Nurse Practitioner Vs Pathologist

Some of you may be wondering – how is a Nurse Practitioner different from a Pathologist? After all, a nurse takes blood and urine samples for tests and so do pathologists. Moreover, both usually announce the results to those tests. Technically speaking, there is a vast difference between the two in terms of education, job duties, and salaries. Let understand how to differentiate between them.


Broadly speaking, Nurse Practitioners are nurses who are trained to practice medicine. They use various tests and their diagnosis of the symptoms to determine the illness a patient has and accordingly prescribe appropriate medicine. On the other hand, pathologists are people who study the tissues and cells in various bodily fluids to determine what disease a person has.

One way to look at is that the nurse practitioner orders some blood tests and urine tests to be performed. The pathologist conducts these tests and interprets their results. Sometimes they just provide the doctor / physician / nurse practitioner in charge with statistics of the different counts of tissues or cells and then these people must individually interpret their results.

Job Duties

A nurse practitioner can perform physical assessments and diagnose illnesses. They can also order tests and some medical procedures. They oversee a patient’s progress and tweaking their treatment accordingly. NPs can prescribe medicine to patients. However, there are some restrictions with them prescribing controlled substances.

A pathologist oversees collecting samples of bodily fluid. This may include blood, stool, urine, sputum or phlegm samples. They then analyze these samples to give the doctors an idea of what is wrong with the patient. The doctor then treats the patient from the inference of the pathologist. Pathologists also oversee the analysis of tissues that may be obtained during a surgery (they perform biopsies). One of the major duties of a pathologist is to identify cancer cells if they are present inside a patient’s body.

Education Requirements

A person needs about 8 years of education after completing high school to become an NP. This includes getting a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree with some training in between. They must complete some amount of training as registered nurse to give the nurse practitioner licensing exam.

On the other hand, a person needs to undergo some years of residency after getting a graduate’s degree to become a pathologist. Before this, they are supposed to get a license to practice medicine. Usually, these residency programs last for about 4 years. This means that a person needs to undergo about 12 years of training before becoming a pathologist. After the residency, they are to give a certification exam in the specialization that they have chosen.

Career Specializations

An NP can further aim to develop his or her skills by earning a specialization in some field of nursing. Some of the common fields are acute, emergency, pediatric, adult, family, geriatric, diabetic and psychiatric care. There might be other fields too in which they can choose to specialize in. This might also let them earn a bit more money.

As a pathologist, there is a variety of specializations depending on which part you are examining. Some of these are – Clinical, Anatomical, Molecular, Genetic, Forensic. There is also Immunopathology and Hematopathology. You can find some more information about them here. Usually, you perform your residency in one of these fields and then get certified to perform one of these. You could also opt to go into general pathology. As always, a specialization will further your career and give you a raise.

Average Salary

The average salary of a nurse practitioner is something around $97,000. This varies from one state to another.

Whereas, the average salary of a pathologist ranges anywhere from $150,000 to $180,000. This figure is for someone who just gets out of residency. The figure will increase with experience.

Job Outlook

For both these fields in medical science, the job outlook is great. The number of doctors isn’t all that high and that is why there is a need for mid-level health care providers to help these doctors out. As for pathologists, the number of healthcare providers who are using clinical tests to narrow down the possibilities and give an accurate diagnosis is increasing. Thus, both these careers have a prosperous future.

Hopefully, by now you know the difference between a nurse practitioner and pathologist in every sense of the word. With all the facts in hand, if you were ever confused between choosing any of the two careers, now you can decide freely.