Forensic anthropology is an applied discipline based on the fundamentals of osteology - the study of bones - and biology. Its chief purpose is to analyze retrieved skeletal remains and provide information that helps solve crimes
Degree programs in forensic anthropology are difficult to come by. Students interested in this field generally follow a degree track consisting of a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in anthropology, each with a concentration in forensic anthropology. Graduates with either degree have opportunities in the field, although most bachelor's degree holders go on to pursue a master's degree in order to gain more career options.
Prerequisites for a 4-year bachelor's degree are a high school diploma or equivalent. A bachelor's degree in anthropology is required for a master's degree. Some colleges require students to have a familiarity with quantitative research methods.
Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology
A BA in Anthropology degree can include a concentration in forensic anthropology. Programs featuring this line of study provide courses such as forensic anthropology and human paleontology, as well as delving into facets of the criminal justice system and criminology. Courses in cultural anthropology, prehistoric archaeology and origins of humans are often required.
A forensic anthropology program can include elements of chemistry, criminology, geology, psychology and archaeology. Specific coursework may include:
- Forensic anthropology principles
- Mortuary archaeology
- Human osteology
- Human paleontology
- Evolution of primates
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Master's Degree in Anthropology
Similar to an anthropology BA program, an MA in Anthropology can include a concentration in forensic anthropology. While most programs are intensive in the arts, an MS in Anthropology is available as well. In general, a master's degree in anthropology with a concentration in forensic anthropology can prepare students for professional employment in government, law enforcement, and community college teaching positions. Students may be expected to complete a thesis.
Students must have a bachelor's degree prior to entering into this program. Students may be required to take background courses such as forensic anthropology, osteology, statistics and theory of archaeology. In general, if these courses are not taken at the undergraduate level, they must be taken at the graduate level.
Coursework in this degree program may include elements of archaeology, biology and crime scene investigation, along with research design and statistics. Specific coursework involves:
- Techniques of archaeological research
- Forensic pathology
- Evidence interpretation
- Analysis and theory of anthropology
- Testimony of a judicial expert
Popular Career Options
Individuals holding a bachelor's degree in forensic anthropology generally pursue graduate degrees prior to entering the job market. However, students who have graduated with a bachelor's degree may go on to work in:
- Local, national and international non-profit organizations
- Corporate health organizations
- Physical anthropology laboratories
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduates of an MA degree program may be able to pursue a variety of careers. Areas of employment include private crime laboratories, government crime laboratories, medical examiner offices, academic institutions and state or federal bureaus of investigation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, anthropologists and archaeologists earned median salaries of $61,220 as of 2015.
While a bachelor's degree in forensic anthropology is not a common offering, students can major in anthropology with a forensic concentration. A BA can lead to rewarding careers with museums and in law enforcement, but usually it leads to a master's program in forensic anthropology. With an MA, students can become anthropologists who specialize in forensics.