Tap to Read ➤

Medical Examiner Job Description

Stephen Rampur
The main responsibility of a medical examiner is to study and examine dead bodies and come to a conclusion regarding the cause of death. The story ahead enlists the job description of a medical examiner.
Fast Fact:
A medical examiner is very different from a coroner. While the job requirement of these designations requires them to work with dead bodies, the former needs to be a licensed medical physician, while the latter may or may not require to be a health care professional.
One of the many medical jobs in the health care industry is that of a medical examiner. Typically, he is the one who is responsible for studying dead bodies when they are sent for post mortem.
He observes the body and based on his observations, ascertains the time and cause of death. In layman's language, he is the one who performs autopsies. The paragraphs below provide you with the duties and responsibilities of a medical examiner.

Job Description

  • Medical examiners are mostly forensic pathologists, though they may have undertaken residency in forensic or anatomical pathology. Accordingly, job duties vary, though most of them are similar.
  • An anatomical pathologist is one who studies and examines the internal parts of a dead body in order to determine what was the reason and source of death. 
These professionals are largely employed by hospitals and health care facilities.
  • On the other hand, a forensic pathologist studies the body of victims for assisting in criminal cases. Therefore, they are mostly required to provide services in state or federal government agencies.
  • To begin with, medical examiners have to conduct an overall examination of the body; since it may begin to decay, they have to make embalm it in order to conduct procedures.
  • They have to examine the body temperature and other factors, and ascertain the time of death. This is essential in criminal cases to establish when the person was killed.
  • They have to conduct various chemical procedures on the body and find out exactly how the death took place.
  • They may also contact the victim's families to find out about the subject's habits - eating, drinking, smoking, perfume usage, preferred shoe brand, etc., to name a few.
Ideally, this is the job of the police and detectives; yet, medical examiners may also conduct an investigation, since even a tiny insight into the subject's life may give them a clue to his death.
  • They are also required to testify as witnesses in court, where they are interrogated about the autopsies.
  • They conduct pathology consultations. They are responsible for conducting inquests as well.
  • In the event when the victim is unidentified, they test the body using chemical solutions and other materials approved as per the laboratory guidelines in order to find out the cause of death.
  • They investigate the body for signs of drugs, alcohol, abuse marks, etc.
  • Various other tests are also conducted to find out if the victim was already suffering from any disorder.
  • After performing detailed examinations of the dead bodies, they have to draft a report regarding the conclusions and hand it over to the respective authorities for further analysis.
  • In fact, drafting reports constitutes a major part of their responsibilities. They write reports to the Public Administrator, government officials, legal officers, etc.
  • Their responsibilities may include writing death certificates as well.
  • They also draft authorization letters for proper disposition of the victim's body. They review other toxicology reports.
  • They make sure the functions and standards of the laboratory and the pathological procedures are in strict adherence with the law and order of the county they reside in.


  • You will require to undertake a bachelor's degree in science (biology, chemistry, etc.).
  • You have to enroll in a medical school and obtain the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree after college.
  • Post medical school, you will need to undergo a residency program (5 years) in clinical pathology, and then obtain a certification/fellowship in forensic pathology.
  • As a medical examiner, you will mostly be working in trauma and criminal cases, therefore, it may help if you have some knowledge regarding legal procedures.

Salary Range and Job Outlook

  • The pay for medical examiners varies, depending on a number of conditions.
  • This includes the state, county laws, employer, extra certification, expertise, etc.
  • In general, the median annual pay is approximately USD 190,000.
  • Freshers are generally paid between USD 90,000 to USD 100,000.
  • Around 5 years experience will help you earn more than USD 160,000.
  • An experience of a decade will pay you more than USD 170,000.
  • If you have an experience of 20 years or more, your salary is likely to be more than USD 200,000.
  • The job outlook for this profession is predicted to be fairly promising; as per the BLS, it ranges between 15% to 20% until 2022.
  • You will be spending your entire day in the laboratory, examining dead bodies and working with chemical solutions to determine the reason for the death. Of course, sometimes, you may be called by the courts to testify.