‘NCIS: New Orleans’: How Much Would Dr. Loretta Wade Make in Real Life?

We all know actors make good money. It’s fair to say they almost always make a significant amount more than the character they play. CCH Pounder, who plays Dr. Loretta Wade on NCIS: New Orleans has an estimated net worth of $6 million, with an approximate payday of $50,000 per episode. Dr. Wade’s role in helping the NCIS team is vital, but would she make anywhere near her real-life pay if she were an actual city coroner?

How much does a coroner or medical examiner make and what’s the difference between the two jobs?

'NCIS: New Orleans'
Vanessa Ferlito as FBI Special Agent Tammy Gregorio, Shalita Grant as Sonja Percy, and CCH Pounder as Dr. Loretta Wade | Skip Bolen/CBS via Getty Images

Pounder plays the Coronor of Jefferson Parish. Coroners generally make between $48,000 and $72,000, depending on the expertise and location, according to CrimeSceneInvestigator.edu.

That’s not a bad base salary to start and there seems to be room to grow in the field, depending on how important your role is within NCIS, which stands for Naval Criminal Investigation Service.

The major difference between coroners and medical examiners may also determine pay.

“The major differences between coroners and medical examiners are embedded in the manner of their selection by electoral process versus appointment and their professional status,” the National Academy of Medicine explained.

“Coroners are elected lay people who often do not have professional training, whereas medical examiners are appointed and have board-certification in a medical specialty.”

Basically, coroners can be elected or appointed just like sheriffs or funeral home directors. However, a lot of coroners aren’t doctors. Medical examiners are medical doctors, but might not be forensic pathologists trained in a death investigation.

“We rely on the medical examiner, the forensic pathologist, to give us the medical reason the person dies,” 40-year career coroner, Gary Watts, said. “They determine the cause of death from a medical standpoint. We determine the manner of death through an investigative process.”

Dr. Wade, a Harvard graduate, is contracted by NCIS for autopsies and forensics. Because of her level of education and expertise, she likely makes a decent salary.

How much would Dr. Loretta Wade make in real life?

As the coroner of Jefferson Parish, Dr. Wade probably doesn’t make as much as the governor of Lousiana. The actual coroner of Jefferson Parish had a listed annual salary of $72,000 per year. Compare that to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner, Peter Galvan, earned a salary of $199,555 in 2012, according to Fox8Live.

The site also reported that The Orleans Parish coroner — in which the fictional character has been asked on the show to join on multiple occasions — took home $100,000, compared to the New York City chief medical examiner’s $203,000 a year.

It’s safe to say that while there are many factors that go into how much Dr. Loretta Wade might take home every year, she’s going to settle on the high end but it also depends on the size of the jurisdiction. Considering New Orleans is a large space, Dr. Wade had a lot more autopsies and investigations than someone in small-town USA.

According to Chron, someone with Dr. Wade’s expertise and education might earn anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 or higher, because She went to medical school. In some states, such as Connecticut, a chief medical examiner can ear around $317,000, making Dr. Wade’s position in need of a raise.

Could she ever be promoted?

Considering Dr. Wade is contracted by a federal agency, there is room to move up, but only to an extent. If she’s a chief medical examiner, that’s as far as her schooling will take her. Toss in forensics, years on the job, and success record and she’ll make the bank — to an extent.

Federally-funded positions do have a cap, so there’s only so much someone in Dr. Wade’s position can make, no matter how experienced she is.

If she wanted a pay increase, she could move to a higher-paying state such as New York, Connecticut, or California. But then she’d have to weigh the higher expense of living in those areas as well. For now, it looks as though she’s doing all she can to make as much as she can in serving the NCIS: New Orleans team.