Online Forensic Pathology Degree Program Overviews

Get info about online programs in forensic pathology. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, as well as career and continuing education options. While programs in forensic pathology are not available, online master's degree programs in forensic science offer much of the same education.

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Essential Information

Forensic pathology programs are available for individuals who have earned their medical degree, and they're offered at the fellowship level. This type of program is not available online because fellowships involve extensive hands-on training.

However, students interested in an online degree program in the forensics field may pursue a master's degree in forensic science. Programs may be available for professionals currently working in forensic labs or law enforcement, as well as for those who would like to enter a career in forensic lab technology. Although these programs don't prepare students to become forensic pathologists, courses in forensic pathology are required.

Prospective students should know that only a couple of these programs are available. Coursework can usually be completed online, but the curriculum typically requires a residency component for students to complete extensive hands-on laboratory research. Both hybrid forensic science master's degree programs and forensic pathology fellowship programs are discussed here.

Master of Science in Forensic Science

To work as a forensic pathologist, a medical degree is required in addition to a residency program in forensic pathology. A Master of Science in Forensic Science degree program can advance the careers of working professionals by either enhancing their forensic knowledge, or by serving as a transitional degree on their medical school path towards becoming a licensed forensic pathologist. Prospective students need to have a bachelor's degree in a related field to be eligible for admission.

Program Information and Requirements

The average forensic science master's degree program can be completed in two years. These programs are offered partially online. Students can expect to complete core courses online, and then spend at least two semesters for an on-campus residency. Online course material is generally delivered through online learning platforms like the Blackboard system.

These programs often offer concentrations within the major which allow for students to specialize their course of study. These concentrations include criminalistics, investigation, research, forensic science administration and forensic document examination.

Students need to have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection, current Web-browser and an updated operating system. Many forensic photography courses require for students to have their own digital camera.

Common Courses

If students do not have an undergraduate degree in a related field, some prerequisite courses may need to be completed prior to enrollment.

Forensic Pathology

Fundamental concepts of forensic pathology are examined in this course, including occupational definitions, human anatomy and types of death and injury. Through analyzing case studies, students learn to identify different types of injuries and causes of death. Further concepts studied include identifying the characteristics of deaths and injuries due to firearms, automotive accidents, assault, sexual assault, trauma and drug-related cases. This course is commonly two semesters in length.

Forensic Psychology

This course examines the areas where psychology and law intersect. Students identify the circumstances where legal proceedings are influenced by the testimony of mental health professionals. Concepts explored in this course include criminal behavior, insanity pleas, ethical issues, competency of defendants to stand trial, polygraph testing and mental health institutions.

Crime Scene Investigation

This course trains students in the current protocol of forensic scientists when investigating crime scenes. Topics include scene preservation and protection, evidence collection, surveying, fingerprinting, documenting and the chain-of-custody.

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Fellowship in Pathology

The final portion of academic training for aspiring forensic pathologists prior to receiving licensure is a fellowship in forensic pathology. Participants in these programs undergo a thorough training in pathology practice, and work closely with a medical examiner during their residency to determine the cause of sudden and violent deaths.

Applicants need to have completed a Doctor of Medicine degree program, as well as have completed a residency program. Due to the nature of study and the clinical requirements of students, these programs are required to be completed at the site of practice, and cannot be offered online.

Program Information and Requirements

Fellowships in pathology usually take one year to complete. These positions are usually very competitive, and most schools only accept a small number of applicants every year. Programs usually provide a stipend for fellows as they complete the residency program.

Course Topics

Fellowship programs in forensic pathology do not have traditional courses, but instead have specialized rotations in which students practice forensic pathology. Students in these programs can expect to perform between 250 and 300 forensic autopsies during their program. Students also document their clinical findings, and work with legal council to testify in court when necessary.

Rotations at toxicology laboratories, law enforcement crime laboratories and teaching conferences are also common in these programs. While working with medical examiners, students travel to crime scenes to collect evidence from pre-hospitalized victims of accidents, suicides and homicides.


Career Information

Master of Science in Forensic Science

Graduates of a Master of Science in Forensic Science degree program can find employment as forensic science technicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that the median annual wage for this occupation was $56,320 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that employment for forensic science technicians was expected to rise by 27% between 2014 and 2024.

Fellowship in Pathology

Graduates of this program have received the training to gain employment as a forensic pathologist. Forensic pathologists are often employed by hospitals and state and government agencies at all levels of jurisdiction. According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary for this occupation in October 2016 ranged from $40,425 - $197,265. Most forensic pathologists are employed by hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

Depending on the educational background and career goals, individuals interested in forensic pathology have a couple choices. Those who have completed an M.D. program may pursue a fellowship in pathology, but it is not offered online, while individuals with only a bachelor's degree may pursue a M.S. in Forensic Science, which in rare cases may be found in a hybrid format.

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