Forensic Pathologist Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a forensic pathologist assistant career? Get real job duties and descriptions and salary info to see if becoming a forensic pathologist assistant is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Forensic Pathologist Assistant Career

A forensic pathologist assistant helps pathologists and medical examiners to perform autopsies. Because this job title is relatively new, there's little hard information available. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of a Forensic Pathologist Assistant Career
Positions can be found with only a bachelor's degree *
Good salary potential (about $76,000 as of January 2016) *
Usually no licensing requirements **
Job duties offer variety in daily tasks *

Cons of a Forensic Pathologist Assistant Career
May be required to work in dangerous conditions ***
Few accredited college programs **
May be exposed to biohazards and chemicals ***
Duties can be emotionally demanding ***

Sources: *Salary.com, ** American Associate of Pathologists' Assistants, *** Various job postings (November 2012)

Career Information for Aspiring Forensic Pathologist Assistants

Job Description and Duties

Some of your duties as a forensic pathologist assistant will vary depending on where you are employed. In some instances, your duties begin at the death scene. You may be required to help photograph, collect and preserve evidence that may have contributed to the death. In other agencies, you may not begin work until the decedent arrives. All forensic pathologists' assistants must be able to help perform autopsies, document evidence and findings, preserve specimens for lab analysis and deal with family or friends of the deceased. In some cases you may even be required to prepare the body for viewing.

Salary Info

Wages vary, and because these are generally government positions, your pay may be affected by state or local budgets. Although there was no set standard available for this exact job title, the comparable position of pathology assistant offered figures that may give you some insight. According to Salary.com, the annual median wage for a pathology assistant was about $76,000 in January 2016.

Requirements for a Forensic Pathologist Assistant

Education requirements for this job are not universal. Some agencies may require a bachelor's degree, while others only ask that you have an education that thoroughly covers field-related subjects such as anatomy, physiology and chemistry. Some agencies will even allow you to substitute experience for education, including at the federal level. At least one agency has instituted a tiered format that includes on-the-job training with advancement consideration being given to those who started at the bottom and worked their way up.

What Employers Are Looking for

One of the first things you should understand when looking for a forensic pathologist's assistant job is that this career has a variety of titles. Regardless which title is posted, you'll find that employers are seeking individuals who are physically fit enough to move average- to large-sized bodies, assist in autopsies and calmly deal with the public in stressful situations. They also want you to have a valid driver's license and be able to pass a criminal background check. Below are job postings that were found in November, 2012.

  • An agency in the District of Columbia is seeking a forensic pathologist's assistant. The education requirements include a bachelor's degree in a related field of study with one year of specialized experience directly related to the position. The ideal candidate will have knowledge of body identification methods and procedures, forensic photography and medicolegal procedures. You'll assist the medical examiner at the death scene, collecting and protecting evidence.
  • A forensic morgue assistant is needed in Delaware. The job requires an essential career knowledge base that can come from a combination of education, experience and training. You'll assist in cataloging and the transfer of personal effects, autopsies and forensic photography. You should be prepared to be exposed to unpleasant sights, sounds and smells.
  • A federal law enforcement agency in Florida is seeking a forensic investigator/medical examiner's assistant. The agency wants you to have a Bachelor of Science degree in forensic science or a related field and one year of experience, but education, training and experience are interchangeable requirements. You'll assist in autopsies, document crime scenes and decedent information with the reporting agency and act as a liaison between federal and local reporting agencies.

Standing Out as a Potential Forensic Pathologist's Assistant

Get Educated

Although there are fewer than ten accredited programs for this career, you can still study fields that will teach you important aspects of your job. There are nearly 100 schools in the U.S. that offer forensic science programs awarding associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and certificates. You might also consider studying a criminal justice or justice administration field and filling your elective slate with anatomy, physiology and science courses.

Get Certified

The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators offers two certification levels. The first level is Registry Certification, which requires 640 hours of death investigation experience. You must be employed in a job that includes the responsibility of conducting death scene investigations when you apply for the certification and at the time you take the test. The second level is Board Certification. To take the exam for this certification, you must have held your Registry Certification in good standing for six months, have an associate's degree and 4,000 hours of experience within the last six years and be employed in a job that requires you to perform death scene investigations.

Other Careers Related to Forensic Pathologist Assistant

Forensic Science Technician

If the idea of working with cadavers puts you off, you might consider a career as a forensic science technician. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted this field would see an employment opportunity increase of 19% between 2010 and 2020. Most positions call for a bachelor's degree. These technicians collect and analyze physical evidence from crime scenes or they may work only in labs. The hours can be long and work can be distressing, but most technicians work a traditional 40 hour week. The BLS reported that forensic science technicians earned an annual mean wage of $56,000 in May, 2011.

Funeral Directors and Morticians

If you're more interested in helping the decedent's family than solving crimes, a career as a mortician or funeral director may be right for you. The BLS predicted these professionals would see an 18% increase in employment opportunities during the 2010-2020 decade. These professionals work with families to arrange for the final disposition of the deceased, embalm or otherwise prepare the remains for services, and sometimes counsel people who wish to make their own funeral arrangements in advance. This position usually requires an associate's degree in an area such as mortuary science. Funeral service managers, directors, morticians and undertakers earned an annual mean wage of over $61,000 in May 2011, according to another BLS report.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
      • MSHS in Laboratory Medicine
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
      • Bachelor: Health and Wellness
    Certificate
      • Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
      • BS in Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of Saint Mary

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Health Care Management Concentration

Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
  • MSHS in Laboratory Medicine
  • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Medical Assisting

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?