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What Is a Forensic Autopsy Technician? - Job Description & Education Requirements

Read on to find out what education and experience are required to become a forensic autopsy technician. Get information about the salary and job outlook for this career field.

Career Information at a Glance?

If you're fascinated with criminal investigations and the anatomy of the human body, working as a forensic autopsy technician might interest you. Forensics is the scientific approach to collecting and analyzing physical evidence related to a crime. As a forensic autopsy technician, you are trained to help determine a person's cause of death and be an integral part of a forensic investigation.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree preferred
Fields of Study Chemistry, biology, criminal justice
Key Responsibilities Collect and document physical evidence; take diagnostic images, such as x-rays, and photograph bodies; assist in surgical procedures
Job Growth (2018-2028) 14% for all forensic science technicians*
Median Salary (2018) $58,230 per year or $27.99 per hour for all forensic science technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Qualifications?

Many positions require applicants to have a high school diploma and one to two years of work experience, with full-time experience in such settings as hospitals, funeral homes or emergency medical departments being preferred. In some cases, applicants might be able to substitute education for work experience. Some employers hire applicants who have completed a certain number of college credit hours in fields like chemistry, biology, physiology, anatomy and criminal justice. However, a bachelor's degree in one of these fields is preferred.

Where Does a Forensic Autopsy Technician Work?

Most forensic autopsy technicians work in hospitals, specifically in the morgue for a medical examiner or forensic pathologist's office. They can be employed by a university hospital, county or city health department.

To work in this field, you should be willing to be flexible with your schedule, as some institutions require their technicians to be available around the clock during emergency cases.

What Does a Forensic Autopsy Technician Do?

A forensic autopsy technician prepares an autopsy station and maintains cleanliness of the room as well as the tools needed for the procedure. As a technician, you would assist a pathologist, medical examiner or coroner in preparing the body, moving the body during autopsy and handing out tools. Other duties include opening the body, taking x-rays and photos for documentation, collecting important forensic evidence - such as fingerprints - labelling physical evidence for legal proceedings and closing the body to prepare it for transport to a funeral home.

What Are the Key Skills Needed?

First and foremost, you should be comfortable working on dead bodies to be able to perform your responsibilities as a forensic autopsy technician. You must be very detail-oriented in gathering and documenting a decedent's personal effects and all biological information because you will be submitting this evidence to law enforcement agencies. You should also be familiar with a variety of equipment used during forensic autopsies, which can include saws, scalpels and scales in addition to x-ray and photography equipment.

How Much Is the Pay?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all forensic science technicians was $58,230 per year or $27.99 per hour as of 2018. Employment in this field was projected to increase 14% over the 2018-2028 decade. This job growth was expected to result in around 2,400 new positions as governments attempt to keep up with their case loads.