What Should I Major in to Become a Medical Examiner?

Medical examiners are physicians who must attend medical school and complete a residency. Undergraduate students can major in a natural science or a field like pathology. At the graduate level, students must earn a Doctor of Medicine degree and specialize in forensic pathology.

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Medical Examination Majors

Aspiring medical examiners often major in foundational science or complete a Doctor of Medicine program with a concentration in forensic pathology, where they will learn about cells, diseases, anatomy and pharmacology, among other relevant topics.

Undergraduate Majors

Medical examiners are medical doctors who specialize in forensic pathology. Earning a bachelor's degree in a foundational science, like biology, chemistry or physics, is a common choice for many aspiring medical examiners. General courses in an undergraduate degree program should include cellular and molecular biology, immunopathology, cell structure, human disease, pathogenesis and ethics. Some students choose to major in forensic science, where they will complete coursework in organic chemistry, genetics, physics, pharmacology, statistics, quantitative analysis and criminal justice.

Graduate Majors

Because medical examiners are physicians, they must earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from an accredited medical school, where they specialize in forensic pathology. Medical examiners must complete an additional 3-4 years of residency training in pathology.

During the residency, students build hands-on experience in several areas of pathology through clinical rotations. In the forensic pathology rotation, students perform autopsies under the direction and supervision of experienced medical examiners. Gaining hospital autopsy experience may be required prior to completing the forensic pathology rotation.

Salary for Graduates

Depending upon the state or jurisdiction, medical examiners may be referred to as coroners or forensic pathologists. Because a coroner is not a doctor but an elected official who investigates deaths due to unnatural causes, coroners tend to earn less than forensic pathologists.

According to PayScale.com, coroners earned between $21,699-$98,269 in January 2016. The median income was $48,296. Medical examiners earned between $37,480-$182,461. These professionals are often employed by governments, hospitals, law enforcement agencies and medical offices.

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