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Forensic Coroner: Job Description and Education Requirements

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

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The education required to become a forensic coroner is significant. After earning a medical degree, a 3-4 year pathology residency is also required. In addition to this, appropriate licensure and/or certification may be required for certain work in sub-specialties within the field.

Essential Information

Forensic coroners are medical doctors who determine a cause of death through autopsies and tests. Due to their medical expertise, forensic coroners are commonly called upon to testify in court based on the findings of a performed autopsy. As with all medical doctors, forensic coroners must be state-licensed in order to practice.

Required Education M.D., followed by completion of pathology residency
Other Requirements Licensure; certification through American Board of Pathology may be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for physicians and surgeons
Median Salary (2016)** $48,296 for coroners

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics **PayScale.com

Job Description for Forensic Coroners

Forensic coroners are also known as forensic pathologists. In addition to being trained in determining natural causes of death, they have expertise in looking for clues or evidence not consistent with natural death and might conduct tests, such as toxicology screenings, to look for poisons or other abnormal substances. Forensic coroners write reports on their findings. At times, forensic coroners might be asked to testify in court proceedings. Typically, they're employed in hospitals and government or municipal agencies.

Salary and Career Information

According to PayScale.com, the median pay for coroners was $48,296 per year, as of January 2016. Popular industries employing forensic coroners included government, finance and insurance. The projected job growth for the broad field of physicians and surgeons was about 14% from 2014 to 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

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Education Requirements for Forensic Coroners

Becoming a forensic coroner requires completing a medical degree program followed by a pathology residency. Pathology residencies take 3-4 years to complete. Residents can often choose between anatomical pathology and combined anatomical and clinical pathology specializations. During a residency, individuals study pathology as it relates to surgery, autopsies, bone and soft tissue, immune systems and neurological systems.

Individuals completing a residency can then apply for a 1-year forensic pathology fellowship. A fellowship program continues a coroner's training in the thorough examination of human bodies, as well as court procedures, reporting, evidence collection and medicolegal terminology.

Certification Information

Forensic coroners can choose to become certified in the sub-specialty of forensic pathology offered through the American Board of Pathology (www.abpath.org). Requirements for becoming certified include completing medical academic training and holding an unrestricted medical license. Additionally, forensic coroners must first obtain primary certification in anatomical or clinical pathology by taking the required exams. Those interested in becoming a certified forensic pathologist must have completed a 1-year training program in this sub-specialty, such as that offered through a fellowship program.

Knowing the education and commitment required to become a forensic coroner is an important first step in determining if this might be the career for you. Forensic coroners are typically employed by government agencies and hospitals, and they may also be required to appear in court on occasion.

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