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Coroner: Job Description & Career Info

Coroners work with their community to perform autopsies and medical examinations on deceased individuals. Although the educational requirements to become a coroner vary by state, most professionals must earn an advanced degree.

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Coroner Job Description

The key job responsibility of a coroner or medical examiner is to determine the manner and cause of deaths, often by performing autopsies. During autopsies, coroners inspect the body of a deceased person to identify marks or other empirical evidence that indicates how he or she died. Other specific job duties include visiting death scenes, identifying human remains, supervising the transportation of corpses, operating crime scene equipment, completing death certificates and notifying next of kin.

Necessary Career Skills

Those looking to begin a career as a coroner should be able to work under stressful conditions and have a good eye for detail. Depending on the state and jurisdiction, the coroner may be an elected position. People interested in becoming coroners in these localities should be prepared to campaign politically for the office. In other states and counties, coroners are appointed.

Educational Requirements

Aspiring coroners can begin by obtaining a bachelor's degree and taking relevant undergraduate coursework in subjects like biology, chemistry and forensics, in addition to law and the humanities. It's important for students to maintain high grades throughout a bachelor's program in order to improve their chances of admission to graduate school.

In many states and counties, coroners are considered medical examiners and must hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who choose to pursue an M.D. can expect to attend school for about four years after their undergraduate studies are completed (www.bls.gov). They'll also need to participate in extensive internship and residency experiences that can last several more years.

Job Outlook and Salary Info for Coroners

The BLS reported that the employment outlook for compliance officers - a category that includes coroners - was slower than average; career openings in the field were predicted to grow 5% from 2012-2022. As of 2013, the median annual salary for compliance officers, including coroners, was $64,340, per the BLS.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics