Forensic Pathologist

Current job markets appear to have a fairly bleak outlook for many industries, but public healthcare employment continues to remain steady and even show considerable rise in openings in the coming years.  Working as a forensic pathologist can offer steady income and job security as this position is used to address public health and safety needs and identify possible emergency situations.

One of the focuses of the current healthcare standard is on prevention and intervention, and public health is leading the way to address community issues that may otherwise go unnoticed.  Forensic pathologists play an integral part in this process, by deducing possible threats to wellness in isolating causes of death.  If you are intrigued by both health services and deductive reasoning, then a career as a forensic pathologist could fit your interests and your lifestyle.

What Is A Forensic Pathologist?

A forensic pathologist is also known as a medical examiner, and is responsible for conducting post-mortem examinations and determining causes of death.  These doctors are able to see trends in death rates that may correspond to disease or chronic condition that are prevalent in certain communities.  From these determinations, the information that is provided to the public health department can offer insight into possible health interventions that are needed for specific populations, and can also provide clues to environmental hazards that may be influencing death rates.

To work as a forensic pathologist, you would be expected to perform the following tasks:

  •   Perform autopsies and evaluate organ systems after death.
  •   Determine possible cause of death in individuals within the population.
  •   Analyze tissue samples to isolate microbes or contaminants.
  •   Generate reports on these findings that are shares with public health services and hospitals.
  •   Report any suspicious findings to the appropriate agencies.
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Some of the other skills that you would need as a forensic pathologist would include:

  •   Detail oriented:  You must be able to pay attention to minute factors that can have contributed to death.
  •   Good constitution:  You will be working on deceased individuals and must have the fortitude to examine bodies in many conditions. 
  •   Analytical thought:  You will have to be able to draw conclusions from the information that you find and apply it to health prospects in the general population. 
  •   Surgical skills:  You must be trained as a surgeon and be able to deftly remove and evaluate internal workings. 

Nature Of The Work

Forensic pathologists will usually work in hospitals, morgues, or other surgical labs.  This can include crime labs as well as public health facilities.  The majority of the job is spent examining deceased individuals.  Further lab work will occur in running chemical analysis on biological, examining stomach contents, and taking tissue slices to be scrutinized under a microscope. 

You will also be generating reports in an office setting.  This will comprehensively outline your determinations and also offer insights into possible future outcomes if contagions are a part of the cause of death.  In some cases you may be asked to testify in court, and this may be for criminal cases or for civil suits where environmental hazards have caused disease and death.

Education And Training

Forensic pathologists are required to undergo the same training and licensing as medical doctors.  This requires four years of pre-medical undergraduate work and four years of medical school.  A three to five year residency will be required to specialize in pathology, which will include identifying symptoms of illness and identifying injuries that contribute to death.

You will also need to pass your medical boards for licensing.  Although forensic pathologists do not diagnose and treat patients the same way that medical doctors will, similar proficiencies are required for this field as well.  This will allow you to report possible widespread infections that may occur within the community and contribute to isolation and treatment protocols.  Further certifications in microbiology and other examination techniques may be required by the state, and are provided through examination with the state boards of health.

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Forensic pathologists can earn an average of over $200,000 a year, depending upon years of experience and range of specialties.  This is one of the higher paying positions in public health services, and even entry level candidates may be looking at as much as $100,000 as an annual salary.

Growth and job formation in this field is also on the rise.  An expected 123,000 are projected to be created in healthcare over the next ten years and as many as 60,000 of these will be as forensic pathologists.  In public health, this position can help to identify health and safety issues in community before factors reach epidemic proportions.  This increases the demand for workers in this field as it allows for proactive community interventions.  If you are interested in a high paying career in public health that utilizes your deductive skills, thane the position of forensic pathologist may be an ideal position.

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