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Forensic Sculptor: Job Description, Duties and Training Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a forensic sculptor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Although there is no set postsecondary program specifically for forensic sculptors, those interested in pursuing a career in this field can learn the art of sculpting by completing a fine arts degree. They can also take training programs for forensic artists through the International Association of Identification.

Essential Information

Forensic sculptors combine artistic talents with knowledge of anatomy to assist law enforcement in identification. Sculptors might perform facial reconstructions on unidentified remains or use age-progression techniques to develop busts of missing persons. Prospective forensic sculptors should pursue an education in sculpture, as well as a certification for forensic artists.

Required Education No specific requirements, though candidates should pursue an education in sculpture
Other Requirements Certification for forensic artists through International Association of Identification, developed portfolio and completion of training and workshops
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for fine artists, 27% for forensic science technicians
Median Salary (2015)* $46,460 for fine artists, $56,320 for forensic science technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Forensic Sculptor

Forensic sculptors use human remains to develop 3-dimensional reconstructions of human faces. Artists working with law enforcement also analyze materials found at crime scenes, such as personal belongings, to create accurate reconstructions.

Forensic Sculptor Duties

Forensic sculptors analyze the remains, clothing and scene of a crime for information about the victim. Clothing, hair and accessories help forensic sculptors determine the age, race and sex of the individual. Information on age and race provide sculptors with the information needed to determine the thickness of facial tissue, contours of the face and shape of the eyes when reconstructing an individual's face. Sculptors add markers to the skull to indicate the depth of clay to add. Some forensic sculptors reconstruct the facial muscles beneath the surface of the clay skin to create a realistic depiction of the unidentified remains. Artists must make educated guesses for features such as eye color and skin tone based on information gleaned from the remains, such as hair.

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Training for Forensic Sculptors

Degree programs for aspiring forensic sculptors don't exist, but students can pursue an education in art to learn sculpting techniques. Forensic sculptors offer workshops and classes for student's training for a career in forensic art. The International Association of Identification endorses workshops and training programs for forensic artists.

The International Association of Identification offers certification for forensic artists. Individuals can pursue one of three certifications as forensic artists, including facial reconstruction, composite imaging and image enhancement. Forensic sculptors should have knowledge in all three of these areas when applying for certification in facial reconstruction. In addition, individuals must complete forensic art training classes and workshops, have experience providing forensic art services for law enforcement agencies and provide a portfolio of 30 cases that includes facial reconstructions, composite images and age progressions.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Based on 2015 statistics, fine artists, including sculptors, earned an annual median salary of $46,460, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also predicted slower than average employment growth of 3% for fine artists in general from 2014-2024. According to the BLS, expected job growth during that time was 27% for forensic science technicians. The annual median salary for those technicians was $56,320 in 2015, the BLS reported.

Forensic artists may reconstruct a face from remains, or use techniques to project what an individual would look like after a certain period of time has passed. These skills are utilized by law enforcement when trying to identify remains or to determine what a missing person may look like. Training for this career may include standalone workshops and classes in forensic art, postsecondary art degree programs or professional certifications for those with some related experience.

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