Coroner Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Coroner,  or Forensic Examiner, is responsible for determining the cause of death of an individual. Their duties include visiting crime scenes to examine a body, transporting the body to the morgue and conducting an internal and external examination of the body to determine the actual cause of death.

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Coroner Duties and Responsibilities

A Coroner is responsible for assisting with death investigations by observing conditions of bodies and evidence, performing autopsies and medical examinations. Additionally, a Coroner may assist with the identification of victims by observing and recording physiological features. Coroners are also responsible for determining time and circumstances of death and completing death certificates, including official assignment of the cause of death. In larger jurisdictions, a Coroner may be responsible for directing the activities of a medical examination team. Examples of Coroner duties and responsibilities include:

  • Observe and record positions and conditions of bodies and evidence
  • Perform medical examinations to determine time, circumstances and cause of death
  • Observe and record physiological features to aid in the identification of victims
  • Complete death certificates to include the manner of death
  • Create and maintain records related to death investigations
  • Record and preserve objects related to death
  • Manage a team of medical professionals in support of death investigations

What Does a Coroner Do?

Coroners typically work for a court of law or morgue. They help provide answers to law enforcement officers and loved ones of the deceased regarding the circumstances of the deceased’s death. Their job is to uphold the justice system by providing a cause of death for an individual, and they also play an important role in identifying the deceased, confirming their identity and notifying their loved ones if necessary. They may also be responsible for appearing in court when foul play is involved, to describe their thoughts on the cause of death.

Coroner Skills and Qualifications

A successful Coroner candidate will have skills and qualifications to perform the required duties, like knowledge and practice in the medical field, knowledge of required procedures, equipment for performing medical examinations and knowledge of applicable laws and regulations regarding proper reporting and handling of evidence. Additionally, a good Coroner candidate will have critical thinking skills, along with deductive and inductive reasoning skills to draw conclusions based on existing knowledge, prior experience and available evidence. Examples of Coroner skills and qualifications include: 

  • Medical knowledge to diagnose and treat human injuries and diseases
  • Knowledge of applicable laws and regulations for the legal jurisdiction
  • Proficiency with record-keeping methods, either electronic or on paper
  • Knowledge of judicial processes and court proceedings
  • Ability to communicate with the public in both verbal and written form
  • Ability to supervise, coordinate and direct the actions of others 

Coroner Salary Expectations

The average salary for a Coroner is [Salary data not available on indeed.com/salaries]. Salaries can vary based on location, candidate experience and the company’s needs.

Coroner Education and Training Requirements

A quality Coroner candidate should at least have a degree in criminology, medicine, anatomy or a related discipline from a four-year college or university. Additional education requirements will vary depending on the location where your company expects to hire a Coroner. Some jurisdictions require a Coroner to be a medical doctor, which requires that a candidate has completed medical school and obtained licensure as a physician in accordance with applicable regulations. Additionally, a certification in forensic pathology may also be required based on applicable regulations in the operating jurisdiction.

Coroner Experience Requirements

A Coroner candidate should have extensive experience in the medical field. Additional experience in criminology, forensics or a related field also indicates a quality candidate. Prior work experience as a medical examiner, forensic pathologist, forensic technician or autopsy assistant demonstrate the prerequisite career path for someone seeking a job as a Coroner. In many cases, corners are appointed or elected government officials. For this reason, experience in public services such as federal, state or local government and public health may be helpful to people seeking employment as a Coroner.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

If a Coroner isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, below are examples of job descriptions for similar positions that may meet your company’s needs:

Frequently asked questions about Coroners

 

What is the difference between a Coroner and a Medical Examiner?

The difference between a Coroner and a Medical Examiner lies in education. Local governments typically elect a Coroner for the role. Further, Coroners don’t necessarily need to have a degree to be eligible for the position. Coroners may also hold other job titles within their community and take on an “on-call” role as Coroner. In contrast, Medical Examiners need a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and licensure to qualify for a role. By obtaining these requirements, they earn a physician’s title. 

It is important to note that some U.S. states require local jurisdictions to have Medical Examiners while others only require elected Coroners. Therefore, people often use these titles interchangeably, despite their differences in education and qualifications.

 

What are the daily duties of a Coroner?

On a typical day, a Coroner may begin work in a private office, reviewing documents and typing up a Coroner’s report from a recent case. At any time of day, including after usual business hours, law enforcement officers can call a Coroner to report to the scene of an accidental death or crime scene. At the scene, the Coroner may take photographs of the body and the surrounding environment to aid in their report. Once completed, they assist others in placing the body in a body bag and transporting it to the morgue. 

If there aren’t obvious identification documents, they may need to wait for dental records or DNA samples to identify the deceased. If a law enforcement officer hasn’t already notified the next of kin, the Coroner can do so once their identity is confirmed. They then perform an external examination and internal examination if deemed necessary to establish the cause of death.

 

What makes a good Coroner?

A good Coroner is someone who has a commitment to upholding the criminal justice system. This is especially important in criminal cases where there is foul play involved. A good Coroner should also be someone with keen attention to detail to provide well-supported evidence regarding a cause of death. Most importantly, a good Coroner should be someone who treats the deceased with the utmost respect. They should also be able to communicate with loved ones in an empathetic yet professional manner.

 

Who does a Coroner report to?

A Coroner typically has a self-governing role as an elected official. However, they can report to the local Sheriff or Sheriff’s Office to get advice and provide them with information surrounding the deceased.

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