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Coroners are members of law enforcement departments with a wide range of responsibilities, but their job is made easier with the help of their assistants. Coroners and their assistants perform autopsies to determine the cause of suspicious and violet deaths. They also communicate with surviving family members, sign death certificates and store bodies until they are identified. To become an assistant coroner you need a similar background and training as a head coroner. However assistants generally have less experience and education.
Start preparing to be an assistant coroner while still in high school. Take lab science classes such as biology, physics, chemistry and anatomy. Volunteer at a hospital, medical clinic or blood drive to gain experience in the medical profession.
Decide what postsecondary education path you want to follow to become a coroner. According to Education Portal, coroners typically have backgrounds in medicine, criminal justice or both. College programs specifically designed for coroners or coroner’s assistants do not exist. The medicine educational path is the longest and requires a medical degree and residency.
Obtain an undergraduate degree in forensic science, criminal justice, biology or a related field. Take the required classes for medical school, law school or another graduate program you wish to attend. Take classes related to the career in areas such as biology, anatomy, forensic science, crime scene investigation, law, criminology and psychology.
Obtain a graduate degree, depending on what your long-term goals are. Attend medical school if you plan to become a coroner with a medicine background. Attend law school or obtain a master’s degree in criminology, forensic science or related career if you wish to follow the criminal justice route. Graduate school is not necessarily required, particularly for positions at smaller coroner’s departments, but is recommended.
Apply for an entry-level job at your local coroner’s department. Depending on your education and the size of the department, you may already qualify for a job as a coroner’s assistant. If not, apply for administrative or other positions at the coroner’s department to gain experience.
Complete a coroner’s assistant training program. This may take a few weeks to several months to complete. Learn by observing more experienced members of the team.
Obtain additional licenses and certificates as necessary. Assistants don’t typically need their own licenses and certificates, but they may be required at big departments and are recommended for those who want to advance in the career. These credentials usually require you to pass an exam and take continuing education classes to maintain active status.
Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.