How To Become A Forensic Pathologist

Last Updated on January 15, 2023 by Team College Learners

In order to become a Forensic Pathologist you have to have a number of qualities including being analytical, being able to think under pressure and being able to deal with the unexpected. The area of pathology focuses on the study of the gross and microscopic changes in organs, tissues, body fluids and cells in diseases. In addition, a pathologist will have to have a broad knowledge in biology, chemistry and physics in order to diagnose abnormalities. They need technical knowledge in laboratory techniques and computer use in the facilitation.

Right here on Collegelearners, you can rest assured to obtain all the relevant information you need on forensic pathologist schools, forensic pathology courses, how to become a forensic pathologist assistant, and so much more. Be sure to visit our catalog for up-to-date information on related topics.

What Does A Forensic Pathologist Do

To work as a Forensic Pathologist, a person must enjoy performing autopsies, have a good understanding of human biology, have a solid understanding of the law, and be able to communicate well. Working as a Forensic Pathologist requires a Ph.D. in an appropriate scientific field such as anatomy or pathology.

Forensic Pathology is not exclusively about death. Being a forensic pathologist means being able to help the living by clarifying data that is relevant to their lives. It also means being able to help the dead, their families and society by utilizing medical knowledge to disclose information that can be used in the investigation of crimes.

Forensic pathologists, also known as medicolegal death investigators, examine tissue and body fluids (blood, urine and various types of tissues) and bones and organs to determine the cause and manner of death. They work for local, county or state governments. Forensic pathologists typically work in the offices of medical examiners or coroners.

Forensic pathologists, or medical examiners, are specially trained physicians who examine the bodies of people who died suddenly, unexpectedly or violently.

The forensic pathologist is responsible for determining the cause (the ultimate and immediate reasons for the cessation of life) and manner of death (homicide, suicide, accidental, natural or unknown). The pathologist’s role is to assist in determining the cause and manner of death. A state medical examiner, a forensic pathologist must be a registered physician and a forensic pathologist.

How to Become a Forensic Pathologist: Training and Education | Forensics,  Pathology, My future job

To determine the identity of the victim and the time, manner and cause of death, the forensic pathologist:

  • Studies the medical history
  • Evaluates crime scene evidence including witness statements
  • Performs an autopsy to uncover evidence of injury or disease
  • Collects medical and trace evidence from the body for further analysis

In addition to anatomy, the forensic pathologist may draw upon specialized knowledge and training in:

  • Toxicology
  • Firearms/ballistics
  • Trace evidence
  • Serology (blood analysis)
  • DNA technology

They also ensure that procedures regarding evidence collection are followed, and coordinate their work with law enforcement operations.

A city, county or state may appoint a forensic pathologist to act as a medical examiner.

Clinical forensic pathologists examine living patients, usually in cases where sexual assault or abuse is suspected.

How can I Become a Forensic Pathologist? (with pictures)

Forensic Pathologist Career Requirements

A forensic pathologist must first earn a bachelor’s degree, then a medical degree, either an M.D. or D.O. Extensive additional education and training is required, including four to five years of training in anatomic, clinical and/or forensic pathology and a one-year residency or fellowship in forensic pathology.

Degree LevelDoctor of Medicine
Degree FieldMedicine
Experience4-5 years of experience in pathology residency program.

Once all the evidence is analyzed, the forensic pathologist prepares a written report and may also testify to these findings in court.

Complete Undergraduate Studies

Before entering medical school, students must complete a bachelor’s degree. There is no required major for aspiring medical students, but a strong background in the natural sciences is required by most medical schools. Many universities offer pre-med programs structured to help students prepare for medical school. These pre-med courses concentrate on biology, physics, math and chemistry.

Attend and Graduate from Medical School

Typically, it takes four years to earn an MD degree. During the first two years, medical students spend most of their time in lectures and labs studying topics like anatomy, organ systems and physiology. In years three and four, students participate in clinical rotations. Each rotation covers a different field of medicine, such as pediatrics, family medicine, neurology, surgery and internal medicine.

What Courses Do You Have to Take to Be a Forensic Pathologist?

Become a Licensed Physician

Physicians must obtain licensing in accordance with state guidelines. While each state may have slightly different procedures, most require licensing applicants to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Other requirements can include completion of residency training programs.

Complete a Pathology Residency Program

The majority of pathology residency programs teach students about clinical pathology (CP) and anatomic pathology (AP). These programs typically last four years and include formal lectures as well as hands-on training. AP topics include autopsies, gastrointestinal pathology and surgical pathology. CP topics cover hematology, cytogenetics and molecular diagnostics.

Advance Your Career By Earning Board Certification

Almost all practicing pathologists become board certified to show a professional level of knowledge within their specialty. The American Board of Pathology (ABP) provides general certification in CP, AP or both. After individuals become certified in general pathology, they may pursue subspecialty certification in forensic pathology.

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