What You Can Expect Working in Pathology in The NHS As An IMG

10 Minutes

Pathology is based on the causes and effects of diseases, especially the structural and functional changes in body tissues and organs that are brought on by disease. It is a medical speciality concerned with diagnosing illnesses based on the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids and tissues, including examination of biopsy specimens, autopsy reports, and other medical data. Thus, pathologists play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating many diseases by providing essential information to physicians and other healthcare professionals. As you can see, it's a busy field to work in!

So, what are the core areas of pathology that you can work in, and what are the qualifications you need to do so if you are a doctor from overseas who wants to join the NHS?

Paths to GMC registration

You will need GMC registration to gain your licence to practise medicine in the UK. If you want to work in the medical field, it is an essential requirement. If you are an International Medical Graduate looking to work in the UK as a pathologist, the best way to get this is to complete the FRCPath exam in your specialism. You can complete the PLAB tests to get your GMC registration, but you need to complete the FRCPath exam to get on the specialist register. This is considered a more prestigious qualification and will grant you access to better roles and positions within the NHS.

The reason for the GMC registration is to ensure that every medical professional in the UK is working to the same standard and has the same level of professionalism and expertise. As a result, it is also necessary to demonstrate your proficiency in English with a completed and recognised English language qualification such as OET or IELTS. In general, OET is the more favoured as this includes medical terminology.

Once you have these qualifications, you can start the process of GMC registration and apply for jobs in the UK. Once you have been offered a job, you will need to go through the process of applying for a UK Health and Care Worker visa.

Working in the NHS

As pathologists and their individual specialisms are required across the NHS, you can find yourself working in a range of different environments – depending on the role you choose. For example, you could be working on hospital wards or at research clinics; it depends on where your strengths lie and what you prefer in your working life.

The average starting salary for an ST3+ level registrar is 55,329, which increases up to £126,281 for the most experienced consultant level pathologists. The amount you get paid will also depend on which NHS trust you are employed by and your exact role. You will probably be expected to work on a rota, meaning you may work evenings, weekends and bank holidays. However, the average work week will be 40 hours, and you will have time off in compensation – so you might need to work a Saturday but will have Wednesday off. As is often the case with most medical careers, your rota will likely change regularly.

If you want to progress your career, you could move into a managerial role, a senior or consultant role and even into teaching or training roles.

On a personal level, the NHS offers a number of benefits. For instance, you should be entitled to a free eye care exam and some money off glasses. There are also a lot of deals on high street shops, parking, restaurants and cafes, mobile phones and gyms. Even some gigs sell tickets at reduced prices for NHS staff.  

Pathology routes you can take:


This involves the study of tissues and cells to diagnose diseases such as cancer and to provide information about the progression and extent of the disease. Thus, if you want to work in oncology in the diagnostics department, you will likely be suited to work in histopathology.

This is a growing area too. Currently, there are 1,253 histopathologists in the UK, and the NHS is a great field for oncology work. In addition, oncology in the NHS is thought to be one of the most advanced in the world. So, you will be on the cutting edge of research and life-saving techniques here.


This is a rewarding role in the NHS and can range from diagnosing anaemia, leukaemia, clotting disorders, and blood cancers.

Haematologists also use a variety of modern diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, including flow cytometry, molecular biology methods and stem cell transplantation, to provide the highest quality of care.

Haematology is a rapidly evolving field, and haematologists have opportunities to participate in research and contribute to developing new diagnostic and therapeutic methods. So, if you want to partake in medical research as well as work in a clinical role, this can be an excellent area to accomplish that goal.


Next on the list is the area of microbiology.

A microbiologist in the NHS in the United Kingdom plays a critical role in diagnosing and treating infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms.

Understandably, since 2020, this area has exploded in its recruitment.

Microbiologists use a variety of laboratory techniques to isolate and identify microorganisms from patient samples, such as blood, urine, and body fluids. They also determine the sensitivity of microorganisms to different antimicrobial agents to help guide the selection of appropriate treatments for infections. So, you may even get to be involved in research which looks into treatments for illnesses, which can lead to vaccines being developed.

You will also likely play a key role in the surveillance of infectious diseases. This includes identifying and reporting outbreaks and monitoring trends in the incidence and distribution of infections.

Then, there is consulting. Microbiologists provide expert advice and consultation to healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses, to help them diagnose and manage infectious diseases.


Finally, in the line-up of pathology areas in the NHS comes cytopathology.

A bit of a mixed role, a cytopathologist in the NHS is involved in the diagnosis of a wide range of diseases, including cancer and infections. For instance, cytopathologists prepare cytopathology specimens, such as Pap smears, for microscopic examination.

They can also use their expertise in cellular anatomy and physiology to interpret cytopathology specimens and diagnose diseases, such as cancer, infections, and autoimmune disorders, so they are heavily involved in the diagnostic process of these illnesses too.

Whether you’re interested in Histopathology, Haematology, Microbiology or Cytopathology there is a huge demand for your services in the NHS. If you’re considering your career options and want to know more about the latest vacancies then get in touch.