Medical Examiner: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Medical examiners study cadavers to learn about diseases or to determine the cause of a person's death. Continue reading for more information about degree programs, earnings and job duties. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Medical Examiner Do?

The primary role of medical examiners, also called coroners, is to determine the cause of death, whether natural, accidental or intentional. In this career, you are trained as a forensic pathologist. You'll examine cadavers to determine the cause of injury. You'll also act as an anatomical pathologist by studying organs, tissue, cells and bodily fluids. Through these studies, you'll understand diseases and natural deaths. You'll analyze blood and DNA in laboratories using microscopes, perform autopsies and testify in court.

How Much Can I Make?

According to, the national average salary for the 10th-90th percentile ranges for coroners was $19,994-$87,114. This figures included bonuses ranging from $0.46-$10,067. Medical examiners are employed by the county, not the state, which means a large variance in salaries due to the different local county budgets. There are also different levels of coroners, which may also influence salary figures. An upper level examiner is called a chief medical examiner and often has other medical examiners working under him or her.

What Should I Study?

If you want to become a medical examiner, you must earn a medical degree (M.D.). Once you have earned your medical degree, you can seek out knowledge in a pathology residency. Following your residency, you'll sub-specialize in a forensic pathology fellowship. Some teaching hospitals do offer forensic pathology residencies, but you'll want to complete a fellowship as well. Medical studies that can be beneficial for your career are toxicology, autopsies, radiology, pathology, phlebotomy and biology.

Courses in law or criminal justice, possibly as your undergraduate minor, are useful since you may frequently testify in court or work as an expert witness in criminal and civil trials. In fact, during your residency or fellowship, you'll likely shadow a medical examiner when they go into trial. These subjects may also be useful to help you understand the chain of custody, evidence collection and forensic analysis.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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