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Cytotechnologist vs. Pathologist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Cytotechnologists and pathologists are both medical professionals who work with patients to diagnose and treat diseases. Though they share some similarities, there are several key differences between these two job titles. In this article, we discuss the differences between a cytotechnologist and a pathologist, and we provide additional medical professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Cytotechnologist?

Cytotechnologists are medical professionals who specialize in the study of cells. They work in hospitals, clinics and private laboratories to examine cells under a microscope and look for evidence of disease. Cytotechnologists often work with pathologists, who are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis of disease. Cytotechnologists prepare slides of cells and tissues for examination by pathologists. They may also perform tests on body fluids, such as blood or urine, to look for evidence of disease.

What is a Pathologist?

Pathologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and studying diseases. They work in hospitals, clinics and private practices. Pathologists often work with other doctors to determine the best course of treatment for a patient. To do this, they examine tissues and organs to look for abnormalities. Pathologists also often conduct autopsies to determine the cause of death. In some cases, pathologists may also be responsible for researching new treatments or cures for diseases.

Cytotechnologist vs. Pathologist

Here are the main differences between a cytotechnologist and a pathologist.

Job Duties

Cytotechnologists perform many of the same tasks as pathologists, but they work with different types of samples. Cytotechnologists analyze cells and tissues that have been collected from patients for analysis. They may prepare these samples for examination and test them to determine a diagnosis.

The duties of a cytotechnologist are more specialized than those of a pathologist because of the type of sample they examine. A pathologist interprets the results that the cytotechnologist provides, so the two professions work closely together. In addition, cytotechnologists must follow the orders of the pathologist if they provide them with samples to be examined.

Job Requirements

Cytotechnologists typically need a bachelor’s degree in cytotechnology or a related field, such as biology or chemistry. They also must complete a one-year clinical internship to gain hands-on experience working with patients. Some states require cytotechnologists to be licensed, but requirements vary by state.

Pathologists usually need a medical degree to enter the field. After completing four years of medical school, they must complete a three- to five-year residency program in pathology. Some pathologists also pursue a fellowship, which can last one to two years. To practice medicine, pathologists must obtain a license from the state in which they plan to work.

Work Environment

Cytotechnologists typically work in laboratories, where they perform tests on samples to detect abnormalities. They may also work for hospitals or physician’s offices, where they can provide results directly to patients and doctors.

Pathologists usually work in a laboratory setting, but they may also work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities. Their job is more focused on research than cytotechnologists, so they often spend time in an office reviewing test results and writing reports.


Both cytotechnologists and pathologists use microscopes to examine cells, but their goals are different. Cytotechnologists typically screen cells for abnormalities that could indicate cancer or other diseases, while pathologists use microscopes to diagnose diseases by studying the structure of cells.

Both cytotechnologists and pathologists need excellent attention to detail to be successful in their jobs. They also both need to have good manual dexterity to handle delicate instruments and samples. However, because they have different goals, they use different skills. For example, cytotechnologists need to be able to quickly identify abnormal cells, so they benefit from having strong pattern recognition skills. Pathologists often need to communicate their findings to other medical professionals, so they need to have strong communication skills.


The average salary for a cytotechnologist is $83,587 per year, while the average salary for a pathologist is $209,627 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the state in which you work, the size of the company you work for and your level of experience.


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