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Forensic Medical Examiner Career Outlook

Medical examiners are well-known in popular culture thanks to television shows and novels. One of the popular examples is Dr. Saroyen from Bones. Another, for those who like classic television, would be Quincy from the show of the same name. People who have an interest in this field may find that it has many rewarding possibilities, from the rewarding forensic medical examiner salary to the interesting work the career offers. Forensic pathologist is another term used in place of medical examiner, but the job is similar in many ways.

Those in the field perform postmortem examinations of human bodies from people who pass away. They look into sudden and unexpected deaths, as well as violent deaths so that they will be able to determine the cause of said death, as well as the manner of the death. The forensic medical examiner may look into the medical history of the deceased, look at the crime scene and statements from witnesses, and examine evidence found on the body, such as gunpowder residue or bodily fluids. Having knowledge of other fields, such as DNA, toxicology, and even ballistics can be beneficial.

The medical examiner will create and prepare reports, and will often work quite closely with law enforcement on cases. In addition, the specialists may also have to testify in court and present their findings before a judge and jury.

The Career Outlook for the Medical Examiner

Anyone choosing to become a forensic medical examiner needs to be a doctor, and according to the 2010 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for the career of physician is quite good. The BLS predicts that there will be a growth rate of approximately 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the majority of other occupations out there today. The job of physician is growing because the field of healthcare is expanding. However, even as those jobs grow, it is important for prospective medical examiners to remember that their job is a subset in the field, and that means that the actual number of jobs in the field of medical examiner will be lower, and the competition is going to be high.

Those who have an interest in pursuing the field should look into some of the different professional organizations set up specifically for medical examiners. NAME, or the National Association of Medical Examiners, is one such group. Another of the professional groups that offers certification as well is ABMDI, the American Board of Medicoloegal Death Investigators. Of course, it is possible to find information at the AAFS, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, as well.

Forensic Medical Examiner Salary

One of the questions that often come up with this career is how much the pay is going to be. Determining the actual pay can be difficult, as the BLS lumps together medical examiners with all other physicians. The median pay for a physician in 2010 was $202,392, but this number could be misleading since the median number considers all of the different types of physicians. The best way to determine the actual pay for the job is to look at the various states and cities that utilize medical examiners and then inquire, as the income is going to vary by state and location. Many different things besides the location will factor into the pay, however. The amount of experience that one has is going to be important as well.

Job Requirements – Education & Experience for Forensic Medical Examiner

Becoming a medical examiner will take a substantial amount of work and schooling. They need to have four years of college and a bachelor’s degree, along with requirements for medical school. During the medical schooling, they need to earn their MD or DO. They will need an additional four years of training in forensic pathology, as well as a year of residency, or a forensic pathology fellowship.

Forensic medical examiners will also need to have certain qualities to excel in the field. Because it takes so long to get through the school, dedication is vital. Great communication skills, confidence, and a strong stomach are important. Working in this field can be a bit gruesome.

Licensure & Certification

In order to become a medical examiner, one has to take a licensing exam regardless of the state where he or she works. Different states have different requirements for licenses. In addition to the licensing, many medical examiners will also want to look into certifications, as they can help to improve the chance of finding a job. The ABMDI and the ACFEI, American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, both offer certification options that may help to bolster a career.

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Barry Franklin

Barry is Managing Editor of, 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.