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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.