Ever since my first science class I knew I had a passion for biology. I would stay inside during recess and after school, absorbing all of the information I could gather about organisms from books and in the lab. I was enthralled and passionate about the world beyond my microscope and as I grew older, my interest flourished. When I participated in my first dissection in High School I became even more captivated by biology and realized that I wanted to pursue a career in the field. Originally, being a coroner had not appealed to me. It seemed more shallow and cold than accurate and cutting edge. Yet through research, I was able to get more of an understanding of the career of a Medical Examiner.
Many who watch the ‘CSI’ television series think a Medical Examiner’s job is glamorous work. While that might be true in some circles, for the most part, those who work in coroner’s or medical examiner’s offices find it to be a much more mundane line of work. There aren’t any fancy laboratories with huge, clear computer screens lining the walls, nor the latest high-tech gadgets to determine if a person’s last meal had more starch than protein. The daily reality is that the coroner’s office handles all accidental deaths, as well as those of people who die alone, or without medical attention (“Coroners and Medical Examiners …”).
A Medical Examiner may be either forensic pathologist or anatomical pathologist, and their responsibilities differ depending on this distinction (Rampur). An anatomical pathologist is one who studies and examines the internal parts of a dead body in order to determine what was the reason and source of death. These professionals are employed by hospitals and healthcare facilities. On the other hand, a forensic pathologist studies the body of victims for assisting in criminal cases. Therefore, they are mostly required to provide services in state or federal government agencies. Medical Examiners use a variety of tools, such as forceps, scales, knives, and autopsy saws on dead bodies while retaining the integrity of evidence collected to determine time and cause of death (“Coroners and Medical Examiners …”). They may be exposed to cold or unpleasant environments, work with caustic chemicals, and are required to exhibit precise attention to detail.Other responsibilities of a Medical Examiner include inventorying personal effects recovered from the body, the removal of or supervising the removal of bodies from the scene of death, completing death certificates and paperwork for court hearings and medical records, and testifying at court trials and hearings (“Forensic Medical Examiner Job…”). Medical Examiners often supervise other workers, and may be required to perform managerial tasks, such as preparing or certifying legal records and reports.
Becoming a Medical Examiner is not a simple task. There are a variety of undergraduate degree programs that prospective examiners can choose from, including health science, forensic science, chemistry and biology. Although students have the option to choose which bachelor’s degree program to complete, there are similar courses that most students will study. These courses include chemistry (including general, organic, analytical, physical, forensic and biochemistry), physical sciences, laboratory techniques, physics, and upper-level mathematics (including calculus I, II and III) (“Forensic Medical Examiner Job…”). Although there is no specific medical degree program that is required to become a forensic Medical Examiner, prospective examiners will need to earn an M.D. Most M.D. programs require the completion of a 3- to 4-year residency, in which students will gain hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced doctors performing autopsies and running lab tests. To pursue this occupation, after earning an M.D., graduates of medical school must pass a licensing test in all 50 states (“Forensic Medical Examiner.”).
Doctors also have the option of becoming board-certified, which requires additional time spent in residencies and passing an additional certification test. Specialty areas for certification that might be relevant to a Medical Examiner include anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology (“CAREER GUIDE…”). Some skills that are needed in this occupation are good writing skills and knowledge on many subjects or just intensively on one. Additionally, talking to others to convey information effectively is very important to gathering correct, substantial information. Also, the ability to use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems would be helpful in determining the cause, manner, and circumstances of human deaths and establish the identities of deceased persons (“CAREER GUIDE…”).
The more skills one knows and the more flexible he or she is, the more success he or she will have in this career. Because of the extensive education requirements and level of expertise required, forensic Medical Examiners earn an average pay of $ 50,000-200,000 per year (Rampur). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2009 that job opportunities for forensic Medical Examiners were expected to be continually strong for the years 2008-2018 (“U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”).
My own values and opinions have influenced my decision in pursuing this occupation. I want to promote integrity and perseverance through my actions. The difficulty and dedication it requires to both become a Medical Examiner and to fulfil the task this occupation preforms does just that. It requires a healthy dose of confidence and a spirit of adventure. Having both these things, I believe that this career is well suited for my abilities and personality. With my proficiency in writing, reading, science, and mathematics, I believe I am properly equipped for a career as a Medical Examiner. Some similar careers would include coroners, medical scientists, forensic science technicians, and biochemists.
A career influences one’s life in many ways. I believe that based on my background love of the science of biology and my skill set pertaining to such, that becoming a Medical Examiner would be a good choice. I have always loved a good challenge, thus I know that I could succeed in a career as a Medical Examiner.
“CAREER GUIDE FOR MEDICAL EXAMINER.” Medical Examiner. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. .
“Coroners and Medical Examiners Job Description, Career Video and Earnings Outlook.” U.S. News University Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. .
“Forensic Medical Examiner.” Education-Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. .
“Forensic Medical Examiner Job and Career Information.” Forensic Medical Examiner Job and Career Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. .
Rampur, Stephen. “Medical Examiner Job Description.” Buzzle.com. Buzzle.com, 08 May 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. . “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.