Coroners are public law enforcement officials -- often elected -- who are legally responsible for holding an inquest in the event of a violent or suspicious death in their jurisdiction. Coroners have similar duties to pathologists. The term coroner actually stretches all the way back to 12th century England, where the coroner was a public official appointed by the crown to oversee its interests, including judicial roles such as confiscating the personal property and estates of executed criminals for the public treasury -- the King.
Typical Education and Training
Almost all coroners have some background in forensic science or medicine. Most coroners or pathologists are MDs, often with a background in pathology. Some coroners, however, only have limited experience in forensic science, but have years of experience practicing as a prosecutor or law enforcement official.
Average Annual Salary
While many coroners serve as full-time public officials, quite a few coroners in small towns and rural areas only serve as a coroner on a part-time basis and get paid by the hour or a specific amount per inquest. According to the Vermont Department of Labor, coroners earned a median annual salary of £34,664 in Vermont in 2009.
The employment benefits of coroners vary by where they work. Many are employed by the city or county where they live and are provided with the full range of employment benefits including insurance and paid vacations. However, coroners who work in smaller jurisdictions and those who are paid per inquest, rarely receive employee benefits.
Inquests and Other Duties
The duties of coroners vary dramatically by jurisdiction. In some counties and cities the coroner must be a medical doctor and perform autopsies himself, but in other jurisdictions, the sheriff serves as the coroner and hires pathologists to perform autopsies as necessary. In larger cities, the coroner's job is administrative and legal with tasks that include initiating and documenting inquests, and assistant coroners do most of the autopsies and interviewing to prepare for inquests.