SOC Code: 29-1069

Pay Band(s): 8 and 9             (Salary Structure)

Standard Occupational Description: There is no standard occupational description for the occupation of Medical Examiner as used by the Commonwealth. This occupation would be included in the Physicians & Surgeons, All Others. This group is comprised of many different types of physician occupations with a wide range of characteristics

Commonwealth of Virginia Description: Determine the cause, circumstances and manner of death and assure that all deaths which affect the public interest are properly investigated and reported in the prescribed time frame and manner so as to protect the decedent.

Medical Examiner positions in the Commonwealth are assigned to the following Roles in the Physician Services Career Group:

Physician II

Physician Manager I

Physician Manager II

While Medical Examiners within the Commonwealth are all located within the Physician Services Career Group, individuals may want to pursue other opportunities within the Commonwealth depending upon individual training, education, knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests.   

Other Career Group(s) that may be of interest are:

Forensic Science

Education Administration

General Administration

Life and Physical Science


(Technical and Functional Expertise)

Note: The technical and functional skills listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Medical Examiners commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the skills listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

  1. Motivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
  2. Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  3. Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  4. Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  5. Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  6. Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  7. Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem solving and decision-making.
  8. Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  9. Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
  10. Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.


Note: The technical and functional knowledge statements listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Medical Examiners commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the knowledge listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

The Knowledge of:

  1. Information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
  2. Plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
  3. Structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  4. Principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
  5. Business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  6. Chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  7. Principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
  8. Human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  9. Forensic principles, practices, procedures and techniques used to prepare, examine, analyze and identify evidence.
  10. Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.


Note: The technical and functional abilities listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Medical Examiners commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the abilities listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

The Ability to:

  1. Combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  2. Communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  3. Keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  4. Tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  5. Quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  6. See details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  7. Read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  8. Listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  9. Speak clearly so others can understand you.
  10. Arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).


Note:  The following is a list of sample tasks typically performed by Medical Examiners.  Employees in this occupation will not necessarily perform all of the tasks listed. 

  1. Investigate sudden and unnatural deaths.
  2. Perform forensic medicine and pathology consultations.
  3. Counsel families regarding manner and cause of death.
  4. Act as a resource for forensic pathology and general forensic science information.
  5. Testify in court to facts and conclusions disclosed by autopsies performed by the examiner, or as directed or in the presence of the examiner.
  6.  Make physical examinations and tests incident to any matter of a criminal nature up for consideration before either court or district attorney when requested to do so.
  7. Perform such other duties of a pathological or medicolegal nature as may be required.
  8. Serve subpoenas requiring the attendance of witnesses at any inquest to be held by such medical examiner, or other order or writs.


Like people, occupations have traits or characteristics.  These characteristics give important clues about the nature of the work and work environment, and give you an opportunity to match your own personal interests to a specific occupation.  When you choose a job in an occupation that matches your own interests you have taken an important step in planning a successful and rewarding career.

The Physician occupation has Investigative, Social, Enterprising, and Realistic characteristics as described below:

Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Enterprising — Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


It is nationally recognized that physician services is a health field career and is regulated to ensure competent delivery of health care services to citizens. Therefore professional standards and competencies including licensure are expected.

The Department of Labor provides the following information:

All States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories license physicians. To be licensed, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school, pass a licensing examination, and complete 1 to 7 years of graduate medical education. Although physicians licensed in one State usually can get a license to practice in another without further examination, some States limit reciprocity. Graduates of foreign medical schools generally can qualify for licensure after passing an examination and completing an U.S. residency.

M.D.s and D.O.s seeking board certification in a specialty may spend up to 7 years in residency training, depending on the specialty. A final examination immediately after residency or after 1 or 2 years of practice also is necessary for certification by the American Board of Medical Specialists or the American Osteopathic Association. There are 24 specialty boards, ranging from allergy and immunology to urology. For certification in a subspecialty, physicians usually need another 1 to 2 years of residency.

The Virginia Board of Medicine provides requirements for licensure and continuing competency for this occupation. Licensing information for Physician can be found on the Department of Health Professions' web site at

The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) licenses Medical Examiners.


A Medical Examiner is a physician with particular expertise in investigating violent, sudden and unexpected, suspicious or unattended deaths. These type deaths include homicides, suicides, accidents, unexplained, SIDS, and unattended deaths. The legal purpose of the Medical Examiner is to protect the public health and legal requirements of a locality or state.

The Medical Examiner is a licensed physician with Pathologic Forensic Training. The Medical Examiner must be certified in Forensic Medicine, and experienced in the Forensic Sciences.

The National Association of Medical Examiners and the American Academy Forensic Sciences are two organizations that offer specialized training for medical examiners.

The National Association of Medical Examiners provides the following information:

A pathologist is a physician trained in the medical specialty of pathology. Pathology is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis of disease and causes of death by means of laboratory examination of body fluids (clinical pathology) cell samples, (cytology) and tissues (pathologic anatomy).

The forensic pathologist is a subspecialist in pathology whose area of special competence is the examination of persons who die sudden, unexpected or violent death. The forensic pathologist is an expert in determining cause and manner of death.  The forensic pathologist is specially trained: to perform autopsies to determine the presence or absence of disease, injury or poisoning; to evaluate historical and law-enforcement investigative information relating to manner of death; to collect medical evidence, such as trace evidence and secretions, to document sexual assault; and to reconstruct how a person received injuries.  Forensic pathologists are trained in multiple non medical sciences as well as traditional medicine.  Other areas of science that the forensic pathologist must have a working knowledge of the applicability of are toxicology, firearms examination (wound ballistics), trace evidence, forensic serology and DNA technology.  The forensic pathologist acts as the case coordinator for the medical and forensic scientific assessment of a given death, making sure that the appropriate procedures and evidence collection techniques are applied to the body. 

When forensic pathologists are employed as death investigators they bring their expertise to bear upon the interpretation of the scene of death, in the assessment of the consistency of witnesses statements with injuries, and the interpretation of injury patterns or patterned injuries.  In jurisdictions where there are medical examiner systems, forensic pathologists are usually employed to perform autopsies to determine cause of death.

Steps required to become a forensic pathologist follow:

  1. After high school the future forensic pathologist attends college for 4 years and receives a bachelors degree.
  2. After undergraduate school the aspiring forensic pathologist spends 4 years in medical school, earning a M.D. or D.O. degree.
  3. After medical school there are several routes by which one may become a forensic pathologist.  One may spend 5 years training in anatomic & clinical pathology followed by 1 year of residency or fellowship in forensic pathology.  A second option is to train for 4 years in anatomic pathology and train for 1 year in forensic pathology.  The residency training in forensic pathology involves practical (On-the-job) experience supervised by trained forensic pathologist.  The forensic pathology resident actually performs autopsies and participates in death investigation.  To become certified, one then must pass an examination given by the American Board of Pathology certifying special competence in forensic pathology. Forensic pathologists practice medicine in the finest tradition of preventive medicine and public health by making the study of the dead benefit the living.

According to the Virginia Area Health Education Centers Programs Virginia's three medical schools (Eastern Virginia Medical School, University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University) all offer the M.D. degree.

The Medical Examiner's Office is committed to providing continuing education in the most current forensic investigative techniques and procedures to localities' medical examiners and their deputies.


Competencies are a set of identified behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that directly and positively impact the success of employees and the organization. Competencies can be observed and measured.  When consistently demonstrated, competencies make employees particularly effective in their work.  Competencies help lay out a road map to career success.  You can use the Commonwealth Competencies to help improve your individual performance by adopting behaviors that make high performing employees successful in their jobs. In this way, you can use the Commonwealth Competencies for your further professional development.

The Commonwealth Competencies are:

  1. Technical and Functional Expertise
  2. Understanding the Business     
  3. Achieving Results
  4. Serving the Customer
  5. Teamwork
  6. Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  7. Leadership and Personal Effectiveness

The above competencies may be applied to employees throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They can be rank-ordered by agencies and hiring managers to represent the needs of a specific job.  The rank ordering will change depending upon the occupation, an organization's priorities, the actual job requirements, and the supervisor's preferences. 

Career success is both about what you do (applying your technical knowledge, skills, and ability) and how you do it (the consistent behaviors you demonstrate and choose to use) while interacting and communicating with others.  Hopefully, by studying the Commonwealth competencies, identifying your developmental opportunities, and working to refine your own competence, you can take charge of your career!

For additional information about the Commonwealth Competencies go to:  For the competencies, we first list the competencies and then define each.  Finally, we list competency indicators; to describe what successful performance looks like. 


Career opportunities in the Commonwealth are not limited to moving “up” to the next highest role and pay band, changing positions, or to becoming a supervisor.  That's because most roles describe a broad group of occupationally related positions that perform a range of work that requires increased knowledge and skills.  For that reason, Commonwealth roles describe the career paths within the same or higher-level role for the same or different Career Group.  The broad salary range and the Commonwealth's pay practices provide flexibility in recognizing career development and advancement. (Salary Structure)

For example: Physician








Physician II



Physician Manager I



Physician Manager II


Sample Career Path

Physician II

The Physician II role provides a career track for assistant medical examiners that provide administrative and pathology assistance to the Chief Medical Examiner.

Physician Manager I

The Physician Manager I role provides career tracks for physicians that direct one or more statewide health programs or a variety of health programs for a district or region. Positions in this role ensure that policies, procedures, and outcomes of health care activities comply with regulatory, legal, and medical standards.

Physician Manager II

The Physician Manager II role provides career tracks for Chief Physicians who are medical facility directors providing overall medical, administrative, and clinical direction for a state residential or medical facility; or medical directors overseeing medical care for a state medical facility or a statewide health system; or the administrator and medical consultant to a statewide medical regulatory board; or Commonwealth's Medical Examiner.


O*NET (Occupational Information Network)

Virginia Employment Commission

Career One Stop

Virginia Career Resource Network

Professional Organizations

Medical Society of Virginia

American Osteopathic Association

American Medical Association

American Association of College of Osteopathic Medicine