Medical examiner assistants help perform autopsies and also assist in the procurement of organs and tissue, but they don't necessarily work on every person that passes away. Most states mandate autopsies following certain causes, including homicides, gunshot wounds and suspicious deaths, but some situations require extra credentials. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners who specialize in examining drivers, passengers and pedestrians who are killed in traffic-related accidents.
Knowledge and Abilities
Employers such as federal, state and local government agencies have varying requirements for medical examiner assistants. These range from a minimum of a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry or forensic science to a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy degree. Assistants must be knowledgeable about forensic pathology, pathological anatomy, microscopy, toxicology and ballistics as they relate to forensics. They also need technical writing skills, manual dexterity and physical strength to lift bodies.
Medical examiner assistants are usually required to be licensed by their state board to practice either osteopathy or medicine. Obtaining a state license typically requires a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy degree and completion of a residency in the field. Most employers also require candidates to have a valid driver's license, but additional license or credential stipulations vary by state. For example, those in California must be eligible for peace officer status as established by the State of California Government Code Section 1031, which requires passing a thorough background check.
Certification issued by the American Board of Pathology is nationally recognized, and medical examiner assistants are usually required to have the credential in anatomic pathology or anatomic and clinical pathology. Some employers hire assistants who aren't certified as long as they're eligible to sit for the ABP's anatomic or clinical pathology exam. Candidates applying for a position with the FMCSA must become Certified Medical Examiners, which requires being licensed by their state, completing FMCSA curriculum training, passing the examination and maintaining the credential.
Compensation and Competition
The national average salary of assistant medical examiners was $36,915 as of July 15, 2014, according to the CareerBuilder job site. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have a job category specific to medical examiners or assistant medical examiners. About the closest category is forensic science technicians. The BLS expects employment in this field to increase 6 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations.