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Death goes hand-in-hand with the job duties of the coroner, or medical examiner. Coroners investigate deaths to determine how a person died -- whether it was murder, suicide or a natural death. Part of the coroner’s job involves producing reports and testifying in court about how a death occurred. Coroner salaries vary and may be dependent on a community’s size and population.
The national average salary for coroners in the United States is $97,044, as of July 2011. Several factors contribute to a coroner’s salary, including the location and the applicant’s relevant experience and qualifications. In Virginia, coroner’s fall into pay bands 8 and 9; pay band 8 salaries pay between $77,837 to $159,747 and pay band 9 starts at $101,687. In Ohio, coroner salary depends on population size of the community. In the year 2000, coroners in populations with 95,001 to 105,000 people made at least $34,089.
A coroner must be a licensed physician with training and knowledge in both medicine and forensic investigative techniques. An advanced degree is necessary. Prospective coroners must graduate from high school, earn a four-year undergraduate degree, spend another four years studying medicine and earning a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). Finally, the candidate must complete a residency or fellowship program, which may last another five to seven years.
Licensing and Continuing Education
After completing the educational requirements, coroners must become licensed physicians. This typically involves passing a licensing examination. States may also require coroners to take continuing education classes. In Ohio, for example, each newly elected coroner must complete 16 hours of continuing education through a program sponsored by the Ohio State Coroner’s Association.
Becoming a Coroner
Becoming a coroner is a long and arduous process. The education and training is expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, counties do not openly hire coroners. Instead, many coroners are either appointed by a council or elected in a general election. Those interested in pursuing a career as a coroner should check the local rules and regulations in their county before proceeding.
- National Institute of Justice: A Guide to Death Scene Investigation
- Virginia Jobs: Career Guide for Medical Examiner
- Law Writer Ohio: Section 325.15, Salary of County Coroner
- Law Writer Ohio: Section 313.02, Qualifications for Coroner - Continuing Education
- "Conflicts of Interest in U.S. Coroner Systems"; Zug G. Standing Bear, Ph. D.
Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.