Becoming a Coroner: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a coroner career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a coroner is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Coroner Career

Coroners frequently deal with protective service workers, the court system and bereaved family members. Check out the following pros and cons for a quick look at this career.

Pros of a Coroner Career
Minimal education requirements *
May have opportunities to make a positive influence on community ***
Possibility of assisting police in solving homicide cases *
Management position *

Cons of a Coroner Career
Irregular hours*
May encounter biohazards and difficult working conditions **
Stressful situations may occur when dealing with family members of the deceased **
May need to win an election to get this job ****

Sources: *O*NET OnLine, ** Illinois Coroner's Department, *** Los Angeles County Department of Coroner, **** National Institute of Health.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a coroner, the technical aspects of your job can include tasks such as collecting a body from the death scene, documenting things that can be construed as evidence or causes of death and determining the time of death. In some cases, you may need to perform, supervise or be present at autopsies. Corners also provide written reports to the courts and may call for an inquest if the cause of death seems suspicious. Coroners are responsible for informing the victims' families about the deaths. A coroner may have a crew of deputies that can assist with these tasks.

Salary and Job Growth

According to O*Net OnLine, coroner employment opportunities are expected to increase by 3%-7% between 2012 and 2022, with nearly 55,300 job openings occurring during that decade. This is considered to be slower than average in comparison with other careers in the U.S. As of 2014, coroners earned an annual median wage of about $64,950.

Job Requirements

Education and Training

No universal standard exists for the profession, and requirements can vary by state. Coroners tend to learn their trade through on-the-job training. Some positions may require you to have an associate's degree with coursework in areas such as anatomy, physiology and biology. A few states require you to have a physician's license before you can run for office. You might need to become certified through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI).

What Employers Look for

A coroner must be physically fit; you'll need to be able to move the weight of an average adult male, occasionally without assistance. Vision is of equal importance, because this job requires intensive attention to detail. Personality traits play into the equation as well because as a coroner, you must remain calm during stressful situations and be able to express compassion when dealing with the families of the deceased. While few job postings for elected official positions exist, some of the job qualifications listed by states in 2012 include:

  • South Carolina gives you employment and education history options to qualify to run, including law enforcement experience, forensic science degree or certification, or at least three years of death investigation experience.
  • Ohio requires you to be a licensed physician and fulfill approved continuing education requirements during your term of office.
  • Montana requires you to complete a specific coroner study course.

How to Stand Out in Your Field

You can tailor your education to meet or exceed your state's individual requirements. Not all states require you to have medical training, but a program of study that's related to your field can enhance your chances of winning this position. More than 200 schools in the U.S. have forensic science programs that allow you to earn a degree or certificate. More than 500 institutions in the U.S. offer programs related to law enforcement and investigations. The ABMDI offers certifications and education resources. Read the laws and statutes listed by your state to prepare your education plan.

Gain Experience

You could gain experience in a variety of ways before you run for office. One way is through internship programs that allow you to perform death investigation tasks under direct supervision. You might need to be enrolled in a college program to participate. Another option is to work your way up through the ranks. You may also be able to find deputy coroner positions that offer on-the-job training with minimal education requirements.

Alternative Career Options

If you're daunted by the political campaign aspect of attaining this position, you might consider a career as a funeral director. These people perform duties such as preparing bodies for funerals and assisting family members with funeral arrangements. This type of position generally requires at least an associate's degree in mortuary science, and you'll need to be licensed by your state. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this occupation could experience an 18% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2020. Embalming skills can give you an edge over your competition. The BLS reported an annual mean wage of about $61,000 for funeral service managers, directors, morticians and undertakers as of May 2011.

Forensic science technician positions allow you to choose between laboratory and protective service fields. Those who work in labs generally need a bachelor's degree in a forensic or lab science, while those who work in the field are sometimes sworn police officers. The BLS predicted an employment opportunity increase of 19% for this field between 2010 and 2020. In another report, the BLS noted that forensic science technicians earned an annual mean wage of nearly $56,000 in May 2011.

Popular Schools

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    2. Tulane University

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

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Tulane University

  • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

South College

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Science in Investigation & Security

What is your highest level of education completed?

Central Christian College of Kansas

  • AA in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • B.S. in Criminal Justice
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice
  • AA: Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Master of Science in Cyber Security
  • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education?