Career OverviewA forensic pathologist is a specialize pathologist that studies and determines the causes of sudden, accidental or unexpected deaths. The forensic pathologist usually works both in medical and legal fields and is usually called to testify in courts should that be required. A forensic pathologist must follow all chain of evidence protocols as well as all procedures and processes exactly as outlined and determined by best legal and medical practices.
A forensic pathologist examines both the anatomy and the chemistry of the body. He or she will complete physical examinations, internal examinations, as well as take fluids for testing. A forensic pathologist may require toxicology exams or other specialized tissue examination in an attempt to identify the exact cause of death.
A forensic pathologist may work in a morgue, at the scene of a crime or in an office. Most of the forensic pathologists time will be spent either in examinations or with interviewing investigators and others involved in the scene of the crime or accident. They will have to attend court proceedings on a regular basis.
A forensic pathologist must be able to give clear and logical explanations, remain calm even in disturbing or emotional environments, as well as maintain detailed reports and documentation. A forensic pathologist often works very closely with police investigators especially in determining cause of death and gathering evidence for court proceedings.
A forensic pathologist must have an ability to work with others in a team environment and participate in ongoing investigations with other professionals from different disciplines of law and medicine. Occasionally a forensic pathologist may be required to give public statements or make reports to media but this is usually not common.
A forensic pathologist in the United States is required to complete the following:
- Four-year undergraduate degree
- Four-year graduate degree to complete the medical doctor training
- Five years of residency for an anatomical and clinical pathology combination
- One or two years of fellowship in forensic pathology
- Completion of the Board exam in forensic pathology
The training for a forensic pathologist is very intense and focuses on both the legal and medical aspects of being a forensic pathologist. The training is very practical and most forensic pathologists will work as assistants and observers in many different cases prior to the fellowship.
Job OutlookThe demand for trained and experienced forensic pathologist will continue to rise at a steady pace over the next several years. There will be nature increases in the demand for forensic pathologists as those currently in the workforce retire, change careers, or even change work locations.
Generally the demand for forensic pathologists is higher in larger centers but even smaller more rural locations may also have the need for forensic pathologists to act as consultants.
Career TrackA forensic pathologist often decides to move into supervisory or research positions or may also return to colleges and university teaching and research roles. The demand for pathologist at universities and colleges is very high since pathology is the basis of most medical study.
CompensationA forensic pathologist with less than three years experience will usually earn between $80,000 and $160,000 per year. Those forensic pathologists that have more experience can earn in excess of $200,000 per year.