What Certifications Are Needed to Become a Forensic Pathologist?

Forensic pathologists are licensed medical doctors who specialize in death investigations and inquiries. Certification as a forensic pathologist, which is available through the American Board of Pathology, is voluntary; however, most employers seek forensic pathologists who are board certified. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Certification for Forensic Pathologists

Forensic pathologists can earn voluntary certification from the American Board of Pathology (ABP). As of January 2016, the application and examination costs for the Combined Anatomic Pathology and Forensic Pathology Specialty Certification were $2,200. Application for the Forensic Pathology Subspecialty certification alone costs $1,800. The exams are administered by computer at the ABP's testing center in Tampa, Florida.

Important Facts About Forensic Pathologist Careers

Median Annual Salary (Jan. 2016) $100,210*
Similar Occupations Biological technicians, epidemiologists, medical scientists, clinical and laboratory technicians.
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 15% growth (all physicians and surgeons)**
Work Environment Available positions are mostly offered through state or local governments. Forensic pathologists should be prepared to travel and visit crime scenes, and also to witness the aftermath of violence and death.

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Application Requirements

To be eligible for certification as a forensic pathologist, you must be a graduate of an accredited medical school in the U.S. or Canada. You must also hold a license to practice medicine or osteopathy. Pathology-related training requirements vary, depending on the specific certification desired. You must also pass the written and practical sections of the certification exam.

Certification Maintenance

Maintenance of Certification (MOC) is an ongoing and life-long process that serves to demonstrate your continuing proficiency in the field of forensic pathology with regards to relevant technologies and skills. To maintain certification as a forensic pathologist, you must provide evidence in four critical areas at periodic intervals throughout the current 10-year certification period. These four main areas of requirement are: a career that is in good professional standing, an ongoing process of self-assessment and improvement, general theoretical expertise, and contributions to the field's overall professional practice.

Professional standing is demonstrated by showing you have a current full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States, its territories, or Canada. A copy of your local license and evidence of staff membership is required. Continued self-assessment requires you to complete a certain amount of continuing education courses annually. Cognitive achievement is demonstrated by the passing of an examination to be taken between the eighth and tenth year of the MOC cycle. The performance evaluation requires you to be evaluated by peers in essential areas, such as personal communication, professionalism, laboratory performance, and participation in a quality assurance activity.

In addition to meeting the above requirements, you will also be required to pay maintenance fees. You may be assessed a fee for taking examinations required as part of the cognitive achievement requirement.

Additional Considerations for This Career

Forensic pathologists work on cases involving sudden, unexpected, or violent deaths. In addition to performing autopsies, they consult medical records, police notes, and laboratory tests to determine the cause and manner of death. Although certification is not strictly mandatory for employment, it is considered a highly desirable professional achievement.

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