Forensic Pathology Career Path

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Forensic Pathology Career Path

Forensic pathology is a field of pathology that deals with the examination of human remain for the purpose of legal investigation. Forensic pathologists are often called upon to determine the cause of death in cases where foul play is suspected, and they may also be called to testify as expert witnesses in criminal trials.

If you’re fascinated by the human body and how it works, a career in forensic pathology may be perfect for you. This exciting field combines science with law enforcement to help solve crimes. But what does a day in the life of a forensic pathologist look like? And what skills do you need to pursue this career? Keep reading to find out!

1. What Is Forensic Pathology?

A forensic pathologist is a physician who performs autopsies to determine the cause and manner of death in cases where foul play is suspected. This includes homicides, suicides, accidents, or any other criminal activity that may be involved. Forensic pathologists are also responsible for assessing decedents (e.g., victims) during suspicious or disaster-related deaths, including those involving acts of terrorism, war crimes, natural disasters, industrial accidents, and disease outbreaks.

The forensic pathologist performs the autopsy in a morgue or medico-legal institute, or hospital that has been accredited for medico-legal investigations by the General Police Directorate of the Ministry of Interior. The forensic also has to ensure that the correct personal data is given to the family of the deceased.

2. What Does a Forensic Pathologist Do?

As a forensic pathologist, you’ll be required to perform autopsies to establish the cause of death in cases involving violent or unusual deaths. You will have to examine victims of accidents, disasters, and acts of terrorism in order to establish what happened in these situations. You will also have to determine the age, sex, and race of the deceased. Your job is to provide a medical opinion that can be used in a court of law.

You will be called to the scene of death and asked to determine how that person died. You may have to travel for this job, as you would be required at a crime or accident scene, a disaster area, or a war zone. You could also help police with their investigations into suspicious deaths or homicides.

As a forensic pathologist, you will also be required to perform any necessary autopsies and analyze the medical evidence in order to establish the cause of death. You will attend inquests and provide expert testimony about your findings and may work with coroners who are responsible for determining the cause and manner of suspicious or violent deaths.

3. How to Become a Forensic Pathologist?

In order to be a forensic pathologist, you must first be a medical doctor. The educational requirements for forensic pathology are similar to other medical specialties. Requirements include an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry, followed by four years of medical school and three years of residency training at the university level.

To become board-certified as a forensic pathologist, you will need to complete a fellowship in forensic pathology, which is a one- or two-year postgraduate fellowship after completing your general pathology residency requirements. After completing a fellowship, you will need to pass three intensive board exams – written, oral, and practical – before attaining board certification.

4. What Skills Are Required for a Forensic Pathologist?

Some of the skills needed to become a forensic pathologist include

Medical knowledge: You must be a medical doctor who is knowledgeable in relevant areas of pathology.

Detail-oriented: As a forensic pathologist, you need to work closely with law enforcement officials and lawyers. The cases you investigate can have an impact on the defendant, victims, and their families. Therefore, it’s important that the evidence you provide is detailed and accurate.

Communication skills: You’ll be working closely with prosecutors, legal experts, coroners, police officials, and other medical personnel in order to discuss your findings in a case. This requires excellent communication skills so that you can clearly communicate your opinion about the evidence you have gathered to these people.

Critical thinking skills: You need to be able to think critically about the case in order to determine all of the causes of death.

Problem-solving skills: Forensic pathology requires you to work independently and solve problems related to evidence, accidents, or crimes.

Ability to work under pressure: You’ll need to be able to handle the pressure of working closely with legal officials and adhering to deadlines.

5. Where Do Forensic Pathologists Work?

A forensic pathologist can expect to solely work in a medical examiner or coroner’s office under close supervision. You may also be part of a team at the county, state, national, or international level. Other places you could work include hospitals, universities and research centers, private pathology labs, and diagnostic clinics that offer medicolegal death investigation services.

6. How Much Do Forensic Pathologists Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for all pathologists in May 2012 was $234,600, with a range between $149,510 and 322,410. A forensic pathologist’s salary is typically more than that of other medical specialties because there are more advanced educational requirements.

The salary will vary depending on your country and the location and nature of your work. There is also a difference in salary between working for a government entity like a state or county office and smaller private companies that may need you to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

7. What Is the Job Outlook for a Forensic Pathologist?

The employment of all physicians is expected to grow 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The number of forensic pathology jobs should also increase as a growing number of bodies need to be examined and autopsies conducted. Government budgets for medical examiner and coroner offices will determine whether more forensic pathologists are hired.

8. What Types of Cases Do Forensic Pathologists Investigate?

A forensic pathologist may investigate any kind of death. Some of the types of cases include:

Sudden Deaths – These can include everything from shootings, stabbings, car crashes, electrocution, strangulation.

Homicides – This includes deaths that are a result of assault or suspicious circumstances.

Suicides – Forensic pathologists investigate suicides to determine the cause of death and whether it was truly a suicide or not.

Industrial accidents – This includes work-related deaths, bridge or construction site collapses, train derailments, airplane crashes, etc.

Deaths in war – Forensic pathologists can be involved if there are allegations of misconduct by military personnel. They may also investigate soldiers’ deaths if they take place in a training area or while on duty.

Natural deaths – Forensic pathologists investigate these cases to determine the exact cause of death and whether it could have been prevented. They also look for any signs that may suggest abuse, neglect, poisoning, or other suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

9. What Is It Like Working As a Forensic Pathologist?

Forensic pathologists work in morgues, operating rooms, and autopsy centers. They spend the majority of their time analyzing tissue specimens under microscopes in labs, meeting with law enforcement to discuss autopsies and determine the cause of death, testifying during court proceedings, writing reports on cases they’ve handled, supervising support staff and interns, and performing autopsies and related procedures.

10. What Does a Typical Day Look Like for a Forensic Pathologist?

Your day will be very busy and the hours long but extremely rewarding. You’ll typically start your day by checking autopsy results and victim histories to see if any new information has come up, as well as reviewing medical records and meeting with law enforcement officials if necessary.

You might also visit crime scenes to look for clues or examine victims’ bodies as they are brought into the morgue. Sometimes you’ll be able to determine the cause of death right away and write a report, but at other times you might wait until later in the day or after more tests have been run. You may also spend time performing autopsies and writing reports on them as well as observing and assisting with autopsies and related procedures.

11. Best Colleges to Study Forensic Pathology

If your goal is to become a forensic pathologist, you’ll need at least a bachelor‘s degree with majors in biology, chemistry, or forensic science. You can also try combining these subjects with others like psychology or criminal justice, but make sure you have good grades in all of the sciences. Following are some of the popular colleges you can consider:

Boston University has a strong forensic pathology program. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree, coursework includes the study of medicine, cultural anthropology, law and ethics, medical history, and more.

The University of California-Berkeley is home to one of the oldest and most respected forensic science programs in the country. The school offers a bachelor of science in forensic science, completing coursework within the College of Chemistry.

Texas A&M is another good choice for aspiring forensic pathologists. The university offers bachelor’s degree programs through its liberal arts college and College of Sciences. You’ll focus on topics like anthropology, geology, biology, chemistry, and criminal justice.

The University of Tennessee has one of the top forensic science programs in the country. Programs include bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, allowing students to specialize in areas like biomedical research, drug discovery technology, crime scene investigation, and more.


The forensic pathology career path is one that many aspiring doctors and nurses aspire to. If you’re interested in this field, then we recommend enrolling in a university with strong medical programs such as the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine or Stanford Medical Center. These universities offer courses on human anatomy and physiology, which will help prepare you for the rigors of studying forensics. In addition to your coursework, we suggest volunteering at local hospitals or working with coroners so that you can get some practice before entering into school full-time. We hope these few pointers have been helpful!

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