Medical examiners are government officials who investigate causes of death. They are typically employed by government bodies such as counties, cities and the federal government. In most jurisdictions, medical examiners are doctors with medical degrees and specialized training in pathology. Some states and jurisdictions, however, do not require medical examiners to have any specialized medical training or even a college degree.
People who are interested in becoming medical examiners in jurisdictions that do not have any specific requirements do not have to take any particular college courses. Because most jurisdictions do require prospective medical examiners to have a four-year bachelor's degree and a four-year medical school degree, most students who are interested in this line of work do have to take a number of premed requirements or prerequisites while they are in college. Requirements vary, but most medical schools require students to complete two semesters of general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and general physics, and a semester of calculus.
Biology is the study of life and all prospective medical school students have to take one year or two semesters of general biology, also known as principles of biology. General biology 1 and 2 are very important courses for anyone who is interested in going to medical school and becoming a medical examiner because they cover topics such as cells, cellular functions and life cycles of plants, and introduce students to the process of conducting biological research. This course sequence also serves as a prerequisite for organic chemistry, a more advanced premed requirement course sequence.
General and Organic Chemistry
Chemistry is the study of our world's building blocks such as elements, atoms and compounds. All prospective medical students who are interested in becoming medical examiners have to take one year or two semesters of general chemistry, also known as introductory chemistry, and one year or two semesters of organic chemistry. General chemistry 1 and 2 cover topics such as acids, bases, liquids, solids and gases, and show students how to handle chemical samples and conduct basic chemistry research. Organic chemistry is the study of compounds with carbon atoms, and it is the most advanced chemistry course that prospective medical examiners typically take in college. General chemistry 1 and 2, and general biology 1 and 2 are all prerequisites for organic chemistry, which students typically take in their junior year of college.
General Physics and Calculus
Prospective medical school students who are interested in becoming medical examiners also have to complete a year or two semesters of general physics, and one semester of calculus. Physics is the study of the physical phenomena that exist in the world around us, and calculus is the study of the rates of change of functions. General physics 1 and 2 cover topics such as mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and typically require students to have knowledge of either precalculus or calculus 1. Calculus 1 covers topics of differentiation and integration of functions in one dimension, also known as single variable calculus.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.