Forensic Pathologists

Job Description:

Forensic pathologists specialise in performing autopsies on people who have died in suspicious circumstances

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

The regular duties of a forensic pathologist include the following:

  • Examining bodies to determine the ‘cause of death’ – the injury, disease, or other process that resulted in death (such as blood loss from a stab wound or a heart attack)
  • Making a judgement on the ‘manner of death’ – the circumstances surrounding the cause of death (such as homicide or accident or natural causes etc.); a fatal heart attack could be a result of coronary artery disease or deliberate poisoning, for example
  • Collecting medical evidence (such as body tissues or fluids) for further examination if necessary
  • Performing tests and investigations on samples in a lab (e.g. to identify the presence or absence toxic substances in the blood or gunpowder particles around a wound)
  • Liaising with other pathologists and medical professionals and people in the criminal justice system, such as police and barristers (teamwork)
  • Testifying as an expert witness in courts of law in civil or criminal cases



You will need the following:

  • medical knowledge
  • knowledge of biology

As well as:

  • calmness and focus under pressure
  • excellent communication skills
  • adaptability and willingness to travel to and work in different environments
  • leadership skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Forensic Pathologist, you will need a strong educational background in science and medicine, but the specific subjects are not typically listed as requirements for this career path. Here are some subjects and skills that can be beneficial for aspiring Forensic Pathologists:

  1. Science: Focus on taking science courses, including Biology and Chemistry, as these subjects provide the fundamental knowledge necessary for a medical career.
  2. Mathematics: Strong mathematical skills are essential for various aspects of medicine and medical research, including data analysis and statistics.
  3. English: Develop strong written and verbal communication skills, as effective communication is crucial for medical professionals.
  4. Physics: While not a strict requirement, Physics can be helpful for understanding the principles of medical imaging and certain forensic procedures.

Post School

As with other types of medical specialty, you are likely to need to have completed the following:

  • A five-year medical degree
  • At least two or three years of specialty training

Your specialty training should be in histopathology. Some histopathology training centres will have better access to autopsies than others, so it’s best to choose one that can give you lots of experience of this key procedure. Good links to a forensic pathology training centre would be ideal too.

Working Hours and Environment:

Your time would mostly be split between mortuaries, laboratories, hospitals, and courtrooms. You will sometimes be required to attend crime scenes to gather evidence.

Working hours can be long but fairly regular, most days starting at 7.30 a.m. and finishing around 6 or 7 p.m. These hours can vary and be extended if you need to travel a long distance to a crime scene, for example.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you may go on to lead a team or manage a department.

With experience and the relevant medical council approval in the country where you are practicing, you could apply for senior (or consultant) roles.

You could also progress to teaching and training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.