How Do I Become a Forensic Pathologist?

Forensic pathology is a subfield of pathology that concentrates on determining that cause of death of a human being. A forensic pathologist is a medical professional that offer their services to the legal field to determine the cause of death for legal cases. Due to the increased popularity of criminal investigation, more and more individuals often ask, “How do I become a forensic pathologist?”

Recommended Forensic Programs

  1. Kaplan University – BSCJ Crime Scene Investigation
  2. American InterContinental University – BSCJ Forensic Science
  3. Kaplan University – BSCJ Forensic Psychology

What it is Like to Be a Forensic Pathologist?

A forensic pathologist examines deceased bodies in various conditions such as recent deaths to decomposed specimens. The most important task is performing an autopsy to determine what caused the death of the individual. The cause of death is categorized into two forms: proximate cause of death, which is the initial incident that lead to the series of events that led to the death and immediate cause of death, the injury or medical condition that finally led to the death of the person. A forensic pathologist must also determine the manner of death, if it was from natural causes, accidental, self-inflicted, or homicide. Other responsibilities include analyzing sample tissues, collecting evidence for special evaluation, and acting as a witness in legal proceedings. An important thing to remember if an individual is seeking to become a forensic pathologist is it is not a career for individuals who are squeamish or have a weak stomach.

Education Requirements to Become a Forensic Pathologist

To education requirements to become a forensic pathologist is very long and rigorous, taking at least 13 years of higher education to become board certified to practice. An individual must first complete a bachelor’s degree in any field, but it is important to understand that medical school requires certain classes such as chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physiology. Medical school is typically four years and results in a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. Some medical schools offer forensic pathology elective courses, particularly institutions that have forensic anthropology departments. During medical school, students learn how to deal with families in a sensitive manner

A three to five year residency training in anatomic, clinical, or forensic pathology follows medical school. After completion of medical school and pathology residency, aspiring forensic pathologists must complete a one-year specialty training program in forensic pathology at an approved medical facility such as medical examiners office. This specialty training provides a legal background as well as advanced study on autopsies and determining the cause of death. Forensic pathologists must also pass a board examination to become licensed to practice.

Salary and Job Aspects states as of June 2012, the average annual salary for forensic pathologists is $169,000. Exact annual salaries will vary greatly on geographical area, employer, experience, and level of responsibility. For individuals who wish to become a forensic pathologist, there are a variety of job options such as private crime laboratories, private group practices, federal or local government organizations, universities, hospitals and coroner’s offices. Individuals who have recently graduated typically start out as general forensic pathologists in hospitals or state controlled facilities and those with experience and demonstrated skills may move up to chief consultants or chief medical examiners in private group practices or other organizations.