A coroner is an individual who directs activities such as autopsies, pathological and toxicological analyses, and inquests relating to the investigation of deaths occurring within a legal jurisdiction to determine cause of death or to fix responsibility for accidental, violent, or unexplained deaths. Coroners are often the person that makes the decision to initiate an investigation if they determine the cause of death to be questionable.
Local law determines the responsibilities of the coroner. In some areas, coroners are called medical examiners and the person performing coroner duties are physicians within the community. There are some communities that do not require coroners to be physicians and the individual will direct others to perform the necessary medical tests.
Coroners have many responsibilities including directing investigations in order to find cause of deaths that are violent, accidental, or unexplained. The coroner will direct the technologist and physicians who perform tests and autopsies. Additionally, a coroner may perform an autopsy or other test to determine the time and cause of death and complete the certificate of death.
Coroner training will require some type of formal education. This includes a bachelor’s degree in a field such as criminology, anatomy, medicine, forensic science, experimental pathology, pathology, physiology, or pre-medicine.
For those that are interested in becoming a coroner it is recommended that they start preparing for college while still in high school. Taking college preparatory courses, especially in the science and math fields, can be extremely beneficial. Some helpful courses to take in high school include physiology, anatomy, computer applications, foreign language such as Latin, first aid, and an introduction to health care course.
Becoming a Coroner
Most areas will require that the coroner be a medical doctor. This means that someone seeking this position will need to go to medical school and become a licensed physician. This can take up to 8 years of additional schooling beyond high school to complete.
In order to enter medical school a person will first have to complete their bachelor’s degree. It is recommended that a person major in pre-medicine or other type of science degree. A person that chooses liberal arts major will need to make sure to take the required chemistry, biology, and physics courses.
In addition to education requirements, to be a coroner one will also need to have work experience in the medical field. Most places require a person that is interested in becoming a coroner to have a certification in forensic pathology and a medical license. On the job training is often required as well.
Coroner positions may be an appointed position or an elected position. This will be determined by the area that a person lives in. Most often, it is required that a coroner remain on call to help police officers and health officials when the need arises.