Medical Examiner Degree Program Information
Learn about degree programs available to aspiring medical examiners. Determine education prerequisites for these medical programs, as well as career opportunities and continuing education information.
Medical examiners are licensed physicians who determine cause of death by conducting autopsies and examining DNA. Medical examiners must earn an undergraduate degree, graduate from medical school and finish a forensic pathology residency program.
While enrolled in a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program, aspiring medical examiners typically complete two years of classroom studies and two years of supervised clinical work. During the first two years, students review foundational science material via group sessions, laboratory exercises, lectures and clinical case studies. Third year students begin medical clerkships, which allow them to gain experience in a clinical setting. Clerkships occur in school-affiliated hospitals and clinics where students learn about specializations in pediatrics, surgery, neurology and internal medicine. In the fourth year of the M.D. program, students select electives and participate in clinical rotations in a specialty area of their choice.
Students enrolling in the M.D. program must complete a bachelor's degree and at least one year of study in physics, organic chemistry, chemistry, calculus, English and biology. While a bachelor's degree in a science field is often recommended, some medical schools do not require an undergraduate degree in science as long as science prerequisites have been met. High Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and a strong grade point average are also common prerequisites. Science-related coursework includes:
- Medical ethics
- Behavioral science
- Medical physiology
- Medical genetics
- Medical biochemistry
Medical examiners can find employment opportunities within federal, state and government agencies. Although the U.S. Bureau doesn't currently provide salary information for medical examiners specifically, it did report an average salary of $184,820 for all physicians and surgeons in May 2012.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates with a Doctor of Medicine must advance to a 4-year medical residency program to meet board and state requirements; aspiring medical examiners must complete a forensic pathology residency program. During the forensic pathology residency, residents perform hands-on work under the supervision of a certified medical examiner. Residents perform autopsies, prepare death certificates, visit crime scenes and examine toxicology test results.
Upon completion of residency, prospective medical examiners must apply for licensure through the American Board of Pathology, which administers the national certification examination. A licensed medical examiner may then apply for state appointment. Requirements vary per state but typically stipulate candidates hold a Doctor of Medicine degree, valid state driver's license and certification in forensic pathology from the American Board of Pathology.
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