Autopsy Technician Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Autopsy technicians assist pathologists, forensic scientists and morticians in examining bodies of deceased people in order to determine the cause of death. They work in hospitals, research centers, crime laboratories, coroners' offices, police departments and funeral homes. Depending upon the path they wish to take, students can undertake degrees in mortuary science, clinical laboratory science or forensic science.

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How to Select an Autopsy Technician School

Education for this career is available in the form of associate and bachelor's degrees offered at 2- and 4-year colleges and universities throughout the nation.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Area of interest
  • Length of time in school

Area of Interest

Students wanting to work in hospitals or at research centers should consider a Bachelor of Science degree in clinical laboratory science or biology. Those who want to work in crime-related or legal environments, such as police departments, crime laboratories or coroners' offices, will generally be more suited to forensic science degree programs. Those students who ultimately want to work in funeral homes or morgues will need to complete a program in mortuary science.

Length of Time in School

Some jobs in forensic and mortuary science require a bachelor's degree. Others require only an associate degree or a high-school diploma with a specified number of years of prior clinical experience. Before students begin their college or university search, they should consider how long they want to be in school and whether they might eventually want to train for a higher or different position.

Autopsy Technician Program Overviews

Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science

These 2-year programs prepare graduates to work as autopsy technicians in funeral homes and morgues. In addition to general education courses in English, science, math and social science, students take classes in:

  • Embalming
  • Anatomy
  • Restorative art
  • Pathology
  • Mortuary management

Bachelor's Degree in Mortuary Science

The Bachelor of Science in Biology with a mortuary science track is a 4-year program that usually requires three years of coursework in topics like microbiology, human anatomy, human physiology and English composition. The fourth-year curriculum focuses on mortuary science. Students generally spend this year studying at a nearby institute of mortuary science. Typical courses include:

  • Embalming chemistry
  • Embalming orientation and theory
  • Funeral management
  • Pathology
  • Restorative art laboratory

Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science

A bachelor of science degree in clinical laboratory science (CLS) generally requires completion of two years of a liberal arts education with a heavy science component, followed by two years of concentration in the student's preferred area of study. The science curriculum typically focuses on courses and clinical practica in human anatomy, pathology, immunology and hematology. Other courses include:

  • Laboratory management
  • Laboratory safety protocol
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

This degree program prepares students for employment in the areas of forensic science and criminal justice. Some schools collaborate with nearby police departments or pathology laboratories, giving students access to real cases. Other schools have combination programs that allow flexibility for students who have not yet decided which career path they want to follow. The first part culminates in a two-year certificate qualifying students to work as forensic autopsy technicians. Students may end their formal education at that point and go on to be professionals in their field. Those who wish to continue their education may enroll in the second part of the program, which leads to a B.S. in Chemistry or Biology. Forensic science curricula typically includes coursework in the sciences and criminology, such as:

  • Biochemistry
  • Calculus
  • Genetics
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Crime scene photography
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