Forensic Pathologist Careers in Criminology

In the world of criminology careers, the highest occupation one can aspire to is a forensic pathologist career. This job should not be confused with that of forensic scientist, which requires only a bachelor's degree. In order to become a forensic pathologist, a person must earn a bachelor's degree, then earn a degree in medicine, get licensed as an MD, then spend four to six years in a residency program learning the ropes of actual medical work. After that, an additional one- to three-year fellowship is usually required. This is much like an internship. All in all, it can take an additional nine years of education and training beyond college to become a forensic pathologist.

The work itself is grim, but fascinating, for anyone with a strong scientific curiosity. Pathologists use their skills and years of training to study the remains of people who have died from other than obviously natural causes. People who have been murdered or passed away unexpectedly are the focus of their efforts. They try to determine how they died by examining the scene of the death for clues, looking into the medical history of the deceased, and performing autopsies. They then declare an official cause of death. Many murder trials have hinged on the findings of forensic pathologists, and from time to time, they will have to testify in court.

It's a long and hard road to become a forensic pathologist, and only a few people have what it takes to make the grade. Quite a few people who have the drive and intelligence to make it to this level decline to pursue this career option because of the unpleasant nature of the work. Surgery to save a life is one thing, and a lot of medical types can deal with that, but cutting dead bodies open is another matter entirely, and many simply aren't cut out for it. So, in addition to a brilliant mind, hard work, and years of education, a strong stomach is also required.

Salaries for forensic pathologists are wide ranging. Typically, smaller cities and counties pay less than larger ones. Experience, too, plays a big role in how much salary to expect. As of this writing, the lowest salaries are in the range of $45,000, while the upper limit is about $170,000. The bulk of forensic pathologists make between $75,000 and $130,000 per year.

According to the Department of Labor, job openings for forensic pathologists should increase in the coming years due to a shortage of qualified doctors. This should drive salaries up in the long run.

Last Updated: 06/03/2014

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