Forensic Pathologist Salary: Factors, Subspecialties, and Wealth Strategies

Forensic pathology is a largely unknown but much-needed profession that spans both the medical and forensic fields. Whenever a person dies unexpectedly, it affects society as a whole. Many questions come to mind regarding criminal and civil cases regarding the cause of death. Families also want answers about what happened to their loved ones, and finding out what caused this is a crucial step toward making aggrieved people whole.

As a forensic pathologist, you will invest much time and money in your formal and practical education to master this intuitive, intricate, and detailed discipline. That’s why we have created this comprehensive guide, to provide you with a holistic and reasonable expectation about your desired job field and whether it is right for you.

This guide is not just for aspiring forensic pathologists. If you are currently practicing, you may wonder about career progression. We’ll cover salary, increase compensation, and protect yourself and your loved ones throughout your forsensic pathologist professional career.

Join us as we explore the complex world of forensic pathology.

Average Forensic Pathologist Salary

As with all medical professionals, many factors affect your compensation, and it goes above and beyond your baseline salary. Before considering what factors affect your compensation, look at what you can reasonably expect to earn as a forensic pathologist from well-known salary comparison and employment websites.

According to Payscale, the median salary is $130,422, with the bottom 10% being $68,000 and the top 10th percentile earning $305,000. Of course, this considers base pay, and with additional qualifications and years of experience, you’re more likely to be a top earner. reports the median forensic pathologist salary as $95,648, ranging from $79,891 to $105,462. This is a decrease from the median wage Payscale records but does not offer the percentiles for the range. It is possible that these ranges are for those just entering the field and may provide an expectation of what you can expect during your initial years of training.

The median is $207,500 according to with a range between $94,681 to $237,500. This is a drastic increase from the previous range but aligns with the one recorded from Payscale. It is worth noting that the median reported income is much higher than anyone on the list, meaning that their data may consider a broader range of high earners within the field.

According to, the median is $177,686, with the middle 57% making between $165,030 and $370,043. The median seems to change again, but the range is now defined as the middle 57% earners, which paints a better picture. With some of the highest-paid specialties in the medical field being surgeons, it is not unreasonable to expect a forensic pathologist to be within the listed scope.

The median reported by Glassdoor is $122,620 and ranges between $97,000 and $156,000. The data at Glassdoor falls in between and Payscale. Glassdoor provides salary data and is one of the most frequently-accessed sites for reviews on employment and brand culture.

Factors Affecting Forensic Pathologist Salary

Now that you have learned more about what you can reasonably expect, it is worth noting that the medical field has some of the highest-paid earners in the United States. Some factors can significantly increase your income and reputation and overall compensation in your area, leading to much better opportunities. Here are some of the most critical factors:


Although this may seem obvious, experience is one of the most important considerations (on paper) for any role. Although education and training are essential, the best way an employer, client, or brand knows that you do great work as a forensic pathologist is if you have already been a forensic pathologist for many years.

Experience doesn’t just mean working a job title but covering many cases. For example, if you are well-known for solving specific issues, you’re more likely to be recommended and contacted by a reputable firm since they will believe you will get things done. You can use this leverage to negotiate higher compensation, especially if you are confident you can solve their problem.

Experience can also lead to other interests and specialties, which we will detail in a further point below.

Geographic Location

Where you practice has a considerable effect on not only your earning potential but on the availability and quality of your network and work experience. It is no secret that two people with the same length of experience can have drastically different skills, depending on where they practice.

For example, if a forensic pathologist practices in a smaller area that has no distinct process for handling cases, it can be disorganized, low-volume, and extremely narrow.

Generally, large urban areas are testing grounds for the best people in their field, and those that rise to the top are seen as much more efficient and knowledgeable than others. After all, the adage “large fish, large pond” holds in many regards, especially for professionals. This means that large-volume states such as California, New York, Texas, and Florida are good bets to practice if you do not know exactly where you will land a role.

Though we said that, you should not limit your opportunities if needed. Throughout your career, you may receive a business opportunity in a smaller city or state, and their demand for you may outweigh your earning potential in your current situation. Always look for great career choices that positively impact you and your family.

Relocating? Read this: How Moving Can Help Physicians Pay Off Student Loans

Forensic Pathology Subspecialties

A critical factor to remember after years of experience and geographic considerations is that each field will always have niches and interests that further separate the skills and knowledge of those with similar tenure. Here are some examples of subspecialties that you can explore:

Pediatric Forensic Pathology:

One of the highest-paid specialties is pediatric forensic pathology due to the amount of detail and stress load the job entails. Pediatric forensic pathologists specialize in investigating sudden and inexplicable deaths of adolescents, toddlers, and infants. It is not uncommon to earn upwards of $300,000.

Not only is the determination of a child’s death much more difficult, but it also brings in auxiliary skills- such as working well under pressure, dealing with aggrieved families, and having the emotional strength to not be distressed by the situation.

Forensic Neuropathology:

A forensic neuropathologist may not be as distressing but it is highly intricate and complicated. The brain is the most complex part of the human body, and it requires highly detailed and challenging examination .

Your job in this subspecialty is to determine whether there was a presence of abnormalities, neurological diseases, or injuries and the probability as to whether these results were relevant to the case at hand.

Forensic Toxicology:

A forensic toxicologist has everything to do with intoxicated individuals post-mortem. Your job will be to collect and analyze data, tissues, and bodily fluids to determine whether poison, alcohol, or drugs played a role in the death of the person being investigated.

Forensic Anthropology:

Forensic anthropology can be a popular field due to the display of this role in various shows and movies that involve criminal investigations into death.

As a forensic anthropologist, your job will be to examine any human remains to help identify the individual and assist law enforcement with investigations and disaster victim identification.

Forensic Odontology:

The teeth are tough to destroy and have been an integral part of criminal investigation for a long time. You will use dental records and any leftover evidence to identify individuals as forensic odontologists. Of course, using teeth to identify a suspect or victim is not always the first step in an investigation, and years of study are necessary to pinpoint correctly the required information.

Is There a Gender Wage Gap?

Like all fields, there may be concerns about whether a gender wage gap exists. The medical profession has some stigma, but it isn’t easy to ascertain whether a particular field is fairly compensated. provides some information on the topic. It reports that, on average, women earn 92 cents on the dollar, but this has decreased since 2010. Another interesting thing to note is that this field was once male-dominated, and there are currently more female forensic pathologists than males.

Is There a Demand Concentration?

The forensic pathologist industry is intense and group and solo practices split it. With everything considered, the pathologist industry is concentrated in NH, VT, and WV.

Average Student Loan Debt

Medical students are some of the most indebted people in the country when it comes to education costs. With an average debt of 200,000, it can feel like there is a chokehold on you before you even begin.

While this may seem incredibly daunting, you can make this more manageable in many different ways:

Loan Forgiveness

Going into debt to achieve a well-respected profession is a prevalent thing to do, and it was created so that everyone can have equal access to education. Many practitioners in the medical field are in high demand due to the skills, competition, and training required to reach elite levels.

Depending on your qualifying criteria, you can ask for student loan forgiveness in various ways, such as through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

Student Loan Refinancing

For higher-income earners, the debt itself may not be the primary problem. After some years, depending on where you have accumulated your loans, the interest on your loan payment may be the culprit that is shackling you in your upward trajectory to career success.

In this case, your interest payments could outweigh the repayment of the principal on your loan. The Physicians Thrive Student Loan Refinancing program helps you negotiate a better rate on the amount owed, which can provide more favorable terms that save you money in the long run and grant you peace of mind.

Income-Driven Repayment

Income-Drive Repayment (IDR) is a federal program that limits the amount owing depending on your income. The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) program is one example that helps you negotiate better terms on your debt.

It is generally understood that your highest income generation comes after your initial breakthrough into the field once you have settled into your desired position and specialty. At this point, you can shift most of your payments into higher-earning years, providing some much-needed financial relief to get your career off on a high note.

Read more: The Full Breakdown to Medical School Student Loans

The Best Ways Of Increasing Your Compensation

Suppose you are already in the field or conducting extensive research. In that case, you may seek ways to ensure a higher income or increase your chances of increasing your total compensation. Let’s explore the pros and cons of three popular choices forensic pathologists make:

Start Your Practice

Starting your practice allows you to control your forensic pathologist salary by having complete insight into your revenue and expenses and adjusting accordingly. As a private practice owner, you will have the flexibility to make your own business decisions and to provide ancillary services by partnering with other healthcare providers or medical professionals. (radiology, lab services).

You will also be able to hire your team to help direct most of your focus on income-generating activities.

Of course, there are some challenges. Generally, a private practice takes significant capital to start, as this profession may require specialized equipment and a knowledgeable workforce. It will also test your skills as a forensic pathologist and as a business owner.

Remember that you don’t have to start a private practice right away. It is best first to decide whether this is something you’d like to accomplish and establish a work history and network of professionals beforehand.

If you’re considering opening your own practice, read our guide on How to Start a Medical Practice


A subspecialization is an excellent move as it niches down your services and will help you stand out. While specific subspecialties may increase your income, it could also disqualify you from generalized benefits depending on your reputation.

Conduct market research on the demand for your subspecialty before committing to a particular service.

Negotiate Other Methods of Compensation

Before signing, make sure you fully understand what you are getting. Physicians Thrive can help conduct a professional contract review negotiation to help you get a clear picture of your entire compensation package, including a signing bonus, insurance, merit-based increases, and more.

Building a Retirement Strategy From Your Forensic Pathology Salary

As you climb the professional ladder, you will use your increased forensic pathologist salary to take advantage of retirement accounts and investment opportunities. In addition to the typical 401(k) investment and contribution, you can supplement these accounts with a traditional or Roth individual retirement account (IRA).

Your employer will most likely offer a 401(k) but ask about other options that go above and beyond. Depending on your employment, you may qualify for a 403(b) and any 457 plan if employed by the state or local government.

If you want to start your own practice, consider a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan designed to help you save for retirement as a business owner.

The Importance of Malpractice Insurance

Malpractice is required for many in the medical field, and the forensic pathologist profession is no different. The question isn’t whether you should invest in malpractice insurance but how much. Here are some things to consider when assessing your potential risk and coverage:

Occurrence vs.Claims-Made: You must carefully review the terms of your policy. Occurrence-based coverage provides safety regardless of when a claimant files a claim. This is the opposite of the claims-made policy. This is another advantage of a claims-made policy: you will be covered if a claimant makes a claim during the policy period, regardless of the exact date it occurred.

Tail Insurance: Tail insurance is so-named due to its intrinsic nature. You are extending your reporting endorsement, recommending switching from a claims-made policy to an occurrence-based scenario. It provides coverage if any incidents occur and a claimant reports it after the policy lapses.

Read more: The Physician’s Guide to Malpractice Insurance

Reviewing Your Forensic Pathologist Salary and Insurance

The importance of reviewing your contract cannot be overstated. Looking over your offer is more than just maximizing your income potential. It is also exploring all the rights and privileges that come with it. With a professional contract review, you can likely increase you forensic pathologist salary, which in turn will optimize your retirement. This will help protect your loved ones and reach goals much earlier than expected.

The reality is that your highest-earning years will be during years of advanced seniority. As you get older, so does the likelihood that an illness, disability, or impairment affects your career. While your employer may offer group insurance policies, an individual plan is almost always the better choice. This is due to customization and increased coverage.

With Physicians Thrive, we want to help you earn more and keep more of what you make. Protect yourself and your loved ones today. Then you can focus on what you do best and serve your clients and patients with your finest effort.

Physicians Thrive will help you get the salary you deserve and help you grow wealth. Not only for a comfortable life now, but also into retirement.


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