What Do Autopsy Technicians Do

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

An Autopsy Technician typically works in the office of a Medical Examiner or a Coroner. They carry out a wide range of supportive tasks from preparing the examination room to assisting with the actual autopsy.

You can think of the Autopsy Technician job as a support position. They assist with autopsies to diagnose disease or trauma. This may include taking cultures, collecting fingerprints, and removing organs or tissues.

Performing autopsies requires extensive medical knowledge. However, people often overlook the fact that Autopsy Technicians need a clear understanding of law enforcement policies and procedures. An Autopsy Technician may need to follow specific protocols to ensure that forensic evidence is correctly obtained.

Working as an Autopsy Technician is also a common starting point for other careers, such as Chief Medical Examiner or Pathologist.



Autopsy Technicians

Autopsy Technicians assist Forensic Medical Examiners, helping to conduct autopsies and determine the causes of death. Common tasks include collecting fluids, recording measurements, and analyzing samples.

Salary: $41000
Education: Bachelor's degree
Personality: The Thinker

What they do

Autopsy Technicians assist Forensic Medical Examiners, helping to conduct autopsies and determine the causes of death. Common tasks include collecting fluids, recording measurements, and analyzing samples.

1. Assist with forensic autopsies

The primary job of the Autopsy Technician is to assist with forensic autopsies. A forensic autopsy is completed when death appears to be unusual or suspicious. Law enforcement agencies then use a Medical Examiner or Pathologist to identify the cause, manner, and mechanism of death.

The autopsy may provide investigators with important evidence such as the time of death and the type of murder weapon. Autopsy Technicians may also determine whether the body has been moved after death. These details help investigators solve crimes.

The Autopsy Technician may not complete the actual autopsy. In most cases, the Medical Examiner or Pathologist performs the autopsy while the Autopsy Technician takes notes and compiles the findings.

2. Prepare examination rooms

When a Medical Examiner is needed, the Autopsy Technician is often responsible for preparing the examination room. This process typically involves the placement of specialized equipment and utensils needed for the autopsy.

3. Prepare the body for an autopsy

Along with preparing the room, the Autopsy Technician may need to prepare the body. For example, some departments require an X-ray of the body before it is removed from the body bag.

The preparation process also typically requires photographs of the deceased. The Medical Examiner may need to note the position of the clothing.

After taking an X-ray and photographs, the Autopsy Technician under the direction of the Medical Examiner may help collect external evidence. This can include hair samples, gunshot residue, fingernails, clothing fibers, and any other type of foreign objects found on the body.

The body is then cleaned, weighed, and measured. The Autopsy Technician then positions the body on the autopsy table for the autopsy.

4. Fill out paperwork and complete administrative tasks

Working as an Autopsy Technician involves administrative work. The Technician is often responsible for filing paperwork and taking notes before, during, and after the autopsy.

The Autopsy Technician may also document the autopsy process and help compile the findings into a report for investigators.

5. Collect samples and analyzing them in a lab

After collecting evidence from a body, such as tissue or hair samples, the Autopsy Technician may be responsible for analyzing the samples. However, some departments may employ separate Laboratory Technicians for the actual analysis of samples.

Even if the Autopsy Technician does not physically analyze samples, they are still responsible for maintaining the chain of command for evidence. This may include ensuring that the samples are delivered and accepted by the lab.

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What is it like working as one

Pros

You get to help deceased victims receive justice

When working in a Medical Examiner’s Office, Autopsy Technicians get to assist with the process of uncovering forensic evidence. You may help bring justice to deceased victims by finding useful evidence that may lead to arrests and convictions.

Stable employment

Working as an Autopsy Technician provides stability. Unless you fail to perform your duties, you are unlikely to worry about losing your job.

You get to work on interesting cases

Forensic autopsies are often requested when death seems suspicious, giving you the chance to assist investigators with interesting cases frequently.

Cons

You spend a lot of time around the deceased

Even if you are comfortable around dead people, spending long periods surrounded by the recently deceased can be a little unsettling.

You may work long hours

Some autopsies take hours to complete. You may occasionally spend an entire day examining a single body for forensic evidence.


Where they work

Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices
Police Departments and Crime Laboratories
Hospitals

Autopsy Technicians are typically employed by Medical Examiner Offices and Coroner Offices, which are part of the local, state, or federal government. Other potential employers include Morgues, Police Departments, and Crime Laboratories.

Autopsy Technicians may also find entry-level positions at hospitals, such as working in the Morgue of a hospital. No matter the employer, most of the work of an Autopsy Technician is completed in an autopsy room.

How to become one

Step 1. Finish High School or earn a GED

Some entry-level Autopsy Technician positions require at least a high school diploma or a GED. If available at your school, complete courses in Biology, Anatomy, and Chemistry.

Step 2. Obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science or Biology

While some employers may only require a high school diploma, most Autopsy Technicians need a Bachelor’s Degree or Associate’s Degree in a related field. Common majors include Biology, Forensic Science, and Forensic Autopsy Programs.

Step 3. Look for an entry-Level position

After earning a Bachelor’s degree or Associate’s degree, you should qualify for most entry-level positions in this field. However, if you struggle to find employment as an Autopsy Technician, you can gain transferrable work experience by seeking jobs at Hospitals or Morgues.

Step 4. Obtain Professional Certification

While not required, many Autopsy Technicians choose to earn professional certification through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI). This certification requires at least 640 hours of experience and demonstrates your commitment to this career.

Should you become one

Aspiring Autopsy Technicians should be detail-oriented and have strong attention to detail to help uncover the smallest traces of forensic evidence. In this job, it is critical to be accurate with your findings. You should also be naturally curious because you will be constantly examining to find the cause of death of the individual.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


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