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Registry Certification (basic)

The Registry certification is the initial certification that provides official recognition that an individual has acquired basic knowledge and demonstrated proficiency in the standards of practice necessary to properly conduct a competent, thorough medicolegal death investigation. Registry certification has two tracks: Diplomate and Associate.


  1. Must be at least eighteen years of age at time of application.
  2. Must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  3. Must currently be employed by a Medical Examiner/Coroner jurisdiction or equivalent federal authority and have the experience and responsibility to independently conduct medicolegal death investigations or supervise such investigations at time of application and examination.
  4. Applicants shall have experience conducting medicolegal death investigations.
    • For applicants to “independently conduct a medicolegal death investigation” refers to the death investigator completing an investigative report and facets of a medicolegal death investigation, other than scene investigation.
    • For applicants to “supervise such investigations” means that the applicant must have prior experience independently conducting medicolegal death investigations, as referenced above.
    • For applicants to “independently conduct a medicolegal death scene investigation,” refers to the death investigator performing medicolegal death scene investigations in person on location at the death scene. This includes but is not limited to, completing a body examination (e.g., document injuries and personally assess postmortem changes), photographing the scene, completing an investigative report, etc.
    • For applicants to “supervise such investigations” means that the applicant must have prior experience independently conducting medicolegal death scene investigations, as referenced in this document.
  5. 640 points are required and the activity must have been completed within five years of the date of application submission.
    • Employment Experience (Minimum 384 points required, may be used for all 640 points.)
      • Full or part time employment
        • One (1) hour is equivalent to one (1) point.
      • On call employment
        • Each on-call hour = 0.25 points (Maximum 100 points)
        • Investigation of a natural death, no scene investigation = 1 point
        • Investigation of non-natural death, no scene investigation = 2.5 points
        • Investigation of a death with scene investigation = 5 points (For Diplomate a MINIMUM of 100 points are required.)
        • Secondary investigator or intern at the scene = 2.5 points (Maximum points = 100 points)
    • If you do not have the 640 points in employment experience, the following categories may be used for points:
      • Advanced Degree
      • Education/Training
      • Viewing Forensic Autopsies

DISCLAIMER: Currently, the ABMDI does not endorse any program that claims to fulfill the requirements of certification or prepare an individual for the certification exam.

Application Requirements

Application requests must be submitted through the ABMDI website. Application requests MUST be completed in one sitting. The $50 non-refundable application fee is required to start the application process.

Information Needed to Complete the Application Request:

  1. Basic Demographic information to include name, address, contact information, employment information, etc.
  2. Name and email of the person to complete your Employment Verification Form verifying 640 points, scene experience and current employment in a Medical Examiner or Coroner office with the primary responsibility of conducting medicolegal death investigations.
  3. Name and email of the person to complete your Professional Reference form.
  4. Name and email of your trainer who will sign off on the Fundamental Tasks of Medicolegal Death Investigation.

All application materials must be returned properly in order to be approved to sit for the examination.

Note: Applicants who begin the process within one jurisdiction and subsequently move to another, must provide an employment verification form from each jurisdiction indicating the length of employment.

There is an 18 month time limit to complete the application process and sit for the exam and any retests, if needed. There is a "wait-time" of 30 days between test and retest. If, after 18 months, you have not completed all application requirements or testing, your file will default and your application fee will be forfeited. You will then have to reapply and pay the application fee in order to start the process again.

Experience/ Points

For the 640 points, if all points are not in experience you can use the following documents to submit alternative points:

Application Process Worksheet

Autopsy Review Submission Form

Education Submission Form

Employment Submission Form

Degree Submission Form

Points Summary Form

Fundamental Tasks of Medicolegal Death Investigation

Fundamental Tasks of Medicolegal Death Investigation

Medicolegal Death Investigators have standards of practice that require performance of specialized, technical skills, e.g., initial body examination at the scene, drawing postmortem specimens for analysis, etc. There are many specialized procedures that are fundamental and are necessary to perform a thorough medicolegal death investigation. Proof that an individual is experienced in correctly performing these tasks is required to show his/her competency. Successful performance of all 40 tasks identified in the list must be verified in writing by a competent practitioner working in the field who has personal knowledge that the applicant can perform the task independently and correctly.

You may have as many people as necessary sign off on the list showing that you have completed the tasks. You must also go through hands-on training to complete the tasklist, for example:

  • Actual death scene field work experience including body evaluation at the death scene and producing appropriately documented reports of death
  • Autopsy lab including body evaluation and drawing specimens
  • Role-play (creating scenarios that address training issues including mock scenes, etc.)
  • Other forensic lab work involving anthropology, odontology, postmortem evaluation, medical record review, etc.

(NOTE: It is understood that some jurisdictions do not perform certain identified tasks due to statute, policy or procedure. However, that does not preclude an applicant from receiving appropriate training in that area. If such issues arise, the applicant is encouraged to contact ABMDI for direction to determine how to best satisfy those specific requirements.)

Registry Examination

The scope of knowledge for the Registry exam is defined in the National Institutes of Justice publication Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator and further defined in the Fundamental Tasks of Medicolegal Death Investigation.

For an online practice test to familiarize yourself with the testing platform, you can visit: Sample ABMDI Registry Exam.

The 240 multiple choice examination covers factual knowledge, technical information, and understanding the principles and problem-solving abilities related to the profession. The examination is divided into 7 sections as outlined in the tasklist. You have up to 4 hours to complete all 7 sections, which are:

  1. Interagency Communication
  2. Communication with Families
  3. Scene Response and Documentation
  4. Body Assessment and Documentation
  5. Completing the Investigation
  6. Additional Medicolegal Death Investigator Duties
  7. Forensic and Medical Knowledge

Successful Completion of the Registry Examination

Once you have passed the Registry examination, you become an Associate (A-ABMDI) or Diplomate of the ABMDI (D-ABMDI). Certificants are issued a certification number.

Registry Certification Fees

  • Non-refundable Application Fee: $50
  • Non-refundable Examination Fee: $350
  • After certification, yearly maintenance fee: $50

The ABMDI accepts Master Card, Visa, American Express, money orders and personal checks. Fees must be paid in U.S. dollars.

The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators complies with federal and state disability laws and makes reasonable accommodations for applicants with documented disabilities.