Be a Medical Investigator: Course and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical investigator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degrees, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Medical investigators typically complete a bachelor's degree program in forensic science before entering the field, although an associate's degree and experience may be sufficient. Training involves DNA analysis, criminalistics, microbiology and crime scene investigation techniques.

Essential Information

Medical investigators work with law enforcement to investigate natural and accidental deaths, homicides, and suicides. These professionals analyze evidence collected from crime scenes and may assist medical examiners during autopsies. The minimum education required to become a medical investigator is an associate's degree, but many positions require a bachelor's or graduate level degree. Certification is also available.

Required Education Bachelor's degree is typical; associate's degree and experience may also be acceptable
Certification Optional American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% for all forensic science technicians
5% for all biological technicians
Median Salary (2015)* $56,320 for all forensic science technicians
$41,650 for all biological technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Completion of a four-year bachelor's program in forensic science, criminal justice, or a natural science, along with experience in an investigative position, may lead to work as a medical investigator. In some cases, professionals who have investigative experience and an associate's degree in forensics or criminal justice can also work in this field.

Students who have already completed a bachelor's program may consider pursuing a master's degree in forensic science. These two-year programs allow students to specialize in an area of forensics, such as DNA analysis or criminalistics.

Course Requirements

Undergraduate degree programs in forensic science may include courses in microbiology, organic chemistry, microscopic analysis, and crime scene investigation techniques. Graduate programs in forensic science explore topics like identification methods, DNA analysis, forensic biology, toxicology, serology, forensic chemistry, and research methods. Graduate students are often expected to write a thesis paper. In both undergraduate and graduate programs, completion of a field internship may be required; students gain hands-on experience working with law enforcement and forensic science professionals.


Medical investigators may pursue basic or advanced certification from the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI). Basic certification applicants must have a minimum of a high school education, at least 640 hours of experience in death investigation, and current employment with a medical examiner's office to qualify for the certification exam.

Advanced certification is designed for applicants who possess the ABMDI's basic credential for at least six months. Additional requirements include an associate's degree, employment with a medical examiner's office and at least 4,000 hours of professional experience. Completion of a certification exam that tests a candidate's knowledge of evidence preservation, communication with law enforcement, and professional ethics is also required.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information specific to medical investigators, it does publish data pertinent to both biological technicians and forensic science technicians. The BLS predicts that the employment of biological technicians will likely grow by about 5% between 2014 and 2024, while job opportunities for forensic science technicians will grow by about 27% during the same time frame. Biological technicians were reported to have earned median salaries of $41,650 in May 2015 by the BLS; the same source indicated that forensic science technicians earned a median of $56,320 a year.

Medical investigators investigate deaths, working with police to gather and evaluate evidence, and may assist medical examiners with autopsies. They help determine if the cause of death is natural, accidental, homicide, or suicide. They need a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field, and professional certification can be obtained through experience and training.

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