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At a Glance

  • Investigate the cause of deaths
  • Sometimes are called "medical examiners"
  • Work with public health and law enforcement officials
  • Work indoors in labs and offices
  • Sometimes work outdoors at sites where bodies are found
  • Often work on-call
  • Most have a medical degree plus additional training in forensics
  • Are public officials who are appointed or elected

Career summary

Coroners investigate the cause of deaths that are accidental, violent, or unexplained.

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Coroners are public officials who investigate the cause of deaths. They are appointed or elected to serve in a specific administrative area, such as a city or county. Coroners have different duties depending on local law.

In some places, coroners are physicians and may be called medical examiners. In many localities, coroners are not required to be physicians or be trained in medicine. In these cases, they direct others to do medical tests.

When a questionable death occurs, coroners are called in to determine the cause of death. They work closely with public health and law enforcement officials. Coroners give these officials information as they conduct tests.

Coroners direct the activities of physicians and technologists. These workers perform autopsies and tests to determine the cause of death.

Coroners decide if a death occurred under natural circumstances, or was due to accident, homicide, or undetermined causes. They assign a cause and manner of death and list it on the death certificate.

Coroners sometimes testify at inquests, hearings, and court trials. They also direct workers to prepare documents for official records.

Coroners provide information about the circumstances of the death to the family of the deceased. They deal with unclaimed bodies and their belongings.

Related careers

This career is part of the Government and Public Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to coroners.

Common work activities

Coroners perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, coroners:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Coroners frequently:

It is important for coroners to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for coroners to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Coroners need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a coroner, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are different levels of preparation, depending on the type of coroner.

Medical examiners are physicians who practice any branch of medicine. Pathologists are physicians trained in the medical specialty of pathology. Forensic pathologists are physicians who specialize in forensic pathology. They have completed specific training in various aspects of death investigation. In some states, coroners, in contrast, are not required to have medical training.

To become a physician, you must complete medical school. Before entering medical school, most students earn a bachelor's degree. A pre-medicine or science major is good preparation. Some students get their bachelor's degree in a liberal arts area, but take required courses in physics, biology, and chemistry.

Work experience

Experience as a physician is necessary experience for those positions that require medical qualifications. You usually need a medical license and certification in forensic pathology.

On-the-job training

Medical examiners and pathologists must complete residency training. As a resident, you receive on-the-job training while supervised by experienced pathologists.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). If you want to be a pathologist, you will need to complete medical school. Thus you must take as many advanced math and sciences classes in high school as possible.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Coroners are public officials who may be elected or appointed. Laws and statutes vary in local areas. In some areas coroners may be required to be physicians.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Compliance officers (SOC 13-1041)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $18.73 $27.65 $37.27 $52.67 $66.99
Monthly $3,246 $4,792 $6,459 $9,128 $11,609
Yearly $38,960 $57,510 $77,510 $109,560 $139,340
    Bellingham Hourly $21.98 $30.95 $42.90 $45.49 $46.79
Monthly $3,809 $5,364 $7,435 $7,883 $8,109
Yearly $45,720 $64,362 $89,232 $94,638 $97,327
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $25.78 $29.43 $36.41 $46.37 $52.10
Monthly $4,468 $5,100 $6,310 $8,036 $9,029
Yearly $53,627 $61,215 $75,742 $96,445 $108,369
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $15.01 $16.78 $19.32 $28.23 $34.84
Monthly $2,601 $2,908 $3,348 $4,892 $6,038
Yearly $31,206 $34,896 $40,173 $58,719 $72,472
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $24.06 $31.97 $41.94 $58.50 $67.48
Monthly $4,170 $5,540 $7,268 $10,138 $11,694
Yearly $50,029 $66,485 $87,232 $121,676 $140,356
    Longview Hourly $21.10 $26.24 $31.01 $42.28 $57.31
Monthly $3,657 $4,547 $5,374 $7,327 $9,932
Yearly $43,885 $54,572 $64,489 $87,939 $119,194
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $23.44 $28.25 $34.52 $40.75 $54.96
Monthly $4,062 $4,896 $5,982 $7,062 $9,525
Yearly $48,735 $58,758 $71,786 $84,780 $114,326
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $23.53 $28.26 $31.96 $37.07 $52.60
Monthly $4,078 $4,897 $5,539 $6,424 $9,116
Yearly $48,938 $58,767 $66,482 $77,119 $109,410
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $18.00 $28.50 $41.47 $58.97 $73.79
Monthly $3,119 $4,939 $7,187 $10,220 $12,788
Yearly $37,440 $59,287 $86,262 $122,656 $153,485
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $16.12 $23.23 $31.18 $37.61 $47.04
Monthly $2,794 $4,026 $5,403 $6,518 $8,152
Yearly $33,518 $48,313 $64,863 $78,231 $97,845
    Vancouver Hourly $22.78 $28.04 $35.11 $45.12 $57.52
Monthly $3,948 $4,859 $6,085 $7,819 $9,968
Yearly $47,390 $58,321 $73,022 $93,836 $119,651
    Walla Walla Hourly $18.44 $27.57 $30.84 $38.73 $46.75
Monthly $3,196 $4,778 $5,345 $6,712 $8,102
Yearly $38,359 $57,360 $64,148 $80,546 $97,232
    Wenatchee Hourly $22.49 $26.32 $33.61 $43.65 $49.67
Monthly $3,898 $4,561 $5,825 $7,565 $8,608
Yearly $46,771 $54,757 $69,900 $90,784 $103,325
    Yakima Hourly $19.17 $25.89 $33.60 $43.16 $59.10
Monthly $3,322 $4,487 $5,823 $7,480 $10,242
Yearly $39,888 $53,859 $69,888 $89,763 $122,946
United States Hourly $18.42 $24.34 $33.10 $43.74 $52.72
Monthly $3,192 $4,218 $5,736 $7,580 $9,136
Yearly $38,320 $50,620 $68,860 $90,980 $109,650

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The coroner's qualifications and duties also affect wages.

Coroners who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

National wage information is not available specifically for coroners. However, they are part of the larger group of "compliance officers."

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Compliance Officers, Except Agriculture, Construction, Health and Safety, and Transportation (SOC 13-1041)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 10,633 16.3% 16.1% 1,253
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 158 17.7% 13.4% 19
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 116 8.6% 8.6% 11
    Benton and Franklin Counties 201 10.4% 15.0% 20
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 150 10.0% 11.9% 15
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 295 12.2% 15.2% 32
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 874 10.2% 14.1% 89
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 716 4.9% 14.6% 64
    King County 6,361 20.3% 19.6% 811
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 211 8.5% 13.8% 21
    Pierce County 549 18.2% 15.2% 67
    Snohomish County 552 12.1% 12.4% 59
    Spokane County 544 14.0% 13.9% 60
United States 319,900 5.8% 5.2% 30,700

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

The population is growing. This means that the number of people who die each year will also grow. More coroners will be needed to investigate the increasing number of deaths. However, because this occupation is small the number of new jobs will be small. Many job openings occur as people retire.

Employment and outlook information is not available specifically for coroners. However, they are part of the larger group of "compliance officers."

Other resources

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (external link)
American Academy of Forensic Sciences (external link)
410 North 21st Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Explore Health Careers: Forensic Pathologist (external link)
International Association for Identification (external link)
2131 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 403
Hollywood, FL 33020
National Association of Medical Examiners (external link)
362 Bristol Road
Walnut Shade, MO 65771
Washington Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (external link)
Washington Association of County Officials (external link)
206 - 10th Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98501


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational clusters