Can a Nurse Practitioner be a Pathologist?

There is often a question between a nurse practitioner and a pathologist, but is there really a difference between the two? After all, a nurse collects blood and urine samples for testing and so do pathologists.

Certainly there is a difference in terms of education, job functions and salary. So in this article we will discuss their differences and whether a nurse practitioner can become a pathologist.

Nurse Practitioner vs. Pathologist

Nurse practitioners are in charge of performing various tests to determine the patient’s disease. While pathologists are the ones who study tissues and cells (i.e. body fluids) in order to determine what the patient’s disease is.

Another way to see the difference between the two, on the one hand nurse practitioners are the ones who order blood and urine tests. While the other, their main function is to perform the tests and interpret their results.

In this sense, a pathologist is a physician specializing in Anatomic Pathology; therefore, if a nurse practitioner wishes to become a pathologist, he/she must meet the educational requirements of this profession. Nurse practitioners do not specialize in a specific specialty like pathologists.

What are the duties of a Nurse Practitioner and is it the same as a Pathologist?

When we talk about the duties of a nurse practitioner it refers to the physical tests and diagnoses they must give.  In addition, they may order medical procedures, monitor a patient’s progress and prescribe medications to patients.

On the other hand, a pathologist oversees the collection of blood, stool, urine, sputum or phlegm samples. This is in order to give the physician an idea of what is wrong with the person. In other words, the attending physician treats the patient based on the interpretation made by the pathologist.

Additionally, the following duties can be highlighted:

  • Look for malignant tumors in the lymph nodes, thyroid, etc.
  • Analyze specimens to determine if they are cancerous and/or if surgery is necessary.
  • Determine a diabetic patient’s medication dosage by performing blood sugar tests.
  • Examine cadavers in order to identify diseases, confirm the cause, manner and mechanism of death through autopsy.

Education requirements to become a pathologist

The education and training to become a pathologist in the United States requires a minimum of 11 years, although it is usually 12 years (4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and 4 years of residency). After residency they must take a certification exam in their chosen specialty.

In addition, they must take the examination to become board certified by the American Board of Pathology or the American Osteopathic Board of Pathology.

Unlike a nurse practitioner that will only take 6 to 8 years of schooling. This includes earning a bachelor’s degree and a gradu ate degree. In addition, you must complete a number of training as a registered nurse to take the nurse practitioner licensing exam.


Being a nurse practitioner is very different from being a pathologist even though you have some commonalities. As mentioned above, their duties are different, the education time is longer than the other and even the salary is different.

If a nurse practitioner wants to study to be a pathologist he/she will have to fulfill the education requirements, therefore he/she will have to complete medical school education, advanced medical training in a residency program and among other trainings.

Marlene J. Shockley

My name is Marlene J. Shockley, and I am a Registered Nurse (RN). I have always been interested in helping people and Nursing seemed like the perfect career for me. After completing my Nursing Degree, I worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and home health care. I have also had the opportunity to work as a Travelling Nurse, which has allowed me to see different parts of the country and meet new people. No matter where I am working, I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families and helping them through whatever medical challenges they may be facing.