What is a coroners or medical examiners job description? People who hold coroner positions fall into two types. One type performs examinations on deceased people in order to identify unknown victims of violence or accident, determine approximate time of death, and establish cause of death in cases of accident or violence or when the cause of death is not otherwise known. These coroners may also perform scientific analysis of tissue, check for drugs or other substances in the bloodstream or stomach of the deceased person, and conduct inquiries into the circumstances surrounding an unexplained or suspicious death. The other type of person holding a coroner position is an elected official, sometimes the sheriff, who does not perform medical examinations or scientific analysis but supervises workers who do. The first type is sometimes called a medical examiner.
Coroners Job Summary
- Coroners who function as medical examiners need both medical and legal training and most hold an advanced degree.
- Coroners most frequently work for state or local government.
- Qualifications for employment as a coroner vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; e.g., some areas require that coroners be medical doctors, while others do not.
- Projected employment growth for coroners is expected to be much greater than average.
Coroners who work as medical examiners use a variety of tools, such as forceps, scales, knives, and autopsy saws on dead bodies while retaining the integrity of evidence collected to determine time and cause of death. They may be exposed to cold or unpleasant environments, work with caustic chemicals, and are required to exhibit precise attention to detail. Coroners often supervise other workers, and may be required to perform managerial tasks, such as preparing or certifying legal records and reports.
Education, Training, Licensing for Medical Examiners
Educational, training, and licensing requirements for coroners vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, according to local law and governmental structure. Coroners may have legal and/or medical degrees, but some have neither. Coroners identified as medical examiners are usually doctors, often forensic pathologists.
Ideally, coroners who perform examinations will possess advanced knowledge of medicine, biology, and pathology, and will have a legal background as well. They will be familiar with and comfortable with using scientific principles and methods to draw conclusions from physical evidence.
Some coroners do not possess the specific skills needed to conduct advanced scientific or medical analysis, but supervise others who do. In some places, the coroner is the local sheriff or other elected official and supervises others who perform autopsies and analyze evidence. Coroners must exhibit strong supervisory, communication, and reasoning skills. Even coroners who do not perform medical examinations themselves will often have a bachelor’s degree and sometimes an advanced degree.
Some jurisdictions require coroners to complete a training program in order to perform the job. Some areas also require coroners to be certified by the state and may require continuing education to maintain certification.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook, and Earnings
What is the jobs outlook for coroners? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies coroners as compliance officers and publishes aggregate statistics for this type of occupation. BLS data indicates that as of May 2009, approximately 247,900 people were employed as compliance officers. The mean annual wage for this classification was $55,100.
How much do medical examiners earn each year? According to research published by the BLS, the bottom 10% of people in this classification earned $31,170. The middle 50% earned between $37,080 and $67,680. The most highly paid 10% in this classification earned $87,610 or more.
Coroners are almost exclusively employed by local governments. Employment growth in this classification is expected much higher than average over the next decade, around 20% or even more.