According to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, forensic pathologists investigate causes of suspicious or sudden deaths, including those caused by violence, accidents, suicide or the sudden death of an otherwise healthy person. Forensic pathologists must complete a demanding course of study over four years of medical school and three to four years of training in anatomical and/or clinical pathology. The best colleges for forensic pathology offer rigorous medical training plus residency and fellowship programs, giving students regular opportunities to perform autopsies and familiarize themselves with sub-specialties. The institutions here are included because of their exacting admissions standards and working relationships with medical examiners in major cities in the United States.
Keck School of Medicine -- University of Southern California
Located in the city of Los Angeles, Keck offers a fully accredited four-year program in anatomic and clinical pathology. The forensic science degree offers instruction in a wide range of specialties, including autopsy pathology, surgical pathology, dermatopathology, cytopathology, forensic pathology, hematopathology, chemical pathology, toxicology, cytogenetics and laboratory management. Autopsy experience is gained through partnership with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office and Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center.
University of Minnesota Medical School
The Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis provides four years of anatomic and clinical pathology training with fellowships in forensic pathology. During their course of study for a forensic science degree, residents rotate through classes in cytopathology, surgical pathology, microbiology and other subjects related to forensic science. At the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office, residents perform unassisted autopsies, attend crime scene investigations and interpret toxicology reports. Fellows and residents learn investigative procedures, such as determining time of death, identifying types of wounds and maintaining evidence in a secure and legal manner.
The Masters of Science in biomedical forensic science at BU is a program that incorporates different aspects of forensic investigation into one course of study. Along with work in forensic pathology, students work on bloodstain pattern analysis, medicolegal death investigation, criminal law and ethics and DNA analysis. This forensic science degree program enables graduates to work in local, state and federal forensic laboratories, educational institutions and military and defense agencies. Applicants are expected to have an undergraduate degree in biology, chemistry or a natural science and to have taken numerous courses in organic chemistry, microbiology and genetics.
Emory University School of Medicine
The department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, offers a one-year fellowship in forensic pathology based at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Center. A typical fellow in the program may carry out approximately 250 autopsies in that year and be present at around 75 crime scene investigations. Access to the Georgia Division of Forensic Sciences Crime Lab gives participants additional experience with forensic toxicology and other investigative techniques.
Salary and Job Outlook
The average annual salary for a forensic scientist was $208,000, or more than $100.00 per hour, in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An accelerated job outlook indicates a 10 percent growth between now and 2026. Testing laboratories pay as much as $62,130. A background in medicine, biology, administration and management is key for this career. Earning a forensic science degree will enable you to work as an anatomic pathologist, attending pathologist, or forensic pathologist. Some on-the-job training should be expected, but primary skills are learned in post-secondary education programs. Strong problem solving skills and attention to detail is a mainstay of the job duties of a forensic pathologist.
Andrea Godbout has been writing professionally since 2000. She has served as a columnist for Angie's List, highlighting products and businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Godbout earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from Barnard College and a Master of Arts in education from New York University.