A forensic pathologist is an expert in investigating and evaluating cases of sudden, unexpected, suspicious, and violent death as well as other specific classes of death defined by law. The forensic pathologist serves the public as coroner or medical examiner, or by performing medicolegal autopsies for such officials.
The forensic pathologist is responsible for determining the cause (the ultimate and immediate reasons for the cessation of life) and manner of death (homicide, suicide, accidental, natural or unknown).
Clinical forensic pathologists examine living patients, usually in cases where sexual assault or abuse is suspected.
Once all the evidence is analyzed, the forensic pathologist prepares a written report and may also testify to these findings in court.
Salary Range: $105,000 – $500,000
Salary Notes: Educational level and experience also affect salary. The mean annual salary in Vermont is $151,020.
Where you can study:
University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Hanover, NH
Where you might work: City, county or federal government – Hospitals – Medical Schools – Private Practices – Group Practices – Morgues – Surgical Labs – Crime Labs
Job Outlook: Public: Healthcare employment continues to remain steady and even shows a considerable rise in openings in the coming years. Working as a forensic pathologist can offer steady income and job security as this position is used to address public health and safety needs and identify possible emergency situations.
Education, Licensing and Certification: Becoming a forensic pathologist is not easy. It takes a minimum of 13 years of education and training after high school to become a forensic pathologist. You need to have a lot of confidence in order to defend your conclusions in the face of opposition from lawyers, the media and even the victims’ families.
If you are interested in this field, you will need to be strong in all areas of science. Forensic pathology draws on biology, physics, chemistry, even psychology, and anthropology. Communication skills are also important since half the job of being a forensic pathologist is writing reports and giving testimony.
A forensic pathologist must first earn a bachelor’s degree, then a medical degree, either an M.D. or D.O. Extensive additional education and training is required, including four to five years of training in anatomic, clinical and/or forensic pathology and a one-year residency or fellowship in forensic pathology.
Once training is completed, a forensic pathologist must pass an exam to become board certified.
The American Board of Pathology
American Academy of Forensic Sciences
National Association of Medical Examiners
American Society for Investigative Pathology
National Board of Medical Examiners