Autopsy Technician Schools and Colleges: How to Choose
Autopsy technicians are laboratory technicians who assist pathologists, forensic scientists or morticians in examining bodies of deceased people in order to determine the cause of death. They may work in hospitals, research centers, crime laboratories, coroners' offices, police departments or funeral homes. Education and training requirements vary depending on the student's choice of setting. Read more to understand some of these different requirements and to find out how to choose a school.
How to Select an Autopsy Technician School
Education and training requirements for students interested in a career as an autopsy technician vary depending on what kind of environment students want to work in. Students wanting to work in hospitals or at research centers should look for programs that offer a bachelor of science degree in clinical laboratory science or biology. Students interested in working in crime-related or legal environments such as police departments, crime laboratories or coroners' offices should look for schools that offer forensic science degree programs, which should be accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Those students who want to work in funeral homes or morgues will need to complete a program in mortuary science.
The length of time it takes to satisfy education and training requirements for jobs in this field varies greatly. 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.
If students already have an idea of where they'd like to work, checking staff listings at those employers' websites is also useful. These listings often indicate how many autopsy technicians are currently employed or how many positions are vacant and waiting to be filled. Checking staff listings gives students an indication of the number of potential opportunities with specific employers. This information can influence the kind of program students pursue.
Autopsy Technician Program Overviews
Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science
One option for students who want to work as autopsy technicians in a funeral home or a morgue is to attend a college dedicated to mortuary science. Some of these schools offer a 2-year associate degree in the field. Before students can take courses in mortuary science, however, most colleges require that they complete core education courses such as English, science or math and social science. Once they have fulfilled this requirement, they can begin the mortuary science curriculum, which includes courses such as anatomy, embalming theory and restorative art. Upon completion of this program, students are granted an Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science (A.A.S.), which prepares them to begin work immediately.
Bachelor of Mortuary Science
Another option for students interested in this field is to attend a school that offers a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a mortuary science track. This 4-year program 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. Embalming chemistry, embalming orientation and theory, funeral management, pathology and laboratories in restorative art are typical courses in the curriculum. When students have successfully completed their coursework, they will have a diploma from the mortuary school they attended in addition to a Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science.
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. After successfully completing the 2-year liberal arts requirement, students can be admitted to a CLS program. In years three and four, the curriculum typically focuses on courses and clinical practica in human anatomy, pathology, immunology and hematology. Courses in laboratory management and laboratory safety protocol are also frequently required.
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
Programs at schools offering a bachelor of science degree in forensic science prepare students for employment in the areas of forensic science and criminal justice. Some schools collaborate with nearby police departments or pathology laboratories, giving students easy access to real cases.
Other schools have combination programs. The first part is often a two-year certificate program 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. Students who wish to continue their education may enroll in the second part of the program, which will lead to a bachelor of science degree in chemistry or biology. This kind of two-part program is accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. The combination program provides flexibility for students who have not yet decided which career path they want to follow.
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