Coroners investigate deaths within a legal jurisdiction, determining the cause of death and responsibility for violent, accidental and unexplained deaths. They direct autopsies, pathological and toxicological analyses, and inquests.
Coroners may visit crime scenes to gather visual and physical evidence. They identify the deceased, record death certificates and notify next of kin. They also coordinate with other public health and law enforcement agencies, and testify at inquests, hearings and court trials.
Coroners typically work full time, with many hours doing administrative tasks in an office. You may also spend time in a lab or morgue. Coroners may also be called to a suspicious death or crime scene at any hour.
In remote and low-crime areas, coroners may work on a part-time or fee-per-case basis.
Some coroners also perform autopsies, and may be exposed to gases, fumes and odours as well as disease and infections. Crime scenes may include extreme temperatures and other environmental difficulties, but law enforcement will ensure the area is safe before the coroner arrives.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
DVM / VMD degree
Coroner qualifications vary widely by state and county. Many are elected officials without any medical training and no educational requirements. They typically appoint a licensed medical examiner to conduct autopsies and other tests.
The most advanced requirements for a coroner are a medical degree and specialised coursework in forensic pathology. You may be required to be certified by the American Board of Pathology. This provides the proper training to conduct autopsies and correctly interpret evidence in suspicious death cases.
For all coroners, some coursework in forensic science, medicine and criminal justice is advisable. Training programmes are available through the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).
You may also be required to be licensed by the state. Check with your state's licensing board. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also offers a comprehensive reference of state's individual requirements for training and certification of coroners.
Medical professionals as well as those in the legal and criminal justice system may advance to the position of coroner. This can happen through appointment or after winning a local election.
Attaining a medical degree and experience in the medical or forensic fields offers more opportunities for a prestigious coroner position. Those who do exemplary work in smaller communities may be recruited for more challenging roles in busier cities.