Death Investigation Specialists: Types & Roles

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vericia Miller

Vericia has a masters in criminal justice.

Death investigation specialists are tasked with identifying specific causes of death and related factors. Explore the professional roles of different types of forensic investigation specialists in pathology, entomology, and anthropology. Updated: 01/20/2022

Death Investigation Specialists

Death investigation specialists are trained professional whose jobs are to assist in determining the cause of death of the deceased. Death investigation specialists are trained to know and understand signs and clues that can answer critical death-related questions. They are also trained in homicide terminology and may work with a medical examiner to help him/her determine the victim's cause of death. Their job is of critical significance because their expertise is what can help to provide answers to unanswered questions and build a case for the prosecutor and/or the defense. In this lesson, we're going to take a closer look at several types of death investigation specialists. With each specialist you will notice there are similarities and differences; however, one of the most important similarities between each one is that they're all trained to aid in the legal investigation of crimes.

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  • 0:04 Death Investigation…
  • 0:56 Forensic Pathologist
  • 1:59 Forensic Entomologist
  • 3:05 Forensic Anthropologist
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Forensic Pathologist

Let's start with the forensic pathologist. These specialists are trained physicians with a concentration in examining dead bodies. Rarely you will hear the title forensic pathologist called coroners or medical examiners. However, coroners are elected and do not require professional training online to work with the deceased. While medical examiners are board-certified and work with living and dead.

In examining the body of the deceased, forensic pathologists can determine the victim's cause of death. As licensed doctors, they can also determine the cause of diseases or injuries of the deceased. They are trained to conduct autopsies where they can more closely examine the body and assist law enforcement in closing a case.

If you're thinking about going into this field, you must first have an affinity for the physical sciences--courses like biology and chemistry. You will have to attain an undergraduate degree, but it doesn't stop there. You must also go to medical school and get an MD degree. You will also need to take specialized courses in pathology; and finally, you must pass a board exam in order to be licensed as a doctor in your state.

Forensic Entomologist

Another type of death investigation specialist is the forensic entomologist, whose area of expertise is in studying insects on a dead and decomposed body. Entomology is the study of insects, but when talking about forensic entomology, this science is applied to solving crimes, mainly homicides. Insects begin to attach themselves to and feed on dead bodies almost immediately after death. They can also lay eggs on or inside of a dead body. A forensic entomologist takes time to examine the various stages of insect growth to determine facts about the deceased. These specialists can not only determine the time of death but also the cause and if the body has been moved from one location to another.

If you are interested in becoming a forensic entomologist, you'd definitely want to get an undergraduate degree in some type of physical science, although attaining a graduate degree could open even more doors. Also, the American Board of Forensic Entomology provides certificates and diplomas in this area, which could be beneficial.

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