“Autopsy Technician / Pathology Assistant Employment”

Found your site today as I tried to pursue information on ‘Forensic Autopsy Technician’ involving education required and position availability. I’ve been an RN for 30 years and this aspect of medicine has always intriqued me. Early in my VA career, they would call me down to autopsies to observe, because they knew I was so interested. I’m seriously considering this career detour. I haven’t found any concrete guidelines for educational guidelines in my research. Any advice? Thank you!

Maureen Santamaria


I’ve gotten this question quite a lot over the last year, so I’ll respond to your comment in post form in case my answer is helpful to anyone else out there.

I’d start by calling your local Medical Examiner/Coroner office to find out if they hire their Autopsy Technicians/Pathology Assistants directly or if you have to go through a state or county agency. If they do there own hiring, pay them a visit to deliver a resume or fill out an application. This gives them a chance to see that you are professional and genuinely interested and aren’t someone just looking to meet their weekly unemployment application quota. It may make the difference between your application ending up on someone’s desk rather than the “to be shredded” bin.

There really isn’t any formal training available so it isn’t required in most cases. Reason being, even someone with minimal formal medical training can make equal or greater money doing something far less repulsive. If you start off with a salary in the low 20’s (even less in some parts of the country), you’re making the industry average. High school degrees or equivalents seem to be the norm because the pay is so unattractive. The only real financial benefit comes with the associated benefits and job security—total population and subsequent deaths only increase each year.

Most of the training for eviscerating bodies comes after you’ve already gotten the job. It helps to have some past experience in working on or around dead bodies or some exposure to some pretty nasty sights and smells. I guess that’s why individuals with previous employment in funeral services or as medical orderlies seem to succeed where others might quit before becoming “acclimated” to the tasks the job demands.

The moral of the story is if you’re looking for a job that:

–requires direct physical contact with some of the more questionable members of society as well as the potentially life threatening infectious diseases their tissue and fluids may contain…

–requires you to see and do things that common sense dictates you not share with the general public for fear of being regarded as an insensitive monster…

–causes many people to quit the minute they are faced with making their first cut on a decomposed body…

–provides a unique learning experience on a daily basis and allows you to feel as though you are contributing to an investigative process that is bigger than any single person or agency, then this is the job for you.

Good luck to you.

A Douglas


5 Responses to ““Autopsy Technician / Pathology Assistant Employment””

  1. 1 Becky
    April 11, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    I’m also looking into a pathologist assistant career. however i understood that you had to get a master’s degree. i found a few programs that do this in the US (2-3 years) and i already have my B.A. in biology. So is it true you do not need this degree after all?

    It’s true there are some technical school oriented programs out there in some parts of the U.S., but the particular agency you are seeking employment with will determine whether you need specialized training. Some agencies may in fact require an advanced degree, but many agencies don’t because they can’t afford to pay the kind of salary that would attract someone with an advanced degree. I guess my main point is this–if you can apply and get hired without a degree of certification, go for it. There’s no reason to go in debt for a degree you may not need. The job pays little enough without having to make student loan payments.

    A Douglas

  2. April 11, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    I wish the RN luck! it takes a certain kind of person to do this work. It is hard, messy, and mentally demanding.

  3. 3 Shameka
    April 11, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    I too, found your website simply by searching for training requirements and job availability for autopsy techs this evening. I feel like this is fate because my interest became piqued in the area yesterday during lunch with one of my co-workers. We are both pharmacy techs at a local hospital and have recently witnessed two autopsies being performed. I’m sure I can tolerate the stuff that would make any other normal person gag and I eagerly look forward to the learning experience such a position would bring. Thank you very much for replying in the post format. I will definitely take your advise and contact my local coroner’s office to find out their procedures!

  4. April 13, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    I have to say that when I started reading this blog lo these many months ago, that I never expected to find you inspiring others to “bring out your dead” so to speak.

    So I chuckle a little.

    But mostly it makes me happy that a small helpful niche is being filled with such enjoyable writing.

  5. November 28, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Even though im still in high school I have this job very interesting and I was just wondering if you could give me some tips that I could maybe use later in the future when I’m old enough to apply for this job.

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