Autopsy Technician Programs & Training

Discover the programs and training needed to get started as an autopsy technician. Find out what this training entails, how long it takes to complete, and what you can do with it once completed by reading below. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kind of Programs and Training Are Needed to Become an Autopsy Technician?

Autopsy technicians assist coroners in performing autopsies on deceased individuals, which are usually done to help determine a cause of death or examine abnormalities such as cancerous tissue. Also known as pathologist's assistants (PA), autopsy technicians are a key part of the process of understanding death and bringing closure to those grieving. To become an autopsy technician, one must hold either a bachelor's degree or master's degree. Autopsy technicians may need to pass a certification exam after obtaining a degree in order to work in the field.

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree minimum; master's degree preferred
Common CoursesAnatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, microbiology
Other RequirementsASCP certification as a pathologist's assistant recommended
Related Careers Mortician, morgue assistant, clinical laboratory scientist

What Degree Programs Are Available for Autopsy Technicians?

Programs for both master's degrees and bachelor's degrees that might lead to a career as an autopsy technician exist. While a bachelor's degree in any branch of science is enough to qualify, some schools offer majors that are more tailored toward this career, such as a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science or a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Studies. These programs are often designed with passing the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) certification exams in mind. Master's-level programs, such as a Master of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science, tend to be more aimed at research, but some programs offer a concentration in pathology. A few schools have even begun to offer Master of Science in Clinical Pathologist Assistant programs, aimed specifically at those hoping further their education and become PAs.

What Sort of Courses Would Be Involved in a Degree Program?

Bachelor's degree programs in fields relevant to becoming an autopsy technician are likely to be heavy on science courses. Expect to take classes in anatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. As the program progresses, courses dealing with the human body specifically and medicine, such as immunology, pathology and healthcare administration, will be needed. The forensic science programs are more likely to focus on criminology and involve classes like forensic serology, investigative techniques and drug analysis.

What Is an NAACLS-Accredited Program, and Why Do I Need One?

The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science, or NAACLS, is the governing body that decides what programs meet the requirements to work in the medical field at a clinical laboratory. Completion of an NAACLS-accredited program is a mandatory prerequisite to taking the ASCP certification exam to become a PA, so these programs must be taken into consideration. For PAs, there are only 11 universities in North America that have accredited programs, although two additional universities are working to become accredited. These programs typically require 22-24 months of study, with one year of classroom work and another working in cooperating hospitals. A master's degree will be received after completing such a program.

What Certifications Must One Have to Work as an Autopsy Technician?

The ASCP certification is needed to be considered for work as a pathologist's assistant. The PA certification can be earned by passing a certification exam within five years of the completion of an NAACLS-accredited program, which will officially grant the title. PA certifications must be renewed every three years by earning 45 credit hours of continuing education, or else they will lapse and must be reinstated by taking the exam over again. Work as an autopsy technician may be available without the certification, depending on the area, although those who do hold it will have much better prospects. Related jobs, such as mortician or morgue assistant, may be available to those who are interested in becoming PAs but are unable to achieve the certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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