechnology as well as research opportunities. Doctoral programs usually require you to prepare a thesis as well, while earning a degree in medicine involves four years in medical school. If you choose to earn a medical degree, you will usually have to complete a pathology residency or fellowship as well.
You may also need certification to become a cytopathologist. Usually, this involves meeting the educational requirements of a certifying authority in your jurisdiction and passing an exam. Some certifying authorities may set work experience requirements as well.