How do I Become a Medical Examiner?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
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A medical examiner is a doctor who has specialized in violent and unexplained deaths. In order to be a medical examiner, you must meet three requirements: become a medical doctor, obtain training in pathologic forensics, and become certified in forensic medicine. All three items are required to become a medical examiner.

The role of a medical examiner is to determine the reason for each death, collect evidence to support further investigation if the death is suspicious and to provide expert testimony at a coroner inquest or trial. All medical examiners are employed by the government and they are considered part of the criminal justice system. They work independent of the police and are not responsible for assisting in any investigations. Their involvement is limited to the examination of the body, determining the cause of death and creating the official report.

All examiners have successfully completed medical school. Medical school usually takes between six to eight years to complete. Upon completion, the candidate must successfully write a licensing examination for the state in which they wish to practice. This license must be kept up to date, through the payment of annual fees and the completion of continuing education credits.


Specialized training can be obtained from the National Association of Medical Examiners or the American Academy Forensic Sciences. These schools provide training in pathology, which focuses on the causes of death. Acceptance into these programs is very limited and high marks are required to study this medical specialty.

There are two training program programs available to become a medical examiner. The first is a five-year program in anatomic and clinical pathology and a one year residence program in forensic pathology. The second option is to complete a four-year program in anatomic pathology and a one year program in forensic pathology. This program incorporates practice experience while working under the supervision of a trained forensic pathologist.

The examination for certification as a medical examiner is held by the American Board of Pathology. This examination is focused on the causes of death, diagnosis and protocol. Upon successful completion, the candidate can apply for a position as a medical examiner.

In order to become the chief medical examiner, at least ten years of experience is required. Medical examiners must be prepared to defend their diagnoses and provide testimony in court. The accuracy and reputation of the examiner has a huge impact on the lives of the family members of both the victim and the accused.



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