Coroner: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a coroner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and job growth projections to find out if this is the career for you.

Coroners are medico-legal experts who investigate the cause and manner of death of deceased individuals. Although educational requirements vary by state, all coroners must have a fundamental understanding of human anatomy, physiology and the signs of various causes of death.

Essential Information

Coroners supervise examinations on deceased individuals to determine the cause of death. Their jobs may include visiting death scenes at all hours, filling out death certificates and speaking with family members of the deceased. The education requirements to become a coroner vary by state, but a bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement. In some states, coroners must be licensed medical doctors. In many jurisdictions, coroners are appointed or hired by the government, but in some areas coroners are elected.

Required Education Bachelor's degree is standard; some jurisdictions require medical degrees and licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% for all compliance officers*
Median Salary (2015) $65,640 for all compliance officers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Coroner Job Description

The key job responsibility of a coroner or medical examiner is to determine the manners and causes of death, often by performing autopsies. During autopsies, coroners inspect the body of a deceased person to identify marks or other empirical evidence that indicates how he or she died. Other specific job duties include visiting death scenes, identifying human remains, supervising the transportation of corpses, operating crime scene equipment, completing death certificates and notifying next of kin.

Necessary Career Skills

Those looking to begin a career as a coroner should be able to work under stressful conditions and have a good eye for detail. Depending on the state and jurisdiction, the coroner may be an elected position. People interested in becoming coroners in these localities should be prepared to campaign politically for the office. In other states and counties, coroners are appointed.

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Educational Requirements

Aspiring coroners can begin by obtaining a bachelor's degree and taking relevant undergraduate coursework in subjects like biology, chemistry and forensics, in addition to law and the humanities. It's important for students to maintain high grades throughout a bachelor's program in order to improve their chances of admission to graduate school.

In many states and counties, coroners are considered medical examiners and must hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who choose to pursue an M.D. can expect to attend school for about four years after their undergraduate studies are completed ( They'll also need to participate in extensive internship and residency experiences that can last several more years.

Job Outlook and Salary Info for Coroners

The BLS reported that the employment outlook for compliance officers - a category that includes coroners - was expected to be slower than average; career openings in the field were predicted to grow 3% from 2014-2024. As of 2015, the median annual salary for compliance officers, including coroners, was $65,640, per the BLS.

Coroners use their background in anatomy and chemistry to determine cause of death and provide important information for law enforcement investigators. Though many are trained as medical doctors, all must have a background in the life sciences and a willingness to work with human remains in varying states of decay.

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