Forensic Careers August 8, 2022
What You Can Do With a Degree in Forensic Medicine
PCOM's Master of Science in Forensic Medicine or dual degree in DO/MS can prepare you for a variety of forensic careers. Our highly experiential programs
develop a variety of analytic and critical thinking skills which prepare students
to pursue careers in medical and legal death investigation.
What is forensic medicine?
Forensic medicine is a specialized field of forensic science that combines medicine,
criminal justice and law enforcement. Professionals use medical and scientific procedures
to analyze evidence from crime victims or patients. Forensic medicine focuses on the
evaluation of live and deceased victims and practitioners often try to determine a
cause of death or injury. Forensic analysis seeks to identify if a crime resulted
in the death, disease or injury of a victim.
What forensic careers can PCOM's forensic medicine programs prepare me for?
PCOM's forensic medicine programs include detailed instruction and hands-on learning exercises in pathology, diseases,
law and ethics so students are well-prepared for careers in forensic science. In addition
to interactive classroom instruction from highly experienced faculty, our curriculum
includes hands-on learning experiences using mock crime sciences and clandestine grave
recoveries. Our program welcomes both newcomers and veteran forensic professionals
and features weekend classes and online instruction.
There are various careers in forensic science at the local, state and national levels.
Many government and law enforcement agencies employ forensic professionals to determine
manners of death, collect and analyze evidence, or manage cadavers.
Five careers in forensic science
Medical examiner or coroner
Medical examiners or coroners are physicians who work with cadavers of deceased victims to determine
a cause of death. They are trained to analyze information, provide forensic evidence
and testify in court as an expert witness in civil and criminal cases. These professionals
conduct autopsies to discern a manner of death including homicide, suicide, accidental,
natural or undetermined.
In most states, medical examiners and coroners must be physicians. They work for government
agencies, hospitals, morgues and medical schools. Off-site work may be required for
medical examiners, including travel to provide testimony in courtrooms, consult with
forensic examiners at police departments or crime scenes and advise on autopsy reports
Gregory McDonald, DO '89, dean, school of health sciences and chair of the forensic medicine program at PCOM,
serves as the chief-deputy coroner for Montgomery County and has completed more than
8,000 autopsies in his career. He has also testified in numerous homicide cases.
PCOM's Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program trains physicians to take a whole-person approach to patient care. We also
offer a DO/MS in Forensic Medicine dual degree option for medical students interested in pathology and forensics.
Autopsy technicians work alongside medical examiners or coroners to examine deceased
victims and determine cause of death. They may assist in the autopsy process through
taking measurements of the body, such as height and weight; collecting samples of
fluid or skins; and documenting the autopsy through note-taking or taking forensic
photographs which may aid in a criminal investigation. Technicians are trained to
help clean, prepare and coordinate bodies for examination, transport, cremation or
Entry-level autopsy technician jobs may require a degree in a relevant field such
as forensic science, biology or biochemistry. PCOM offers two graduate programs with
intensive study in anatomy, physiology, infectious diseases and more. Our Master's in Biomedical Sciences is offered at our three locations in Pennsylvania and Georgia, and the Master's in Forensic Medicine is offered on our Philadelphia campus.
A forensic investigator is a crime scene investigator (CSI) who collects and analyzes
forensic evidence related to criminal investigations. An investigator's duties include
examining crime scenes and collecting evidence such as fingerprints, blood and hair.
Their job is to collect, test and process forensic evidence accurately so that it
can be used as evidence in criminal cases.
Forensic toxicology is the study of toxic effects that toxins and chemicals can have
on the human body. A forensic toxicologist is an expert in the various symptoms and
treatments for poisoning. Laboratory tests on samples of tissue and bodily fluids
can aid investigators in determining whether or not any alcohol, drugs or chemicals
are present in the victim's body. A forensic toxicologist applies biology, chemistry
and pharmacology to give investigators and legal representatives important evidence
based on scientific analysis.
Medical schools and colleges often house cadavers in anatomy laboratories so student
doctors can learn human anatomy in sterile environments. Anatomy laboratory managers
coordinate the processing and transportation of body donors and dissected teaching
materials. They prepare specimens for educational activities. They also manage the
lab's supplies, chemicals and equipment. They also need to coordinate with families
to ensure the proper preparation, care and burial of donors' remains after their use.
PCOM graduate Sara Sabatino (MS/FM '16) now manages the College's human anatomy laboratory after graduating from the Master's
What are the salaries and career outlooks for forensic careers?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies a variety of forensic careers under the category of forensic science technicians.
In May 2021 the median annual wage for forensic science technicians was $61,930 and
employment is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the
average for all occupations.