The work of coroners can help to bring peace and closure to those who are grieving. Find out the steps needed to become a coroner with our comprehensive guide. 

What does a coroner do?

Coroners are independent judicial officers who are appointed by the Crown. Their job is to investigate unexplained deaths, violent deaths or deaths where there is reason to believe that the cause wasn’t natural. 

Each death needs to be investigated in an appropriate way. This could be through consulting a doctor or requesting a post-mortem examination. In some cases, a coroner may decide to hold an inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death.

The main tasks carried out by coroners include:

  • Collecting evidence and details about deaths
  • Working out the cause of death by analysing all the evidence and facts
  • Ordering post-mortem exams
  • Holding inquests into deaths
  • Notifying the registrar about deaths 
  • Writing reports and making recommendations

What skills are needed to become a coroner?

Coroners play a very important role in society and their work can be emotionally demanding. For this reason, they need a few key skills and qualities to be good at what they do.

These skills and qualities include:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • A strong attention to detail
  • An ability to think critically and logically
  • Excellent organisational skills
  • An ability to work both independently and as a team
  • An empathetic and understanding personality
  • An ability to cope with distressing situations 
  • Strong knowledge of the legal system and government regulations

What qualifications are needed to become a coroner?

If you want to become a coroner, you’ll first need to be an assistant corner. Assistant corners work part-time and have the same powers as a senior coroner when it comes to investigating deaths or holding inquests. 

Before applying to become an assistant coroner, you’ll need at least five years of experience as either a qualified barrister, solicitor or Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives(1)

You can become a solicitor by completing an undergraduate degree in any subject, doing a five to six year apprenticeship or working within a legal firm whilst completing a level 6 professional diploma in higher law and practice. You’ll also need to pass part one and two of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)(2) and complete two years of qualifying work experience.

Alternatively, you can work as a barrister after completing an undergraduate degree in law, gaining a graduate diploma in law or working in a law firm whilst completing a level 6 professional higher diploma in law. Along with this, you’ll also be required to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)(3) and a year of practical training.

“You’re providing a service to a family and if you’re able to focus on that, that does help mitigate against that emotional impact.”

Matt Brown(4)

Steps to become a coroner

There are a few different steps you’ll need to take before beginning your career as a coroner.

Step 1: Gain the correct qualifications

As previously mentioned, you’ll need to gain the relevant qualifications to become  a barrister or solicitor before embarking on your journey to work as a coroner. 

The first step is to decide whether you would prefer to attend university or whether you’d benefit from a more hands-on approach. Both university and apprenticeships will often require you to have two to three A-Levels, although this isn’t always the case.

If you’re looking to study law at university, you may be required to pass the Law National Aptitude Test(5) (LNAT) first. 

Step 2: Complete the necessary exams and training courses 

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is a single assessment that aspiring solicitors need to pass. The assessment is split into two parts, the first focusing on practical legal knowledge and the second on practical legal skills.

On the other hand, aspiring barristers need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course. This is a postgraduate course which allows students to prepare for a career at the Bar. 

Step 2: Become a barrister, solicitor or fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

You’ll then need to gain five years of experience as a solicitor, barrier or Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. 

The Law Society(6) and Bar Council(7) are both useful industry bodies to join for finding training industries. You’ll also find a variety of job opportunities listed online.

Step 3: Apply to become an assistant coroner

Once you’ve completed your five years of experience within the legal field, you’ll be able to apply to become an assistant coroner. In most cases, you’ll be expected to complete a written personal statement and a CV before being selected to attend an interview.

Vacancies for assistant corners can be found on the Coroners’ Society of England and Wales(8) website. 

Step 4: Secure a job as a coroner

After working as an assistant coroner and developing the skills required, you’ll be able to progress to the position of coroner. 

Any vacancies can again be found through the Coroners’ Society of England and Wales website.

How much does a coroner earn in the UK?

Coroners typically earn between £85,000 and £135,000(9). However, this will vary depending on location and your salary will typically rise as you gain experience. 

Related occupations 

Occupations related to the role of a coroner include: