Educational Requirements for Medical Examiners

Medical examiners perform autopsies, run clinical tests and act as expert witnesses in cases of undetermined or violent deaths. Depending on where they're employed, examiners might be required to perform duties similar to those of coroners or forensic pathologists. Becoming a medical examiner requires completing medical school followed by a postgraduate residency program.

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Medical Examiner Requirements

In order to become a medical examiner, individuals need to earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Before applying to medical school, students must first earn an undergraduate degree and complete pre-med prerequisites in chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, physics and mathematics. Since medical examiners often run forensics exams on corpses, taking forensic pathology elective courses as an undergraduate could prove useful, especially since not all MD programs offer extensive coursework in this field.

Most MD programs are set up so that students spend the first two years in classroom lectures and the remaining two years in clinical rotations working with patients. Coursework in these programs include human health and disease, anatomy, immunology, pathology, medical technologies and healthcare law. During clinical rotations, medical students spend time training in different departments, such as pediatrics, surgery, neurology and ambulatory medicine.

Licensing Requirements

Upon completing an MD program, individuals might need to become licensed physicians prior to entering a residency training program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensing procedures in all states involve passing an exam, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination ( This exam is divided into three different sections, including clinical knowledge, clinical skills and practical applications of scientific medical concepts.

Postgraduate Training

After completing medical school, individuals who want to become medical examiners require specific training that can be achieved through a residency program related to anatomic or forensic pathology. Residency programs allow doctors to specialize in a particular field, and some residency programs can take up to seven years or more to complete. Anatomic and forensic pathology residencies take about 3-4 years and cover such topics as identification of suspicious markings or substances during autopsies, the respectful treatment of remains and common procedures during a forensic autopsy examination.

Medical Examiner Certification Requirements

Following a residency training program, medical examiners can choose to become certified. Several nationally recognized organizations provide medical examiners with credentials that certify them in various medical specialties related to their jobs. For example, the American Board of Pathology has certification and specialty certification programs for anatomic and forensic pathology.

Most credential-granting boards require applicants to pass an examination to become certified. Credentialed workers usually keep their certifications active by participating in continued education courses or seminars.

Salary and Employment Outlook

Medical examiners fall into the BLS job category of compliance officers. According to the BLS, compliance officers are projected to see a 5% job growth from 2012 to 2022. The average salary for compliance officers was $64,960 in 2012.

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