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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.


  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 scene investigations or supervise such investigations at time of application and examination.
    1. For applicants to "independently conduct a medicolegal death scene investigation," as referenced above, refers to the death investigator performing 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Applicants in reserve positions would not qualify as being currently employed as defined above unless they are currently activated.
  4. Applicants shall have experience as a Medicolegal Death Investigator.
  5. 640 points are required and the activity must have been completed within five years of the date of application submission.
    1. 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
        • Secondary investigator or intern at the scene = 2.5 points (Maximum 100 points)
    If I do not have the full 640 points in employment experience I will use the following categories for points:
    1. Advanced Degree
    2. Education/Training
    3. 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 Process

Applications are available upon receipt of an application request form. The $50 non-refundable application fee must accompany the request form.

Included in the Registry application packet:

  1. Application Form (Code of Ethics included)
  2. Employment Verification Form verifying 640 hours of work experience and current employment in a Medical Examiner/Coroner office or equivalent federal authority with the primary responsibility of death investigation (requires notarization). *this requirement applies to application and examination
  3. Professional Reference form
  4. Performance Training Guidebook Checklist with ABMDI instructions (see below for more details).

In order to be eligible to sit for the Registry exam, the individual must complete the application packet in its entirety. Note: Applicants who begin the process within one jurisdiction and subsequently move to another, must provide a notarized employment verification form from each jurisdiction indicating the length of employment.

Application materials must be completed in their entirety and returned to the ABMDI office at least 30 days prior to the desired examination date.

There is an 18 month time limit to complete the application process and sit for the exam. If, after 18 months, you have not completed all application requirements or tested, your file will become inactive and your application fee will be forfeited. You will be required to reapply and pay the current application fee in order to start the process again.

Performance Training Guidebook Checklist

Copy of Registry Performance Training Checklist in Acrobat Reader-- This is only a copy and should not be sent in with other application materials.

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 300+ tasks identified in the Checklist 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. (The above pdf document shows the 300+ tasks condensed into 52 categories).

You may have as many people as necessary sign off on the Checklist showing that you have completed the tasks. You must also go through hands-on training to complete the checklist, 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.)

When the entire Checklist is completed at an independent level, the back cover should be notarized and returned to the ABMDI office for processing.

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 Performance Training Guidebook Checklist. For an online practice test, you can visit Occupational Research and Assessment.

The 240 multiple choice examination covers factual knowledge, technical information, understanding the principles and problem-solving abilities related to the profession. Exams are offered online. There is an additional fee for paper/pencil format. The examination is divided into eight sections as outlined in the Checklist and in the Medicolegal Death Investigator training text (Clark, Ernst, Jentzen, and Haglund, 1994). This text may be purchased from Occupational Research and Assessment. Examinations are administered at local colleges, universities or approved testing centers through their testing departments. You have up to four hours to complete all eight multiple choice sections, which are:

  1. Interacting with Federal, State and Local Agencies
  2. Communicating
  3. Interacting with Families
  4. Investigating Deaths
  5. Identifying and Preserving Evidence
  6. Maintaining Ethical and Legal Responsibilities
  7. Demonstrating Scientific Knowledge
  8. Coping with Job-Related Stress

Successful Completion of the Registry Examination

Once you have passed the Registry examination, you become a Diplomate of the ABMDI (D-ABMDI). Certificants are issued a certification number that potential employers can ask for verification of certification.

Registry Recertification

In order to continue with certification, the Diplomate must:

  1. Be considered in good standing (current in all fees)
  2. Demonstrate continued competency (completed work verification form or see below)
  3. Reaffirm the Code of Ethics in writing
  4. Provide documentation of 45 hours of approved continuing education in the continuing education folder provided upon successful completion of passing the exam

The ABMDI is accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB), which requires proof of continued competency in order to be recertified. Continued competency can be demonstrated by current employment or by examination. The recertification examination will be required if you are not currently working for a medical examiner/coroner jurisdiction or equivalent federal authority with the responsibility of investigating deaths.

Registry Certification Fees

  • Non-refundable Application Fee: $50
  • Non-refundable online Examination Fee: $350
  • *Paper/pencil format of exam: $50 additional fee
  • 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.

Note: There is an 18 month time limit to complete the application process and sit for the exam. There is a "wait-time" of 30 days between test and retest.

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