Careers in a Medical Examiner’s Office
Some are curious as to what types of jobs are available in the Medical Examiner’s Office, and what qualifications are required in order to apply for them. While work in the death investigation field can be very interesting and rewarding, it can also be difficult because of the subject matter, as well as exposure to sights, smells, and infectious hazards that most individuals would not tolerate. The field also requires regular interaction with the legal and law enforcement communities, so a respect for those professions is required. In general, the salaries in the medical examiner field are lower than those in other areas requiring similar training and experience, and upward mobility is often limited by the number of positions available. On the other hand, work days are often fairly predictable, and since most practitioners in this field are employed by local governments, benefits are often good.
Those desiring more information about the field may find the following websites helpful:
The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office
Below is a listing of the positions in the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office, along with some of the basic requirements for applying. Keep in mind that jobs do not come available often. Anyone interested in employment with this office should monitor the Bexar County Human Resources website for position openings and should apply at that site. Oftentimes, individuals seeking employment with the BCMEO are actually more interested in working as a criminalist (firearms and ballistics, DNA analysis, trace evidence, drug identification). These positions are not part of the Medical Examiner’s Office, but are found with the Bexar County Criminal Investigation Laboratory, a separate organization.
The below descriptions are for general information only, and actual position descriptions and requirements for employment are put forth by the Bexar County Human Resources Department. Interested applicants should refer to the procedures and descriptions of that department.
Medical examiners are licensed physicians with post-graduate training and certification in Anatomic Pathology and subspecialty certification in Forensic Pathology. One must first become a licensed physician, then train for a minimum of four (4) additional years before taking the board examinations for this specialty. The purpose of the forensic pathologist/medical examiner is to determine how and why individuals die. This involves correlating autopsy or other examination findings with toxicology results, investigative information, medical records and history, or other information.
Our Toxicology staff members have backgrounds in the chemical or biological sciences. They also have advanced on-the-job training and experience in performing forensic analyses on blood and other bodily substances to identify and characterize drugs or toxins. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in an applicable scientific field, but many of our Toxicologists have master’s degrees, and the Chief Toxicologist is a doctoral position.
Administration and Clerical Staff
The administrative staff members have backgrounds in management or office work, and are responsible for managing the support services of the office, personnel issues, budgeting, and fiscal management. The clerical staff perform secretarial duties, transcribe dictated reports, and manage the case files of the office. Entry level positions generally require a high school degree, demand excellent written and verbal communication skills, and call for great attention to detail. More senior positions require significant experience in office services and/or management, with appropriate educational backgrounds.
The Investigators are the eyes and ears of the medical examiners, and are responsible for taking reports of deaths, attending death scenes, interviewing witnesses, and acquiring any additional information as needed for the death investigation. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a health/science field is required, and new Investigators require approximately six (6) months of on-the-job training before they are able to work independently. Medical Death Investigators must become certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigation within two (2) years of being hired.
Autopsy Technician (Morgue Specialist)
The Morgue Specialist position requires a high school diploma, though an additional background in mortuary or biological science is often beneficial. The morgue specialist position requires a great work ethic and the ability to work daily in some of the most challenging conditions of any career field. These individuals also require approximately six (6) months of on-the-job training before becoming independent. They assist the physicians with all aspects of the autopsy examination, morgue management, admission and release of bodies and evidence, photography, and radiography.