How to Become a Coroner

Coroner
Coroner Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year$56,360
Avg. Pay / hour$27.10
Education4+ Years
Outlook14%

If you have an interest in medicine, criminal justice, and law enforcement, then you might like to become a coroner.

A coroner is a medical examiner who is employed by a government or law enforcement agency to determine a cause of death in suspicious circumstances, or where a crime has taken place.

If a death is known to not be of natural causes, a coroner will investigate.

A coroner is a qualified medical doctor.

In many instances, a coroner will also have legal qualifications.

It’s up to the coroner to determine a cause of death, and include this cause on the death certificate.

They investigate through a variety of means, primarily through autopsy.

A coroner will also take into consideration police reports, and sometimes inspect a crime scene.

Education Requirements to Become a Coroner

To become a coroner, you’ll need to first become a medical doctor.

There is a lot education and training involved, and you’ll need to start with a four year bachelor’s degree.

There is no specific requirement for you major, but you might like to attend a college with a good pre-medicine program.

After graduation, you’ll need to apply for and be accepted into medical school.

This is a further four years of training.

While at medical school you’ll have the opportunity to start working with patients.

You’ll need to complete an internship and if you can do this at the medical examiner’s office, then this is ideal.

After you graduation and become certified in your state you’ll be ready to work.

Coroners are usually employed by a hospital, a law enforcement agency, or the government.

Coroner Job Description

While the duties of a coroner vary state to state, they are always responsible for the autopsy.

In some states it’s a coroner’s responsibility to attend the scene of the crime to investigate.

A coroner may also head a large investigation into a death in which there was misconduct by public officials.

When you become a coroner, you will be exposed to some of the darker sides of life.

You’ll probably see people at their worst, and be exposed to some things most people find gruesome.

Having a strong stomach will help a lot, although you’ll get lots practice at medical school for this.

Being exposed to so much negativity, it’s also important to keep a strong resolve.

Working as a coroner, you are providing a service to your community.

In working in partnership with law enforcement, you are helping to solve crime and take criminals off the street.

While you will face many challenges as a coroner, it’s also important to keep the reward of the job in perspective.

A coroner will often be required to testify in court, as their evidence is often a key part of the prosecution’s case.

Here are some of the tasks of a coroner:

  • Investigate the scene of a suspicious death
  • Complete an autopsy
  • Collect tissue samples for further testing
  • Determine a cause of death
  • Complete a death certificate
  • Complete a report on a suspicious death
  • Testify in court

Coroner Salary and Career Path

After you have become certified to practice medicine in your state, you will be ready to become a coroner, and it’s likely that you will be able to get a job in the medical examiner’s office.

In the beginning, expect to have to gain some experience working as an assistant.

After you have some experience, you could expect to be granted more responsibility, and to take on more challenging work.

You might even be appointed to head coroner.

Most states have a government appointed coroner that handles high profile cases.

Job prospects for those in medicine are excellent, as growth is faster than average when compared with other industries.

The median salary for a coroner is $186,000 a year.

Some similar jobs to a coroner you might be interested in include:

If you’re interested in medicine and science, and are looking for a role that allows you to make a positive contribution to your community, then you might like to become a coroner.

Job opportunities are strong and a large salary is available for successful people in the field.

While it takes a lot of education to become a coroner, this can be a very rewarding career.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$56,360
$29K
$37K
$56K
$63K
$83K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$47,340
Arizona$53,240
Arkansas$42,100
California$50,230
Colorado$43,650
Connecticut$65,420
Delaware$79,870
Florida$58,190
Georgia$48,480
Hawaii$53,310
Idaho$60,400
Illinois$62,560
Indiana$62,780
Iowa$55,550
Kansas$55,880
Kentucky$37,220
Louisiana$47,160
Maine$55,040
Maryland$66,480
Massachusetts$70,670
Michigan$56,920
Minnesota$77,460
Mississippi$44,880
Missouri$57,450
Montana$66,250
Nebraska$59,630
Nevada$44,080
New Hampshire$73,920
New Jersey$61,060
New Mexico$44,870
New York$71,030
North Carolina$49,950
North Dakota$68,920
Ohio$61,920
Oklahoma$44,430
Oregon$51,780
Pennsylvania$54,550
South Carolina$51,230
South Dakota$57,160
Tennessee$47,890
Texas$47,170
Utah$56,950
Vermont$51,850
Virginia$56,120
Washington$63,080
West Virginia$53,840
Wisconsin$52,260
Wyoming$48,830
Puerto Rico$19,860

The top earning state in the field is Delaware, where the average salary is $79,870.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Delaware - $79,870
Minnesota - $77,460
New Hampshire - $73,920
New York - $71,030
Massachusetts - $70,670
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Arrangers, OCC Code 39-4031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Coroner?

Coroners inquire into deaths caused by unnatural or unknown causes and into sudden deaths.

The coroner performs autopsies, pathological and toxicological analysis to determine the causes of death.

If they determine that the cause of death is questionable, coroners can decide to initiate a criminal investigation.

The responsibilities of a coroner are determined based on local laws.

Very often coroners have to be on-call in case police or health officials need their help.

In order to determine the cause of death coroners need extensive knowledge in pathology and chemistry.

They may also have to investigate death scenes and discuss with family members of the deceased.

Coroners also have the responsibility of completing certificates of death.

If you want to join this profession you should be able to work under stress and have a good eye for details.

How much does a Coroner make?

The average salary for a coroner is around $69,000 a year.

How much a coroner makes depends on the employer and his level of experience.

Entry-level salaries start at around $38,000 per year while more experience coroners can earn up to $110,000.

How much does it cost to become a Coroner?

The requirements for becoming a coroner vary depending on local laws and authorities.

In order to become a coroner, you need a bachelor’s degree in criminology, anatomy, medicine, forensic science or pre-medicine.

The exact cost depends on the program and the college or university you choose.

The average cost of a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine is around $43,000 per year.

Most areas require coroners to be a medical doctor.

A four-year medical school will also cost, on average around $200,000-$280,000.

The cost depends on whether you choose a public or private college.

What is the demand for Coroners?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2018 to 2028.

The demand for coroners is expected to increase in the future but this profession is a relatively small occupation.

The number of coroner jobs available depends on the region and government spendings.

The coroner is a specialized sector of the medical field and if you want to join this profession you should expect high competition.

How long does it take to become a Coroner?

Most employers require that the coroner be a medical doctor.

In order to become a licensed physician, you need at least 8 years of additional education after finishing high school.

After a four-year bachelor’s degree program in pre-med, criminology or a related field, you will also need to graduate from a four-year medical school.

A few coroners also hold a degree in law.

Most local governments require that coroners also have some experience in the medical field and certification in forensic pathology.

Coroners may be appointed or elected, depending on the area.

Jamie Willis