In legal cases involving a dead body that has died of unnatural causes, such as homocide or suicide, a forensic pathologist, also known as a medical examiner is called in. The medical examiner’s main job is to perform an autopsy on the victim of any unnatural form of death. Many forensic pathologists also have been trained in the legal process of investigation on top of their medical training because they can be called to court as expert witnesses during a case. Possible job locations could vary for a medical examiner. They are needed in both state, local, and federal governments, as well as in hospitals, universities, and police departments.They spend time in the lab, on the crime scene, or in court as expert witnesses.
The path to becoming a forensic pathologist is long and one that requires dedication and skill. The first qualification one needs is a four year undergraduate degree from a college. One needs to pick the right electives to help get them into medical school. Once you get your undergraduate degree one must work on getting their medical degree. Next, is a three to five year residency training program, which involves training under someone already qualififed in the field, specifically in general pathology.
Finally, one must complete a one year specialty training program in forensic pathology at a medical examiner’s office or a coroner’s office. One important skill for a medical examiner to have is communcation skill. They must be able to communicate well in court if chosen to be expert witnesses, and just general have good communication with colligues. A good legal background will also help when in court situations. Medical examiners must not be of faint heart, which goes with out saying, as performing autopsy’s can be an emotional job. During the course of studying it is also important to have determination and self-diciple or failing in school is evident.
Even though forensic pathologists are mainly trained as physicians, they must also have a knowledge on several non-medical studies as well. They also can deal with toxicology, firearm examination, trace evidence, forensic serology, and DNA technology to their investigation into the death of the victim. Blood and DNA tests are taken, as well as toxicology, to see if poison was involved with the death. Also, abdomen tissue samples are to test the contents of the stomach, and brain tissues samples are taken for tests.
A forensic pathologists can have erratic work hours what with being called at anytime to a crime scene for their job, but the average hours they might work are 40-50 and usually between the hours of 8am-5pm. However, the private crime labs will usually require longer work hours often with a larger pay. Forensic pathologists approximately earn anywhere from $60,000 per year to $600,000 per year for the more experianced medical examiners.
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