How to become

How to Become a Forensics Pathologist

How to Become a Forensics Pathologist


Forensic pathologists, also referred to as “death detectives,” are medical professionals that utilize their specialized anatomy knowledge to ascertain how a person died or whether their injuries and wounds are consistent with their reported causes of death. As coroners and medical examiners, they often perform autopsies, ordinarily in a morgue or laboratory, and may also look for indications of physical or sexual abuse in patients who are still alive. A forensic pathologist is someone who specializes in crime scene investigation and has a strong interest in medicine.

Definition of forensic pathologist    

A medical professional known as a “forensic pathologist,” usually referred to as a “medical examiner,” is responsible for identifying the cause of illness or death when a person passes away suddenly. To determine how and why a person died, autopsies are conducted, and lab test results are analyzed. When determining the cause of death, forensic pathologists can support criminal investigations or assist grieving families. They also fill out the necessary papers specifying the cause of death, whether it was a homicide, suicide, accident, natural, or unknown.

A person on this career path could potentially decide to become a clinical forensic pathologist, who examines and gathers evidence from patients while they are still alive, which is typically done in abuse or assault situations.

Work of forensic pathologist

  • Providing medical examinations at a death scene.
  • Reviewing the medical record of the deceased.
  • Accompanying detectives to crime scenes where deaths occur.
  • Carrying out an autopsy.
  • Making death certificates available.
  • Determining if infections, injuries, or poisons are present or not.
  • Gathering information to conduct and assess tests.
  • Obtaining tissue samples for a biopsy or a microscopy analysis.
  • Evaluating the health of the body’s various organs.
  • Giving testimony in court.
  • Obtaining further information on the patient or informing families of the patient’s cause of death.
  • Collaborating with investigators, toxicologists, forensic dentists, biochemists, pharmacologists, and microbiologists to ascertain the cause of death.

The procedures for becoming a forensic pathologist

Finishing Your Forensic Pathology Education

You should examine the state of the field before pursuing specialist schooling. Currently, there is a dearth of forensic pathologists in the United States and many other nations. Although there is a strong demand for this position, it pays little when compared to other internal medicine specialists.

  • A forensic pathologist often earns between $150,000 and $180,000 throughout their mid-career. Even entry-level salaries for doctors pursuing careers in hospital pathology are higher than this salary.
  • You should look into local forensic pathologists’ pay rates; coroners and research assistants paid by the state should have salaries that are open to the public. You should think about whether you can pay off your student loans with this wage given the high expense of medical school.

In high school, get ready for a profession in medicine

It’s never too early to consider your potential career goals, including becoming a doctor. Take as many biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology classes as you can while in high school. You might enroll in a pre-med programme in college if you enjoy these classes and perform well in them.

Focus on pre-medicine in college

Consider attending a college with a great pre-med programme when you look into institutions to attend. Ask the admissions staff at the college how many of its grads are admitted into medical school when you visit. You should think about taking the following courses in college, even though prerequisites differ amongst medical schools:

  • A lab-based biology course for at least one full year. To be a strong candidate for medical school, you should definitely take biology for at least two years (four semesters).
  • Both organic chemistry and inorganic (general) chemistry.
  • Physics during the course of two semesters.
  • A statistics course as well as a math course.
  • English composition and literature.
  • A behavioral sciences course (such as psychology or sociology) to prepare for the MCAT’s Behavior section.
  • Consider taking electives in forensic pathology, criminal justice, or other related fields.

Meet helpful consultant

If your university has a forensic pathology concentration, think about collaborating closely with a professor who specializes in this field. They will be able to assist you in locating internships, lead research projects, and write recommendation letters for medical school.

Acquire clinical expertise

You’ll want to demonstrate to your potential medical school that you are committed to a career in forensic pathology. Consider requesting to shadow a doctor who performs medical examinations or looking for an internship at a morgue.

Test for Admission to Medical College

With your advisor during your second year of college, you should decide when to schedule the MCAT. The exam should generally be taken the year before you intend to enroll in graduate school. The four portions of the MCAT are as follows:

  • The Biochemical and Biological Basis of Living Systems.
  • Biological System Foundations: Chemical and Physical.
  • Foundations of Behavior: Psychological, Social, and Biological Aspects.
  • Critical Thinking and Reasoning Capabilities.
  • You cannot study for the MCAT in one night. You’ll need to synthesize a lot of the information you’ve learned in your education. Use the practice online test provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges to prepare.
  • Practice courses are also offered by test preparation companies like Kaplan, although these can cost between $1800 and $2200.
  • A lot of pre-med institutions will also provide MCAT preparation materials and instructions. To aid in test preparation, you should organize a study group with your friends and fellow students.
  • The majority of test takers who were accepted into medical school had average test scores of 31.4 and overall GPAs of 3.69. You might wish to talk with your advisor about retaking the test if your score was much below this. The majority of retakes only receive 1–3 points more than the original score.

Enroll in a medical College

If you are admitted to medical school, you ought to look for a course of study with a forensic pathology emphasis. The broad category of Anatomical and Clinical Pathology will include this.

  • First-year medical student. This could very well be the hardest year of medical school for you. You must enroll in a gross anatomy course where you will study anatomy on cadavers. If working with corpses is something you loathe in medical school, you should change your specialization if you want to be a forensic pathologist because you will do it regularly. Additionally, you will enroll in biochemistry, pathology, and histology courses.
  • Second year. A combination of coursework and clinical experience will make up your second year. You will discover various disorders that you may come across in a hospital or while working in private practice here. Congestive heart failure, blood clots, heart attacks, and other conditions may be included.
  • Third-year medical student. You will practise in a range of different medical disciplines during clinical rotations this year, including internal medicine and obstetrics-gynecology. Make sure your programme will aid in your efforts to set up a clinical rotation in forensic pathology.
  • Final yaerYou can complete a lengthy rotation in the area in which you desire to focus during this year. You could work this year in a county medical examiner’s office or a mortuary. You can decide if becoming a forensic pathologist is something you want to do in the long run by experiencing what a day in the life of one is like here.

Work as a postgraduate forensic pathologist

Take a forensic pathology internship

Typically, an internship is the first job a doctor takes after graduating from medical school. The majority of internships for aspiring medical examiners will be held in morgues, county examiner’s offices, or other government-funded institutions. Forensic pathologists are also employed by several private hospitals.

  • To find a job in this type of environment, use the contacts you made during your medical school fourth-year rotations. You must have a certified forensic pathologist oversee you.
  • You could have to work very long hours and do hundreds of autopsies during this year due to the severe lack of forensic examiners.

Enroll in a four-year forensic pathology residency programme

After completing their internship, doctors typically move on to residency programmes.

You might take on slightly more challenging or sophisticated work during your residency than you would as an intern. For instance, you might be in charge of reviewing toxicology tests or creating the paperwork required for a death inquiry.

Enroll in a forensic pathology fellowship

To achieve specialization in the field, you will typically need to finish a one-year fellowship at a facility that is authorized to conduct medicolegal investigations. To confirm that the facility where you are finishing your fellowship is approved, contact your area’s American Board of Pathology branch.

Obtain forensic pathology certification

You can get board-certified as a forensic pathologist after your fellowship, residency, and internship.

  • In order to get certified, you must have finished at least 50 autopsies.
  • Additionally, passing a test given by the American Board of Pathologies is required for certification. It will include a mix of anatomical, medical, and legal concerns. To learn more about the test, including exam dates, speak with your local ABP chapter.
  • Your certification must be renewed once every ten years. Additionally, certification requirements differ by region, so you might need to recertify if you move.

How to Advance Your Career?

Head straight towards the coroner’s office

The coroner is an elected office in various nations. You might be able to propose legislation in this capacity on death investigation procedures or other laws pertinent to your industry.

As a coroner, you will typically need to approve death certificates.

Accept cutting-edge technology

With advancements in biotechnology, forensic pathology is a science that is continually changing. In addition to more conventional gross autopsies, certain medical examiner offices are currently testing “virtual autopsy” technologies. If technology that will advance your work interests you, you should think about it.

Become a member of the National Association of Medical Examiners

Joining a professional association is crucial because the United States currently only has half the amount of forensic pathologists that it needs. Learning the most recent advancements in your field and exchanging professional expertise will both be beneficial.

  • To let young medical students know forensic pathology is a viable career route, you should also be open to supporting new medical professionals and establishing connections with medical educational institutions.
Helpful points
  • A different mindset is needed for forensic pathology than it is for treating living patients in the medical field. You must feel at ease handling and dissecting dead bodies.
  • Additionally, you need to have a keen eye for detail. You must be exceedingly meticulous and methodical in your job since you are seeking to ascertain the cause of death in your autopsy.
  • Be ready for a long day. You might be contacted at all hours of the night if you have to react to a crime scene.


What ought we research in pathology?

College first, then medical school, followed by a pathology residency After the residency, a fellowship may be required.

What traits are necessary for forensic pathologists?

A particular skill set is necessary for the professional path of a forensic pathologist. You must possess a great deal of tenacity, tolerance, and tenacity. Under pressure, you must maintain composure and concentration. When necessary, forensic pathologists must have the courage to testify in court.

What is the length of training to become a forensic pathologist?

A forensic pathologist must complete at least 13 years of training and education. A four-year undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, four years of residency, and a one-year fellowship are all included in that.

Do forensic pathologists operate independently?

No one works alone as a forensic pathologist. In order to gather the essential information, they will frequently ask other experts for help. Working with police officers, toxicologists, and other experts is common for forensic pathologists.

Is it possible to work with the FBI as a forensic pathologist?

Yes, in order to be eligible to work for the FBI, forensic examiners must successfully finish a two-year training programme. You must work in the FBI lab for two years after obtaining your qualification.