How to Become a Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic Anthropologist Job Description and Common Tasks

forensic anthropologistThe primary task of a forensic anthropologist is to gather and interpret evidence to assist in the identification of and cause of death for human remains. As such, forensic anthropology is frequently considered a career within the field of criminal justice. Forensic anthropologists are deeply involved in the legal system as they are increasingly called upon to testify in court as expert witnesses, and may do so even for cases on which they are not working, but have reviewed. The daily work of forensic anthropologists is highly varied, but most spend much of their time in the laboratory, examining direct evidence and remains through observation, X-ray analysis, and other technological means, as well as checking dental and medical records. They may also assist in recovering bodies from the scenes, crime or otherwise, where they are located.

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How to Become a Forensic Anthropologist

Since forensic anthropologists must thoroughly understand human anatomy, archaeology, and aspects of many other scientific disciplines, to become a forensic anthropologist, a doctoral degree is required by most employers. Many pursuing a career as a forensic anthropologist also choose to acquire career certifications to supplement their expertise, such as through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. However, with a bachelor’s degree in forensics it is possible to start a career as a forensic science technician while pursuing the further education required for a career in forensic anthropology.

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Career Opportunities and Employers

Forensic anthropology is a specialized discipline, but there are many organizations seeking the services of forensic anthropologists. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Laboratory Division added forensic anthropology as a service in 2010, through which it provides field and laboratory analysis and assistance to FBI units and other law enforcement agencies. Forensic anthropologists employed by the FBI are considered professional staff, and are granted access to the most advanced technologies and equipment available to work on the FBI’s most challenging cases. Openings at the FBI’s headquarters and field offices are frequently posted. Museums and research institutions frequently hire forensic anthropologists to examine and catalogue important collections, and sometimes to analyze and acquire new specimens. The Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Anthropology is one of the most widely known and respected anthropology centers in the US. The Smithsonian’s staff of anthropologists has been involved in assisting law enforcement investigations for over one hundred years. Its collection of human comparative skeletons is one of the largest in the world, with over 30,000 sets.1 Fellowship opportunities are posted on the Smithsonian’s opportunity page. Forensic anthropologists might also consider a career as a professor of forensic anthropology. The faculty of the Department of Anthropology at The University of Tennessee Knoxville are active in the field of anthropology and connected with other highly respected institutions. Through the Forensic Anthropology Center, the department also offers courses to professionals from diverse fields as well as graduate student research opportunities.

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Forensic Anthropologist Salary and Job Outlook

While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track forensic anthropology as an individual discipline, it does track forensic science technicians, among whom entry level forensic anthropologists may be included. The BLS forecasts strong growth for the field of forensic science, with an increase in career opportunities of 19% between 2010 and 2020 anticipated.2 The BLS further reports that the average salary of a forensic science technician is $51,570 per year.3 According to O*Net Online, part of the American Job Center Network, anthropologists make an average salary of $56,070 per year.4 Professors of anthropology have even greater earnings potential, at $75,460 per year.5

Forensic Scientist Career Related Degrees from Accredited Schools

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American InterContinental University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice - Forensic Science

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Walden University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • M.S. in Criminal Justice Leadership & Executive Management - General Program
  • B.S. in Human Services - Criminal Justice 
  • Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration - Criminal Justice

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Keiser University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Criminal Justice, BA
  • Criminal Justice, AA

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Capella University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • PhD - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

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Grand Canyon University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • B.S. in Justice Studies

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Colorado Technical University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Human Services
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice

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Keiser University Graduate School
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Criminal Justice, MA (Online)


References:
1. The Smithsonian: http://anthropology.si.edu/writteninbone/forensic_anthro_smithsonian.html
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
4. ONet Online: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3091.01
5. ONet Online: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1061.00
6. Klepinger, Linda L. Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2006. Print.
7. Rhine, Stanley. Bone Voyage: A Journey in Forensic Anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1998. Print.
8. Warren, Michael W., Heather A. Walsh-Haney and Laurel E. Freas, eds. The Forensic Anthropology Laboratory. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 2008. Print.

Page Edited by Charles Sipe