How to Become a Coroner: Requirements, Job Description & Salary

Explore the career requirements for coroners. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, professional licensure and the employment outlook to determine if this is the right field for you. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

A coroner is an elected or appointed official who investigates the circumstances surrounding violent, accidental or other deaths where the cause is unknown, for a local jurisdiction, which is most often at the county level. A coroner oversees these investigations, often utilizing a team of pathologists, forensic scientists, and medical examiners. Check out the following table for more facts.

Degree Required Degree requirements vary based on the jurisdiction
Education Field of Study Forensic science, forensic pathology, criminal justice, medicine
Key Skills Investigative, forensic analysis, team management, medicine
Licensure or Certification Requirements vary widely by jurisdiction
Job Growth (2016-2026 8% (all compliance officers)*
Median Salary (2017) $67,870*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Does a Coroner Do?

A coroner is an official responsible for overseeing investigations into deaths when a doctor is not present to certify the cause of death, or the decedent passes as the result of an accident, violence or other unknown or suspicious circumstances. They oversee a team of investigators and specialists who work together to determine the cause of death and draft medical and legal reports certifying the cause. Coroners might direct autopsies, analyses of toxins, and inquests pertaining to deaths in their jurisdictions.

Do I Need a Degree?

According to the BLS, about 25% of coroners possess only a high school diploma or its equivalent. Smaller portions of individuals working as coroners have an associate's degree or some college without a degree. Depending on the jurisdiction, a coroner can sometimes be elected with simply a high-school degree and no criminal record. Other jurisdictions require a coroner to be a medical examiner who is a licensed medical doctor. The state of employment will determine the system being used and the level of education required to work in the field.

Do I Need to Be Licensed or Certified?

Each jurisdiction has its own set of standards to become a coroner. There are several certifying and licensing organizations that have established standards to provide training and certification to aid those wishing to enter the field. The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI) is one such organization.

How Much Do Coroners Make?

The salary for coroners is dependent on the level of training, education, and experience each candidate has, as well as what the jurisdiction requires. The BLS says that the median annual salary for coroners in 2017 is $67,870. Governments are the top employers of coroners, employing almost half of the positions in the field. Private organizations in the finance, insurance, science and other fields utilize coroners in different ways, including compliance and research.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related professions that might be of interest include forensic science technology and criminal investigation. Forensic science technicians need a bachelor's degree in a science, along with training while on the job, for investigating crime scenes. The education requirements for criminal investigators vary, from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree, in order to gain entrance into the training academy.

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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