Forensic Pathologist Education Requirements
Forensic pathologists are required to obtain either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). M.D. and D.O. degree programs are offered at medical schools and take four years to complete. Medical school admission is competitive and usually requires a bachelor’s degree with math and science coursework.
Medical students typically study anatomy, physiology, microbiology and medical law. During supervised rotations in a healthcare setting, advanced medical students diagnose acute and chronic diseases and deliver rehabilitative and preventative care directly to patients. Students may rotate through several facets of medicine, gaining experience in a variety of practices, such as internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery and obstetrics.
Preparation for a career in forensic pathology continues after medical school with residency programs, which usually last 3-4 years. Residencies provide beginning physicians with clinical experience, diagnosing disease and treating patients in hospital settings.
Before entering residencies, training medical professionals must become licensed physicians by passing a state licensing exam. D.O.s typically attend 1-year internships before beginning residency training; however, M.D.s usually begin residencies directly after medical school.
Forensic Pathology Fellowships
After completion of a residency, doctors must also complete 1-year fellowships in forensic pathology in order to specialize. Fellowship programs are typically directed by the city or state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. During fellowship training, fellows work beside skilled forensic pathologists, performing autopsies and participating in death investigations.
Forensic Pathologist Career Information
Salary and Employment Outlook
According to 2013 salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pathologists, who are categorized among physicians of various specialties, earned a median annual salary of more than $187,199. The BLS projects that jobs for physicians in general will increase 18% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). This prediction is attributed to healthcare expansion and an increase in the elderly population, although it is expected to be partially offset by advancing technology and a reduction in duties performed solely by physicians.
Forensic pathologists must be certified by the American Board of Pathology to practice in the profession (www.abpath.org). To be eligible for certification, candidates must hold a medical degree and have completed residency and fellowship training. The certification process involves successful completion of a primary exam in anatomic and clinical pathology and a specialty exam in forensic pathology. These exams consist of written questions and practical applications. Forensic pathologists must maintain certification every ten years by passing a recertification exam and earning continuing education credits.