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What’s Involved in a Forensic Pathology Career?

written by: Emma Lloyd•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 2/28/2009

What does a career in forensic pathology entail? Learn more about the forensic pathology career here.

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    When you pursue a forensic pathology career, you will learn how to use science in the field of law enforcement, and how to develop evidence that can be used in criminal investigations and for court testimony during criminal trials.

    Forensic pathology is a multidisciplinary type of career – as a forensic scientist, you may be called upon to use knowledge and skills in biology, chemistry, physics, or psychology, depending on how you choose to specialize.

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    What does a Forensic Pathologist Do?

    One of the main roles of the forensic pathologist is to collect evidence. For example, they may collect evidence from a crime scene, from a body, or from a computer, depending on where their specialty lies. A forensic pathologist can specialize in one or more of several different areas, including crime scene analysis, forensic anthropology, DNA forensics, forensic dentistry, handwriting analysis, and ballistics.

    The role of the forensic pathologist is an extremely important one in a criminal investigation, and their ability accurately collect, preserve, and analyze evidence is often central to the ability of police to build a criminal case. A forensic pathologist may work in a lab most of the time, but may also be called to a crime scene to collect evidence, depending on where their specialty lies.

    During the course of working on a single case, a forensic pathologist might be needed to collect crime scene evidence, carry out tests and analyses on the evidence, prepare reports on the evidence they collected and analyzed, and give expert testimony in court.

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    Forensic Pathology Career Requirements

    Being successful in a forensic pathology career requires a special set of personal traits. They must be able to work to a high degree of accuracy, have an analytical mind, be very detail oriented, and have excellent computer skills. A forensic pathologist must be prepared to work long hours, perhaps even on weekends and public holidays, due to the time-sensitive nature of evidence collection and analysis.

    Anyone interested in a forensic pathology career should plan to gain at least a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant science subject. While it is possible to begin a career with an Associate’s degree in forensic science, a four-year degree will result in improved job prospects.