The Forensic Science Society only has a very few members who are forensic pathologists, that is to say doctors whose primary job is to carry out post mortem examinations as part of a criminal investigation. All forensic pathologists in the United Kingdom are doctors, that is to say they are medically qualified. In the US a few are osteopathic physicians with the DO rather than a MD or equivalent qualification. Thus the first stage in becoming a forensic pathologist is to train as a doctor. This means getting into medical school, which in turn requires excellent GCSE and A level grades, as well as convincing a medical school admission board that you have what it takes to survive a long and arduous undergraduate and post graduate training.
Many Forensic pathologists whilst in medical school, take a year out for specialised study, eventually graduating with an Honours BSc as well as MB, ChB, MB, BS or MB, BChir. This means a total of 6 years as an undergraduate student.
All British medical graduates have to work as pre-registration house officers in hospital for a year after graduation from medical school. After this they can look for a training post in histopathology, although many whose intention is to be forensic pathologists will spend a year or two in different specialities acquiring relevant experience. For example, they might do 6 months as a Senior House Officer in Accident and Emergency Medicine and/or 6 months in paediatrics working with children.
Next there comes training as a histopathologist. This takes 5 years. Whilst there is a specialised final examination in forensic pathology set by the Royal College of Pathologists, most forensic pathologists take their final examination in histopathology rather than forensic pathology. Apart from a very few university lecturers in forensic pathology most trainees will only have at most some 6 weeks exposure to forensic pathology in this part of their training. Once the trainee has passed their final examination in histopathology, and obtained their certificate of completion of specialist training, they are eligible for appointment as a Consultant histopathologist in the National Health Service. At present there is a gross shortage of histopathologists, and a competent trainee will have no difficulty in getting a job on qualification.
This is the point at which many ambitions to become a forensic pathologist flounder in the shoals of service work and the demands of a family. However, a few histopathologists will go on to acquire the additional training needed to be come a forensic pathologist.
The final hurdle is to become a Consultant pathologist to the Home Office. This requires the trainee, now usually approaching or into his or her thirties to acquire appropriate experience, which involves a secondment of at least 6 months to an academic department of forensic pathology and to pass yet another examination, either the Diploma in Forensic Pathology of the Royal College of Pathologists, or the Diploma in Medical Jurisprudence (DMJ(Path)) of the Society of Apothecaries. There are also interview boards to be passed.
So in order to become a forensic pathologist you will need to get excellent examination results in secondary school, spend 5 or 6 years at university, next spend somewhere between 1 to 3 years practising clinical medicine and then spend 5 or more years training as a histopathologist. Then, after getting experience in general pathology at consultant level, you will have to spend about 2 years in further part time training and then take and pass more examinations to finally become a forensic pathologist.