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Medical Examiner Degree Program Information

Medical examiners must finish a forensic pathology residency program before practicing professionally. While enrolled in a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program, aspiring medical examiners typically complete classroom studies along with supervised clinical work.

Essential Information

Before students can enroll in a M.D. program must complete a bachelor's degree and at least one year of study in physics, organic chemistry, chemistry, calculus, English and biology. High Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and a strong grade point average are also common prerequisites for this 4-year program.


Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Program

During the first two years of a medical examiner residency program, students review foundational science material via group sessions, laboratory exercises, lectures and clinical case studies. Third year students begin medical clerkships, which allow them to gain experience in a clinical setting. Clerkships occur in school-affiliated hospitals and clinics where students learn about specializations in pediatrics, surgery, neurology and internal medicine. In the fourth year of the M.D. program, students select electives and participate in clinical rotations in a specialty area of their choice.

While a bachelor's degree in a science field is often recommended, some medical schools do not require an undergraduate degree in science as long as science prerequisites have been met. Science-related coursework includes:

  • Medical ethics
  • Anatomy
  • Behavioral science
  • Medical physiology
  • Medical genetics
  • Medical biochemistry

Career Opportunities

Medical examiners can find employment opportunities within federal, state and government agencies. Although the U.S. Bureau doesn't currently provide salary information for medical examiners specifically, it did report an average salary of $197,700 for all physicians and surgeons in May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates with a Doctor of Medicine must advance to a 4-year medical residency program to meet board and state requirements; aspiring medical examiners must complete a forensic pathology residency program. During the forensic pathology residency, residents perform hands-on work under the supervision of a certified medical examiner. Residents perform autopsies, prepare death certificates, visit crime scenes and examine toxicology test results.

Upon completion of residency, prospective medical examiners must apply for licensure through the American Board of Pathology, which administers the national certification examination. A licensed medical examiner may then apply for state appointment. Requirements vary per state but typically stipulate candidates hold a Doctor of Medicine degree, valid state driver's license and certification in forensic pathology from the American Board of Pathology.

Students who want to be medical examiners must complete a forensic pathology residency program, where they perform autopsies and other hands-on work under the supervision of a certified medical examiner. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology and medical ethics.

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