What qualifications do I need to be a coroner?


Quick Answer

Qualifications for becoming a coroner vary widely between states and counties, but the position typically requires a degree in law enforcement, forensic science or medicine. Coroners investigate unusual or suspicious deaths from both a medical and legal perspective.

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Full Answer

Many of a coroner’s duties involve investigating crime scenes and analyzing evidence, which makes a degree in forensic science particularly useful. Forensic scientists typically have degrees in one of the conventional sciences, such as biology or chemistry, and they apply this knowledge to the forensic investigation of crimes. Forensic scientists also need strong writing and public speaking skills in order to communicate their findings to law enforcement officers and in legal trials.

Some states require coroners to hold medical degrees, including Ohio, Kansas and Louisiana. Coroners in these states must be certified as forensic pathologists, which requires both an undergraduate degree and a medical degree. Forensic pathologists must also complete a four-year residency and a one-year fellowship after medical school. Larger counties in North Dakota require the coroner to hold a medical degree but not specifically a degree in forensic pathology.

Other states require coroners to have a background in law enforcement. For example, in many California counties the sheriff acts as the coroner, meaning candidates need a degree or training in law enforcement. Other states approach the position from a legal perspective, such as Nebraska, where the county attorney also acts as coroner.

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