What Does a Medical Examiner Do?

A career as a medical examiner may appeal to those with interests in both medicine and criminal justice. Read below to find out details regarding what a medical examiner does. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Medical examiners are doctors who work with deceased bodies to determine their cause and time of death. Using a combination of investigative and medical skills, the medical examiner analyzes the available information to develop a determination.

Important Facts About Medical Examiners

Professional Certification Examination administered by National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners
Key Skills Critical thinking, reading comprehension, clear written communication, good judgment and decision making, problem solving, serviced oriented
Work Environment Police departments, crime laboratories, morgues, medical examiner/coroners offices
Similar Occupations Clinical nurse specialists, physicians assistants, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners


Medical examiners use information provided by external and internal autopsies, medical records, and circumstantial evidence to determine time and cause of death. They may study the blood, organs, and body fluids of a deceased body in order to provide an accurate determination. This may include rape examinations and analysis of DNA. Medical examiners are often required to testify in court and are considered expert witnesses in a variety of civil and criminal cases. They may testify about the cause of death and provide the court with other relevant forensic information. It is important to note that only a small percentage of deaths require an autopsy.

Education and Job Requirements

Students who are interested in becoming medical examiners must first complete an accredited medical school program. After graduating as a Medical Doctor (M.D.), they must enter a general pathology residency, lasting approximately three to five years. These residencies provide doctors with advanced training in the diagnosis of disease. They then complete a one-year specialty training program in forensic pathology at a medical examiner's office. Certification by the American Board of Pathology is required. Medical examiners are often elected to their position at the state or county level. In some counties, medical examiners are also required to possess law degrees.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to PayScale.com, the majority of medical examiners earn between $35,000 and $301,000 a year, as of June 2019. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not provide information specific to the field of medical examination, the BLS categorizes coroners and medical examiners as types of compliance officers. Accordingly, the BLS projects that the employment of compliance officers will likely grow by about 8.2% between 2016 and 2026.

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