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Medical Examiner

Education and Training Medical School
Average Salary $50,000
Job Outlook Very Good

Medical examiners are responsible for conducting and overseeing autopsies on bodies to determine a precise cause of death. Once the cause of death has been established, and the medical examiner has determined to what degree of certainty they are confident of it, the medical examiner will fill in an official report on the death as well as completing the individual’s death certificate.

As well as requiring a detailed medical knowledge of pathology, it is essential that a medical examiner holds excellent communication skills. The job involves both written and spoken communications as reports need to be written and various officials need to be communicated with. A medical examiner also needs to have a tough character as they will sometimes deal with bodies that were killed in unpleasant circumstances.

Education and Training Requirements

Becoming a medical examiner requires candidates to have a medical school education specializing in pathology. This is usually obtained after four years of specific medical schooling. Prior to this, in order to gain entry to medical school, four years study at the undergraduate level is required. This is typically in a science subject which provides the best preparation for medical school. People aspiring to be medical examiners in the future can begin their relevant study at high school by choosing a range of courses in the various sciences. Biology is particularly relevant.

Getting the Job

The exact requirements for becoming a medical examiner differ from area to area. In some places it is an elected or appointed position. Medical examiners also need to obtain a license showing they are properly qualified for the role. Regardless of an area’s specific rules regarding becoming a medical examiner, the candidate will need to have a medical school education with a focus on pathology.

There are also certain personal characteristics which are essential for anyone wishing to become a medical examiner. Good communication abilities are necessary as the job involves reading and writing complex reports. Medical examiners also deal with a variety of people directly and will sometimes need to present their findings in a court of law. Confidence is therefore desirable as is the ability to communicate medical information to non-experts.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

It is predicted that the number of job opportunities for medical examiners will rise in the future. The general area of healthcare and medicine is predicted to have a greater rate of job increases than almost any other industry.

There are several ways for medical examiners to advance on their career path. One way is to become the head medical examiner, either for a government locality or for a particular medical facility. Medical examiners can also advance their career by teaching medicine or moving into a consultancy role.

Working Conditions and Environment

Medical examiners typically work in a morgue or other healthcare facility where the deceased are present. The job also involves traveling to various relevant locations including crime scenes, court rooms, other medical facilities, police stations, and seminars in order to stay on the cutting edge of medical knowledge relevant to the job role.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary listed for a medical examiner is $50,000 a year. New entrants into the field may make closer to the $35,000 a year mark when they are starting out, although this may be in an assistant role. Experienced medical examiners in the most senior positions can make up to $100,000 a year. A lot of medical examiners are employed by the government and as such are eligible for a full range of benefits including vacation time, sick pay, and health coverage.

Where to Go for More Information

American Medical Association
515 N State St.
Chicago IL 60654

Association of American Medical Colleges
Section for Student Services
2450 N St. NW
Washington, DC 20037

Federation of State Medical Boards
P.O. Box 619850
Dallas, TX 75261-9850

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine