Chief Medical Examiner

Job description & requirements

What is a Chief Medical Examiner?

A Chief Medical Examiner is an elected or appointed official who works closely with legal authorities and deceased persons’ relatives during the investigation of deaths. They are in charge of unexpected, suspicious, sudden, or violent deaths. A Chief Medical Examiner has various responsibilities and plays numerous roles, mainly a supervisory role. The website lists the average salary for coroners (Chief medical examiners),in the United States as about $65,000 per year.

However, salaries for the position varies with each state.

What does it take?

In order to qualify for the position of chief medical examiner, you must complete a four-year bachelor of science degree. You must also attend medical school for four years in order to get a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree or Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. This is followed up by five years training in clinical and anatomic pathology and one year residency in forensic pathology or four years training in anatomic pathology and one year of forensic pathology training.

Certification and Licensure

A Chief medical examiner must get certification from the American Board of Pathology. Even though each state may have varied licensure and certification requirements, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Board of Medical Specialists require that you set a date and sit for a final examination after your residency in order to get certification. On the other hand, you must be a graduate from an accredited medical school and pass the licensing examination.

Responsibilities and duties

A chief medical examiner's main responsibility is to look over and review all the forensic pathology functions performed by medical examiners. The duties, therefore, include keeping an eye on unnatural and or sudden death investigations. Chief medical examiners also offer consultation related to forensic medicine and pathology and provide resources for forensic pathology as well as general information about forensic science. A chief medical examiner may also testify in court, providing conclusions, possibilities, and facts revealed by the autopsies carried out by the medical examiners.


A chief medical examiner's salary varies by each state. According to SimplyHired, a chief medical examiner in New York earns an average of $63,000. In California he earns $60,000 annually. In New Jersey he earns $62,000, in Texas he earns $50,000, and $59,000 in Washington D.C. as of June 10, 2010.

The Skills

The chief medical examiner comprehends scientific rules and methods and is able to implement them in problem solving. He/she must have good communication skills necessary to relay information efficiently. He/she must also be able to motivate and direct people as they carry out their duties while maintaining a good working relationship.