How to become a coroner's officer: Bryony's story

Meet Bryony. She's 26 and from Hampshire. Find out about her job as a coroner's officer. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"I always wanted to speak to people and help people and provide a social service."

How would you describe your job?

We investigate deaths on the behalf of the coroner and answer specific questions about the identity of somebody who has died. Under circumstances where a death occurs unnaturally or the identity of a person is unknown, the incident would be referred to a coroner.

What are your day-to-day tasks?

We receive referrals from either hospitals or the police. We answer any questions the family might have, we manage inquest hearings and sometimes carry out visual identifications with families.

What skills do you use for your work?

I need to have good listening, speaking and writing skills and be able to explain things in different forms of correspondence.

I have to be able to understand medical reports as we read a lot of them, for example when researching different medical conditions.

Time management and dealing with things as efficiently as you can to reduce the stress to families is vital. This helps to manage the expectations of the families.

"Empathy is part and parcel of the job. Being confident enough to take a lead is important as well as being approachable."

What subjects do you draw on from schools?

I have drawn on Religious Studies which has helped my understanding of people’s cultures and backgrounds and how that affects their interaction with our service.

I also draw on Sociology, Cultural Studies and similar subjects I did at college and university, because we deal with families at such a sensitive time. London is so diverse, and you are dealing with a lot of different cultures on a regular basis.

Top tips

  • If you don't know what you want to do, choose subjects that you love doing. There will always be something for you to do

  • Think about what you are good at too. Doing this helped open up a lot of choices for me.

What to expect if you want to become a coroner's officer

Bryony is currently a coroner's officer for the City of London Corporation.

Coroners look into deaths from unnatural or unknown causes, or those that have happened suddenly or in prison, or police custody.

In England and Wales, each local authority has a coroner, a coroner's office and a Court.

Each coroner has an individual team of staff including coroner's officers and assistant coroners.

Bryony would need to complete a law degree and then practise as a qualified solicitor or lawyer for five years to work her way up to being an assistant coroner or coroner.

  • Coroner salary: £85,000 to £115,000 per year
  • Coroner working hours: 36 to 38 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be a coroner's officer?

Local authorities appoint coroners and assistant coroners, with the consent of the Chief Coroner and the Lord Chancellor.

This information is a guide (source: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

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