Medical examiners or coroners study corpses to determine cause of death. You will conduct autopsies and screenings to investigate death. You will determine whether a death is accidental, violent, natural or unexplained.
Requirements and Qualifications
As a medical examiner or coroner, you will be expected to have integrity, attention to detail, analytical thinking, tolerance to stress, initiative, dependability and adaptability. During outbreaks or severe weather, you may have overtime situations or long hours. Qualities you may want to groom for this field include self control, concern for others and excellent investigative skills.
Though most medical examiners today have some college or an associate’s degree, increasing demands for information on causes of death require a minimum of an associate’s degree for employment. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in either medical, forensic or mortuary science for promotability in this career path, with many public officials being medical doctors or physicians.
Steps to Becoming a Coroner or Medical Examiner
After completing your degree program, you’ll want to gain some experience by working in a coroner’s or medical examiner’s office, a law enforcement agency, a funeral home or a related field. It is expected that most coroners or medical examiners will have had some training in recognizing cause of death. Joining a state or national medical examiner’s or coroner’s association will provide contacts, continuing education and conferences for those in the field.
Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with death – that’s okay, a lot of people aren’t! Here are some more career ideas to explore in a similar vein:
- Love to pass on knowledge? Postsecondary health specialties teachers educate college and university students about a variety of health topics.
- Want to naturally treat back and neck pain? Chiropractors use manual manipulation of the spine to treat a variety of ailments and injuries.
- Want to heal a range of ages and conditions? Family and general practitioners provide basic, non-emergency medical care as the first stop in many illnesses.
- Don’t want to have to spend the time in medical school? Physician Assistants provide patient care under the supervision of a medical doctor.
- Want to help people retain their independence? Occupational therapists help people learn how to care for themselves who are having difficulties due to an illness or injury.
- Want to help people with emotional or mental problems? Advanced practice psychiatric nurses provide advanced care for psychiatric patients including psychotherapy under the supervision of a psychiatrist.
- Is helping heal someone with a specific problem your M.O.? Clinical nurse specialists provides specialized medical care in an assortment of areas.
- Is helping with the other end of life your dream? Nurse midwives provide medical care and infant delivery services to women who are having uncomplicated pregnancies, labor and deliveries.
- Want to diagnose and provide care for illnesses without medical school? Nurse practitioners have a graduate degree and work either in a team or independently to diagnose and treat patients.
- Do you think natural is the way to go? Naturopathic physicians use a variety of treatment techniques to support a patient’s body in healing itself.
A coroner or medical examiner averaged $62,020, nearly double the average for all careers at $33,840 as of May 2010. Hours are typically full time, though there may be odd hours during potential outbreaks of disease or other time-critical issues.
Medical examiners or coroners are expected to see average opportunity growth versus the average of all career tracks. The increase in life expectancy is balanced by the large numbers of baby boomers reaching old age.