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Medical Examiner Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

A medical examiner investigates suspicious fatalities and the medical evidence related to them. To be qualified to work as a medical examiner, one must hold an M.D. and be a licensed pathologist. An undergraduate program in forensic science is an appropriate course of study for those interested in entering this field.

How to Select a Medical Examiner School

According to the National Association of Medical Examiners, or NAME (www.thename.org), after graduating with a baccalaureate degree, a prospective student in this field must complete medical school followed by a pathology residency program. Pathology training typically lasts 4-5 years and is the normal requirement for employment. In total, a medical examiner will complete approximately 13 years of training. Along with pre-med coursework, forensic science is an appropriate undergraduate course of study for aspiring medical examiners and offered at many schools.

One must first select a college or university for undergraduate study. Candidates should consider schools that are highly regarded for academic excellence. The reputation of a university can positively affect an applicant's chances of getting into medical school. Facilities, equipment, accreditation and internship opportunities are other factors to consider. Some bachelor degree options are Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science, Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with emphasis on forensic science and forensic science as a minor.

Common courses required in a forensic science program are chemistry, psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, entomology, biology, biochemistry and forensic medicine. A forensic science degree program should also cover examination of scientific evidence, such as hair, blood, DNA and ingested drugs. Prospective students should consider the amount of laboratory science experience provided by a school because this is where they will receive the most hands-on training.

Some schools have designed partnerships with real-life crime labs for internship or residency opportunities. Some examples of internships to consider are digital forensics, criminalistics, fingerprint technology, forensic pattern analysis, drug chemistry and toxicology. These cooperating internship programs often require formal interviews, as well as background investigations, complete with drug testing and polygraph, before accepting students. Academic credit is given when the internship or residency is completed.

To improve the chance for entry into medical school, an undergraduate forensic science major should maintain a 3.0 grade point average at minimum, with especially good grades in science and math. Personal statements, letters of recommendation and competency tests are also evaluated during the medical school admissions process.

After completing a 4-year medical school program, graduates must select residency programs to complete their medical examiner training. Once the residency program is completed, licensure must be received through the American Board of Pathology. Some possible pathology residencies include the following:

  • Forensic Chemistry (focuses on trace evidence such as fibers, glass, drugs and alcohol)
  • Forensic Anthropology (focuses on recovering evidence, identifying the deceased and determining the condition of the skeleton of the deceased)
  • Forensic Biology (focuses mainly on the analysis of DNA)

Largest Forensic Science Colleges by Student Enrollment

College/University Student Population Institution Type
University of Central Florida50,1214-year, Public
Michigan State University46,5104-year, Public
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus44,4064-year, Public
Florida International University38,7594-year, Public
University of Maryland-University College34,1724-year, Public
Virginia Commonwealth University32,0444-year, Public
Boston University31,7664-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Nevada-Las Vegas28,6004-year, Public
Utah Valley University26,6964-year, primarily associate's, Public
St Petersburg College26,6594-year, primarily associate's, Public
Northeastern University25,8374-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Illinois at Chicago25,8354-year, Public
George Washington University25,1164-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Akron Main Campus24,1194-year, Public
Drexel University21,3884-year, Public
Weber State University21,3884-year, Public
Towson University21,1114-year, Public
California State University-Los Angeles20,7434-year, Public
Sam Houston State University16,6624-year, Public
University of Alabama at Birmingham16,1494-year, Public

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