How to Become a Forensic Autopsy Assistant

Learn how to become a forensic autopsy assistant. Research the education and career requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career as a forensic autopsy assistant. View article »

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  • 0:03 Forensic Autopsy Assistants
  • 0:48 Career Requirements
  • 1:34 Be a Forensic Autopsy…

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Video Transcript

Forensic Autopsy Assistants

Forensic autopsy assistants work with medical experts to determine an individual's cause of death. They prepare a body for autopsy, collect, photograph, weigh, test, and categorize specimens and foreign substances found in a body during an autopsy, and restore a body after an examination.

They might also provide testimony and written reports regarding laboratory procedures and findings for use during court trials, obtain authorization to conduct an autopsy, sterilize instruments, and maintain the general cleanliness and organization of the laboratory. Many hours may be spent standing, and some individuals might find working with the deceased on a daily basis to be a negative experience.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies depending upon position; some employers require only a high school diploma, while others prefer an associate's or bachelor's degree.
Degree Field Biological, forensic or mortuary science.
Experience Employers often require a minimum of two years experience.
Licenses or Certification None required, but some employers may seek candidates who possess Pathologist Assistant Certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Key Skills Knowledge of anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and practices, proper methods for collecting, testing and disposing of specimens; familiar with data management systems, spreadsheets, and the legal rules regarding evidence handling; able to use X-Ray machines and lift 75-100 pounds
Salary (2015) $60,090 per year (Mean salary for all forensic science technicians, which include forensic autopsy assistants)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Be a Forensic Autopsy Assistant

How can I become a forensic autopsy assistant?

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

Although no specific level of education is required to work as a forensic autopsy assistant, many employers seek candidates who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in biological, forensic, or mortuary science. Biology and forensic programs include classes and labs covering topics such as microbiology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, human biology, molecular biology techniques, and fermentation. Mortuary science programs include classes in embalming, anatomy and physiology, restorative art, funeral directing, and mortuary law.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Students in an associate's or bachelor's degree programs in biological, forensic or mortuary science may be able to complete internships. Interns usually gain hands-on experience working in an autopsy laboratory. This experience might impress employers when seeking a job or help fulfill a requirement of those who require a minimum of two years' experience.

Step 3: Begin Working as a Forensic Autopsy Assistant

Many times, graduates of an associate's or bachelor's degree program are eligible to work as forensic autopsy assistants. These assistants may work in a medical examiner's office, laboratory, hospital, funeral home, or even directly with law enforcement officials. They may perform tasks like gathering samples, testing samples found in a body to identify what they are, and restoring a body after an autopsy.

Step 4: Get Certified

For individuals in the forensic science professions, certification can be obtained for career advancement and professional development. Some employers may seek candidates who possess Pathologist Assistant Certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Such certification can lead to enhanced job prospects.

Forensic autopsy assistants help determine an individual's cause of death. They are expected to have postsecondary degrees along with legal and scientific knowledge pertaining to their careers, and they earn a mean annual salary of $60,090.

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