A coroner investigator is a law enforcement officer who works with a team of people to determine the cause of death in situations where a death is deemed suspicious. Coroner investigators work under the supervision of a coroner, also known as a medical examiner. People can enter this law enforcement profession from a number of different angles, including experience in the medical profession, experience as a law enforcement officer, or training in criminal justice.
While the medical examiner performs the actual autopsy on the body, the investigator examines the body and the scene of the crime to gather information which may be relevant. He or she helps to move the body and may participate in the autopsy as well. In addition, the investigator takes charge of physical evidence, including the personal belongings of the deceased and samples taken from the deceased, making sure that this evidence is properly cataloged and handled. Coroner investigators are also involved in disposition or release of the body once the coroner's investigation has been concluded.
These law enforcement professionals may take photographs of the body and the scene where the body was found, in addition to writing a formal report on the progress of the investigation. Coroner investigators also conduct interviews which are designed to provide insight into the circumstances of a death, and may handle paperwork on behalf of the coroner. They can also be involved in the process of identifying the decedent, contacting next of kin, and handling press inquiries, depending on the organization in the coroner's office they work for.
Medical professionals such as paramedics and nurses can become a coroner investigator by applying for a job opening, taking a short course to become familiar with law enforcement protocol, and taking an exam to demonstrate their proficiency. Law enforcement officers who are interested in careers in this field can follow a similar route, as can people with degrees in criminal justice.
Certain tasks are limited by law to the medical examiner, but a coroner investigator can have a range of responsibilities and pursue a variety of interests. These professionals are encouraged to attend workshops and conferences dealing with topics which may be of relevance to investigation. Salary depends on the level of experience and grade; the job usually starts at a low grade or class, working his or her way up the ranks to a senior position.