How to Become a Forensic Pathologist? only In 3-Simple Steps!

Have you watched suspense thriller movies where there is a series of thrilling events that are possibly followed up with an autopsy? The person who conducts the autopsy is a professional who is in the field of forensic pathology. 🧪

Forensic pathologists are important in the profession as they conduct their work with the utmost precision and accuracy. If you are someone with great precision and attention to detail, this might just be a great career for you! 

I’m sure you’d love to know the roadmap to being a forensic pathologist. These professionals earn about USD 203,290 per year, and this could be a huge breakthrough as a dream career. 

Let’s get right into it and explore the right pathway to carve your career as a forensic pathologist! ✔️

Question and Answer

Are you still deciding if forensic pathology is the right pathway for you to explore? Here are some questions that will help you decide if you can crush it in this field and do some impactful work!

  • Do you have a passionate interest in science and anatomy? 
  • Are you a competent individual with an inquisitive mind? 
  • Do you have an eye for detail and ability to work under pressure?
  • Can you communicate with ease? 
  • Are you aware of forensic law and procedure? 

Step 1: Knowledge

Who is a Forensic Pathologist? 

Forensic pathologists are trained medical examiners and physicians who are responsible for conducting autopsies in the case that a violent or unexpected death occurs in any circumstance. They analyze the medicinal history of the individual, collect evidence, and then document it. 

Forensic pathologists are generally hired by city, county, or state medical examiners or hospitals and federal government agencies. They could also work for private practices or medical consultants who require a forensic pathologist. 

Forensic pathologists can also join forensic research programs, private laboratories, and businesses along with universities. Following are some options for these in the private sector. 

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences 
  • American Board of Criminalistics 
  • American Board of Forensic Entomology 
  • Forensic Science Society 

Areas of Investigation for Forensic Pathologists 

The scope of forensic science is vast and goes broader than just looking at DNA samples and fingerprints.

Here are some types of specialized training areas that forensic pathologists investigate at their jobs. 


What it is: Toxicology is a branch of science that investigates deaths that may be unexpected and often violent. This work can include ongoing court cases that are legal or medicine-related. 

What they do:  This branch detects poison or toxic substance-related deaths. This means investigating deaths that involve poison, venomous insect bites, or substance abuse concerning alcohol or narcotics. 

Ballistic wounds 

  • What it is: ballistic wounds are those that are related to injuries that have occurred due to gunshots or bullets. 
  • What they do: pathologists conduct medical examinations by conducting autopsies and investigating body tissue matters and impact. 

Trace evidence 

  • What it is: trace evidence is related to any fluid remains that have been left on the crime scene or at the area of incidence. 
  • What they do: Trace fluid analysts observe the evidence in the area under the microscope and perform tests on the specimen or sample to derive conclusions. The found evidence could be bodily fluids, fingerprints, hair, DNA samples of any kind, etc. 

DNA Technology 

  • What it is: DNA technology is highly advanced and something that is used to determine suspect-related information. 
  • What they do: pathologists collect DNA evidence and use it to confirm the identity of the body and gather information that allows you to study the medical history of the individual and identify who the deceased is in such cases as well. 

Roles and Responsibilities 

You’ve seen the broad profile of a forensic pathologist. Now, let me introduce you to the different roles and responsibilities of a forensic pathologist and how they make the cornerstone in both the medicinal and legal fields. 

Examine crime scenes

  • What they do: Forensic pathologists examine crime scenes so they can find samples for identification and exploration to study and confirm medical history. 
  • Why: To investigate the spaces where evidence about death and accidents can be evaluated if applicable. 

Performance of autopsy 

  • What they do: An autopsy is performed in a mechanism to unveil the direction of the future trial or medical examination. 
  • Why: To uncover the real reason for what happened and the nature of the death. Uncovering of evidence and proper conduction of autopsy is necessary for any future trial or related circumstances. 

Produce Reports

  • What they do: exhibit great attention to detail, evaluate the legislative information, uncover evidence to find the context, and prepare reports. 
  • Why: these reports prepare a full report analyzing all the details explaining what happened including the time, manner of death, and the autopsy details for the context relating to the injury or death. 

Examining live cases 

  • What they do: forensic pathologists also examine live cases of assault-related incidents. This could be physical abuse or otherwise. 
  • Why: Forensic pathologists don’t just look at or examine cases of the deceased but also live ones. For court cases or important cases where any abuse cases are to be investigated for forensic evidence, they are the ones to approach. 

Expert testification 

  • What they do: forensic pathologists can testify in court in special cases where you might need an expert pathologist to make a statement. 
  • Why: they are experts in the field who know the mechanism of the events that have transpired and the medical way to report and assess them; this allows them to testify in court for special cases. 

Expert Skill Sets to Be A Forensic Pathologist

A forensic pathologist is as close to a keen eye for detail as a detective is. Being the cornerstone of research and reporting, I have a cool quote for you that will capture exactly what these professionals both possess and perform the talent for. 

“In the intricate dance between science and justice, a forensic pathologist is the maestro, wielding the baton of knowledge, precision, and compassion.

To succeed in this noble pursuit, one must possess not only the keen eye of a detective but also the unwavering commitment of a healer, for in deciphering the mysteries of death, we illuminate the path to truth and closure.” – Dr. Jane Doe, Renowned Forensic Pathologist.

Now that we have some clarity about what these individuals bring to the table let’s look at some key indicators of skills that make them perfect for the job. 

  • Precision: The ability to be precise with a great deal of attention to detail and recording. 
  • Commitment and professionalism: It is clear that this niche is not popular and requires a certain level of commitment and professionalism for deemed success. 
  • Integrity: As mentioned previously, forensic pathologists might be called onto the stand to testify or to present themselves in court.
  • Scientific knowledge: Forensic pathologists deal with a branch of science that is vast, and they need to understand the academic nuances of it. 
  • Expert knowledge:  Forensic Pathologists provide expert advice to different stakeholders after conducting their due diligence. 
  • Practical skills: Those who wish to become forensic pathologists must have excellent practical skills. 
  • Curious competence: these professionals work best when they have a curious mind and inquisitive reasons to carry out professional objectives. 
  • Quick decision-making under pressure: they should have quick decision-making skills and work well under pressure, as things are very dynamic in the industry. 

How much can a Forensic Pathologist earn? 

The average salary for these professionals is currently about $203,290 per year, reports 

Entry-level positions can start at about $85,995 every year, and experienced professionals make about $237,500 a year. The hourly salary is about $100, and the professional niche has a good amount of growth. 

The typical forensic pathologist who has a medical degree and about 2-5 years of experience can earn up to about $178,654, reports PayScale.

However, the numbers could change according to the location, years of experience and expertise, skills of the professional, etc., and are subject to qualitative factors like these. 

Scope of a Forensic Pathologist 

Do you know that the forensic testing market alone is projected to grow by 15.1% between the years 2023 and 2030?

The valuation of the market is expected to reach US$64.2 billion by the end of 2030. That much of a ripple effect is sure to reach the forensic pathologist segment of professionals. 

The occupational outlook handbook says that employment of forensic science technicians was projected to grow 13 percent from 2022 to 2023. About 2,600 openings for these professionals open every year, according to the website. 

There is a large need for these professionals as safety and security are compromised, with market indicators implying a large demand. There is a strong market for pathologists with high crime rates and the need for key witnesses in the prosecution of multiple cases in the legal system. 

The research area is interested in tackling two dynamic fields at once and helping public study, which is a huge reason why forensic graduates are in high demand and offered positions in both public sector and private sector organizations for integral derivations and expertise. 

Step 2: Skill 

Top Global Forensic Pathology Programs

Harvard University 

What it provides: one of the premiere top institutions in the world, Harvard University provides a pathology and forensic medicine program that will bridge you to a career in this field. 

What you will learn: Topics associated with medical implications of studying forensic science. 

John Hopkins University 

What they provide: Johns Hopkins Medical School provides globally recognized programs with the most effective lab testing, morphologic, and post-mortem diagnosis programs. 

What you will learn: They provide intensive research in Forensic Pathology and unparalleled access to post-mortem studies, both specimen and toxicology-related. 

Stanford University

What they provide: The Stanford School of Medicine and the Department of Pathology are both associated with top healthcare institutions in the USA. 

What you will learn: You will get world-class, quality-intensive criminal evidence, forensic law and crime investigation courses, and fellowship training courses for future specialists. 

University of California, San Fransisco 

What they provide: This institution is globally ranked for its education system and consistently ranks as one of the top medical schools in the US. They have impactful associations with different renowned hospitals. 

What you will learn: Residents have large exposure to forensic toxicology, laboratories that are high class, radiology, and anthropology, as well as pathological findings. 

Baylor University 

What they provide: Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor University has a great reputation for medical education and training in the country and is the top performance school for specializations. 

What you will learn: The institution is dedicated to providing students with higher learning in forensic pathology by providing a higher level of learning using new technologies and innovations integrating lectures, lab sessions, and hands-on training. 

Free resources- Links to courses

Introduction to Forensic Science

What it offers: This course is eight weeks long and is free and online. It introduces the learner to forensic science and important concepts within the study. 

What you will learn: The syllabus includes chemical analyses in Forensic Science, DNA in Forensics, Fingerprinting, Narcotics, Toxicology, and Case Studies. This provides a great basis to introduce yourself to the field of forensic pathology. 

Forensic Science and Fingerprints 

What it offers: The course revolves around how science can make fingerprints essential in identification, which is an important cornerstone in the profession of forensic pathology.

It also covers how it is used in court, which can be great for pathologists to know, considering the nature of their job. 

What you will learn: You will learn the certainties and uncertainties in identification by matching fingerprints, potential errors and context in fingerprint analysis, the use of technologies in fingerprint matching, the electromagnetic spectrum, reactions in sciences that help identify fingerprints, etc. 

Decoding Forensics For Legal Professionals 

What it offers: This course helps you delve into forensic science and understand its limitations so you can better use it in criminal trials. 

What you will learn: The program is offered by Monash University and tackles three important topics: forensic science, forensic pathology, criminal trial, and forensic evidence.

It helps the student explore the basics of forensic pathology so that the evidence gathered is properly used in criminal investigations. 

Forensic Science and Criminal Justice

What it offers: This course offers a comprehensive study that links criminal justice to forensic science and how to evaluate and interpret different forensic evidence to understand its relevance in investigations. 

What you will learn: You will learn to use the most appropriate techniques for different types of evidence, how to interpret the results of the analysis you carry out, and what exactly it means as evidence. 

Identifying the Dead Forensic Science and Human Identification

What it offers: Forensic Pathology is a study where one of the first steps of investigation is to find the identity of the person deceased and the reason or context for death. 

What you will learn: You will learn to understand forensic anthropology by shadowing forensic experts to document and analyze related evidence in the situation of trauma or death and identify who the victim is by profiling biologically and undertaking facial reconstruction steps. 

Step 3: Job

Places to Apply 

Forensic Pathology is broadly the application of principles of pathology in the medical sector with the legal branch of society for investigation if an untimely death followed by investigation occurs.

Usually, they are employed by city, county, state, or medical examiner offices. Medical groups may also hire these professionals to do individual consulting work. 

Fingerprint Technician 

Fingerprint technicians are responsible for collecting fingerprint evidence and analyzing it under the microscope to reveal any DNA links or crime scene-related evidence.

Detail-oriented individuals with proficiency in computer software are well suited for this role. 


The coroner is the individual who is at the scene and collects and examines the evidence to send it across to trusted professionals or scientists who further process and look into the evidence.

This could be the collection of DNA samples, crime scene samples, etc. 

Medical Examiner 

These experts medically examined the scene and have a strong biological background.

The medical examination is done before sending the required data to the autopsy technician since it shows the possible diagnosis of the cause of death. 

Pathologist Assistant

The Pathologist Assistant helps the forensic pathologist perform autopsies, and they are usually academically or experientially qualified to perform post-mortem procedures to assist the pathologist but are not yet qualified to provide an entire report of diagnosis on the cause of death. 

Autopsy Technician 

An autopsy technician is responsible for documenting post-mortem activities and performing all post-mortem procedures.

They may collect all these inferences to further send proof to scientists who may cross-verify the prognosis. 

In conclusion

Hope you had a thrill reading what Forensic Pathologists do and the related careers that one can make from working in this industry! 🥼

I understand that this area of work can be challenging and a little intimidating, but I’ve tried to show you all the possible pros of working in the industry!

Marry some legal and medical, and you get one of the most dynamic and exciting career niches; what are you waiting for?

Have I missed something? Or do you have any more questions for me regarding Forensic Pathology?

Write to us down below! 💬

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