While TV shows like "CSI" portray them as beautiful, sassy and smart, forensic autopsy techs in real life need only meet the educational and skill requirements to earn a job -- heels are optional. Using clues found on the body, forensic autopsy techs find out whether a death was accidental or intentional. In cases of murder, law enforcement uses clues found by the forensic autopsy tech to catch and prosecute the perp. Most employers require forensic autopsy techs to have an associate degree in a related field, while others ask for a bachelor’s degree.
As of 2014, no schools offer a dedicated and specific degree in forensic autopsy technology; rather, if you’re interested in a career as an autopsy tech, you should pursue a related degree. Degrees that employers accept include chemistry, physiology, biochemistry, medical laboratory science, clinical laboratory science, pathologist assistant and autopsy assistant. Even though nearly all employers also offer some type of on-the-job training, holding an autopsy technician-related degree gives you a leg up on other job candidates who may not have the same training.
Community and Technical Colleges
Aspiring forensic autopsy techs can opt for autopsy-related degrees from local community or technical schools. Numerous community and technical schools offer certificate programs in mortuary, clinical laboratory or medical laboratory sciences. Community and technical college programs typically take a year or less to complete. For example, the autopsy assistant certificate program at Mott Community College in Michigan requires 33 credit hours or two semesters of classroom time. Victor Valley College, located in California, offers an autopsy assistant program that consists of only six classes. Some degree programs from community and technician schools also include some type of hands-on experience through an internship or externship.
Traditional Colleges and Universities
Several four-year colleges and universities offer similar degree programs to community and technical colleges. At these institutions, you can choose from four-year degrees in fields like mortuary, clinical laboratory, medical laboratory and forensic science. Carlow University in Pennsylvania offers the only autopsy specialist program as part of a bachelor’s degree in biology. The University of Maryland School of Medicine offers a pathologist assistant master's degree that takes two years to complete and includes mandatory clinicals.
Some state and local government groups offer training for forensic autopsy technicians, typically for those autopsy techs already employed by that state or local government. These government-run training programs often require some experience in medical examining to qualify for the class. Examples of government-run programs include Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management Forensic Autopsy Technician series and New York’s West Chester County Autopsy Assistant Trainee program. Depending on the program, this type of training takes anywhere from a few months to a year to complete.
- Iowa Department of Administrative Services: Forensic Autopsy Technician
- Denver Career Service Authority: Forensic Autopsy Technician
- Mott Community College: Autopsy Assistant
- Virginia Department of Human Resource Management: Forensic Autopsy Technician Series
- Westchester County: Autopsy Assistant Trainee
- Carlow University: Autopsy Specialist Major
- Victor Valley College: Autopsy Assistant Certificate
- University of Maryland Medical School: Pathologists' Assistant Program
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