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Pathologist vs. Virologist: What Are the Differences?

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

Pathologists and virologists are both medical professionals who study diseases. Though they share some similarities, their focus and day-to-day responsibilities differ. If you’re interested in a career in medicine, learning about the differences between these two roles can help you choose the right path for you. In this article, we compare and contrast pathologists and virologists, and we provide information on what you can expect from each career.

What is a Pathologist?

A pathologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and studying diseases. They examine tissues, organs and fluids to determine the cause of a patient’s illness or to monitor the progress of their disease. Pathologists use a variety of techniques, including microscopy, to examine tissues and organs. They may also order and interpret tests, such as blood tests and biopsies. Pathologists work in hospitals, clinics and private laboratories. They often work with other healthcare professionals, such as surgeons and doctors, to provide a complete picture of a patient’s health.

What is a Virologist?

Virologists study viruses and the diseases they cause. They work in laboratories where they conduct research on how viruses work and develop new ways to detect and treat viral infections. Virologists also develop vaccines to prevent viral diseases. They may work in hospitals to diagnose and treat patients with viral infections. Virologists typically have a Ph.D. in microbiology, immunology or a related field.

Pathologist vs. Virologist

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

Job Duties

Both pathologists and virologists perform laboratory work, but their duties differ. A pathologist examines bodily fluids and tissues to identify diseases. They study these samples under a microscope and run tests on them. Virologists use the same techniques to identify viruses.

A pathologist diagnoses patients based on the samples they collect. They write reports that doctors can send to their patients. Virologists also write reports for other medical professionals. Both professions require professionalism so they can communicate important information about a patient’s health.

Job Requirements

Pathologists and virologists typically need a medical degree to enter the field. After completing medical school, pathologists must complete a residency in pathology, which can last four years. Virologists may also need to complete a residency, depending on their area of specialization. For example, those who want to work in a hospital might need to complete a residency in infectious diseases. Some virologists also pursue a PhD in microbiology or another related field.

Work Environment

Both pathologists and virologists work in laboratories, but the type of laboratory they work in depends on their specialty. Pathologists typically work in hospitals or other medical facilities where they can perform autopsies to determine a cause of death. They may also work for private companies that provide services to doctors’ offices.

Virologists usually work in research labs, universities or government agencies. These professionals often spend long hours performing experiments and analyzing data. Some virologists may travel to different locations to collect samples from patients with rare diseases.


Both pathologists and virologists use several similar skills in their jobs, such as critical thinking, problem solving and attention to detail. Both professions also require excellent communication skills, as they often need to share their findings with other medical professionals, patients and their families.

However, there are some key differences in the skills required for these two jobs. For example, a pathologist needs to have strong gross anatomy skills, as they often need to examine tissues and organs to look for abnormalities. A virologist does not need this same skill set, as they typically work with viruses, which are much smaller than human cells.

A virologist also needs to have a strong understanding of immunology, as they often need to study how viruses interact with the immune system. This is not as important for a pathologist, as they typically are not working with viruses.


The average salary for a pathologist is $209,627 per year, while the average salary for a virologist is $98,064 per year. The salary for both of these positions can vary depending on the location of the job, the level of experience and the type of employer.


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