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Schools with Forensic Pathology Programs

Whether it is inspecting victims of violent crimes, determining causes of death or providing testimony that can convict criminals for life, it’s all in a day’s work for a forensic pathologist. If you have ever seen shows such as “CSI,” “NCIS” or “Dr. G: Medical Examiner,” you may have some idea of what the life of a forensic pathologist can be like. Although not often as exciting and dangerous as these popular television shows make it out to be, a career as a forensic pathologist, or medical examiner, can be interesting, fun and challenging.

Students who go to the best forensic pathologist schools often seek careers as medical examiners or clinical forensic pathologists. Medical examiners learn the skills to successfully identify time, manner and cause of death in a post-mortem patient. Clinical forensic pathologists study living patients, usually in response to violent trauma (like rape or abuse). Students who are successful in this field are typically determined, analytical and interested in science and biology.

Forensic Pathology: Online Certificates and Degrees

Since a forensic scientist is a medical specialist, the process for completing forensic pathologist education begins at the undergraduate level, but students truly interested in becoming a medical examiner should begin to prepare for medical school as soon as possible. Most medical schools are interested in applicants who have completed undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry. These schools can be very competitive. It is helpful to take courses in criminal justice, criminal investigation and toxicology as well.

Featured Programs

Stevenson University

Coursework online. Capstone on-campus.

Online Master's in Forensic Studies

  • Criminalistics Track
Stevenson University (Campus)

Campus-based. Some courses online.

Master's in Forensic Science

  • Biology Track
  • Chemistry Track
  • Crime Scene Investigation Track
University of Cincinnati

Online MS in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

Boston University

Online MS in Computer Information Systems

  • Cybersecurity Concentration
Utica College

Online Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate

Online BS in Economic Crime Investigation

Online Graduate Certificates in Forensic Pathology

 

Since a forensic scientist is a medical specialist, the process for completing forensic pathologist education begins at the undergraduate level, but students truly interested in becoming a medical examiner should begin to prepare for medical school as soon as possible. Most medical schools are interested in applicants who have completed undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry. These schools can be very competitive. It is helpful to take courses in criminal justice, criminal investigation and toxicology as well. 

Who should enroll in an online graduate certificate program in forensic pathology? Because an online forensic pathology program does not ultimately result in a medical degree, it is only the best choice for those who are not yet sure of the career they want or who would instead like a forensic career that is tangential or related to forensic pathology. These online programs are designed for those who have completed undergraduate studies. Depending on the program, students may be required to have a degree in a science such as biology or chemistry, while other programs may not have such specific prerequisites.

 Online graduate certificate program options for forensic pathologists include:

University of Florida

The University of Florida offers an online Forensic Death Investigation certificate. The program includes coursework on the investigation of crime and death using forensic pathology as well as anthropology and DNA analysis. In addition, students can expect to learn about pharmacology, forensic odontology, and wounds.

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota also offers an online death investigation training. The program, through the UND Office of Extended Learning, should take no more than 3 months to complete and include principles of death investigation and forensic pathology. 

National University

National University offers a Certificate in Forensic and Crime Scene Investigation (FCSI) that includes coursework in forensic pathology. The 7 course, 31.5 credit hour certificate is specifically designed for students who are currently employed in law enforcement, investigation and other forensic professions. Some credits from this online program may apply to a future master’s degree in a forensic field, although not to an MD.

 

Online Degrees in Forensic Pathology

 

Becoming a forensic pathologist in the U.S. means earning a medical degree, which means there are no online programs that fully prepare a student for a career in forensic pathology. However, students wishing to prepare for their medical career may certainly pursue an undergraduate degree online in a related field. Most medical schools prefer to admit students with bachelor of science degrees in fields such as biology or chemistry. Regardless of the final degree, students should have a strong background in physical sciences before applying to medical school.

Traditional Forensic Pathology Degrees & Fellowships

Medical schools with forensic pathology programs help train students to correctly identify causes of sudden and violent death. During this stage of training, you will have the opportunity to work in connection with county coroner’s offices and investigative laboratories to get an idea of whether a forensic pathology career would fit with your personality. Medical programs help prepare students for a career in medicine, but it is the student’s subsequent residency and fellowship programs that allows them to specialize in forensic pathology.

While enrolled in medical forensic pathologist programs, students are required to complete anatomy, health administration and medical practice courses. In addition, medical schools require around 100 credit hours of clinical clerkships and hands-on training. The last requirement is a medical examination at the culmination of the training program. Upon completion, students will have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degree.

Practical training beyond medical school is required in order to become a forensic pathologist. Students usually apply to residency programs while still in medical school, but begin after graduation. These 3 to 5-year programs allow students to work with professional forensic pathologists in public and private offices.

The following is a selection of forensic pathology fellowship programs to which students who have completed a pathology residency and are eligible for American Board of Pathology Certification can apply:

University of Colorado at Denver

The School of Medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver offers a forensic pathology fellowship for new doctors who have completed their medical degree and fellowship. Training at CU Denver largely involves work in the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner. The fellowship lasts for 12 months and also include training at the Denver Police Department Crime Laboratory and The Veterans Affairs Medical Center Chemistry and Molecular Laboratories. Fellows can expect to learn about DNA/serology, firearms, trace evidence, scene documentation and photography, latent prints, drug analysis and toxicology.

Virginia Commonwealth University

The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) forensic pathology fellowship is offered under supervision of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The fellowship lasts one year and include both didactic training and hands-on forensic examination experience.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan offers a one-year fellowship in forensic pathology. Fellows can expect to work alongside the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office in Detroit Michigan, learning not only forensic examination techniques but also courtroom testimony, toxicology, criminalistics, anthropology, odontology, and other specialties.

Forensic Pathology School Accreditation and Professional Certification

To receive accreditation, forensic pathology programs must be approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This process involves a thorough evaluation of the program’s curriculum, faculty, and facilities.

Upon completing medical school, aspiring forensic pathologists must apply to residency programs in pathology that allow them to become qualified to earn an American Board of Pathology certification. These certifications are available for both Clinical Pathology (CP) and Anatomical Pathology (AP). Alternatively, residents can earn a joint AP/CP certification. Eligibility for this certification, although not the completion of the certification itself, is a prerequisite for forensic pathology fellowship applicants. Residents who wish to specialize in forensic pathology may also qualify for the ABP subspecialty certification after at least 2 years of training towards the general AP, CP, or AP/CP certification. Complete requirements for certification is available from the ABP website.

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Editor

Barry Franklin

Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.