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Medical Investigator: Job Description, Duties, Salary and Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical investigator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties, salary and job growth projections to find out if this is the career for you

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Essential Information

A medical investigator, or forensic science technician, is a type of forensic scientist employed by the government who investigates deaths that are suspicious or the causes of which are unknown. They collect and analyze physical evidence, compile reports and often testify in court. Most employers require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a physical or forensic science to qualify for this position. The median salary for forensic science technicians was about $54,000 in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with the highest salaries going to technicians employed in scientific research and development services.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as biology or chemistry
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth6% from 2012-22*
Median Salary $54,360 (2013)*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description for a Medical Investigator

Medical investigators work for medical examiners' offices, gathering and examining evidence to determine the cause of death in criminal cases and unnatural or unattended deaths. They may be present at the scene of the death to ensure that collected evidence gets safely transported to the laboratory for analysis. They also obtain medical records from hospitals and offices for evaluation. Once they have completed their investigation, medical investigators summarize their findings in writing and give verbal reports. They can serve as expert witnesses and testify in pre-trial and court hearings.

Duties of a Medical Investigator

At scenes of death, medical investigators collect physical evidence from suspects, the deceased and the scene itself to bring back to the laboratory. They may interview and take fingerprints from suspects or dust for fingerprints at a scene. Investigators also gather hair, blood, tissue and other biological evidence. They take photographs of the scene, and some medical investigators may perform accident reconstruction.

Medical investigators examine the collected evidence back at the laboratory, as well as look for more evidence from the body or remains. Some investigators are experts in certain kinds of evidence, such as DNA, blood analysis or firearms residue. They can take bodily fluids from and x-rays of the remains and study any marks, bruises or bullet wounds on the body for evidence of foul play. Decomposition rates are also assessed to determine time of death, and forensic techniques are used to identify remains.

Medical Investigator Salary and Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, forensic science technicians earned a mean annual salary of $54,360. They were expected to see a 6% growth in employment from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than average.

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    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
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      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
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      • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
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      • Microbiology and Immunology
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