Coroners help law enforcement agencies solve crimes and identify the causes of people's deaths. They examine tissue samples to identify pathogens or toxins in the deceased, and report the results to police departments and FBI agents. Some are also elected officials who oversee all medical examinations. While coroner salaries can vary widely by state, their starting salaries average between $40,000 and $50,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications:
According to the jobsite Indeed, the average starting salary for a coroner was $45,000 as of 2013. This is consistent with salaries for the bottom 25 percent of forensic scientists, who earned less than $40,470 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forensic scientists often work for coroners and have similar educational backgrounds. Two types of coroners work in local counties and municipalities throughout the United States, according to "U.S. News & World Report" -- those who are elected and the examiners. Most have at least a bachelor's degrees in one of the life sciences: biology, physiology or chemistry. Many have master's degree or Ph.D. in one of the sciences, while some are medical doctors. Requirements vary by state. Other essential qualifications are an attention to detail, physical strength and stamina -- and analytical, critical thinking, problem-solving, math, communication and supervisory skills.
Salary by Region:
In 2013, average starting salaries for coroners varied significantly in some of the four U.S. regions. In the West region, they earned the highest starting salaries of $49,000 in California and the lowest of $30,000 in Hawaii, according to Indeed. Those in the South made $38,000 to $53,000 per year in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., respectively. Coroners' starting salaries in the Northeast ranged from $39,000 to $55,000 -- with the lowest in Maine and highest in New York. In the Midwest, their starting salaries were highest in Illinois and lowest in Nebraska and South Dakota at $49,000 and $34,000, respectively.
A coroner's starting salary may be higher in certain industries. For example, according to the BLS, forensic science technicians, who work with coroners, earned the highest salaries of $94,800 working for the federal government as of May 2012. They also earned relatively high salaries working in medical and diagnostic labs, including coroner offices -- $66,390 versus the industry average of $55,730. While these aren't starting salaries, coroners may earn higher starting and average salaries when employed by the federal government and in medical labs. They also earn more in New York and Washington, D.C., because living costs are higher in this state and district. CNN Money states that a coroner earning a starting salary of $45,000 in Kansas City, Missouri, would need to make $99,054 in New York City to enjoy the same living standard. In Washington, D.C. his starting salary would need to be $64,874 -- about 44 percent higher.
The BLS doesn't report job opportunities for coroners. However, it projects a 19 percent increase in jobs for forensic scientists from 2010 to 2020, which is statistically about average compared to the 14 percent growth rate for all jobs. An increased awareness of forensic science and technological advances in medicine may increase jobs for non-elected coroners, although jobs are limited in this field. More coroners may also be needed because of population increases throughout the United States, especially among the elderly.