Online Degrees in Forensic Anthropology: Program Overviews

Dec 03, 2019

Research online forensic anthropology courses and programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

Essential Information

Forensic anthropology degree programs are offered at the graduate level, but they aren't available in an online format. Students who want to pursue this field specifically will need to look into on-campus programs, which include practical training but may include at least a few courses online.

Students who would like to study forensics more generally and whose schedules require them to complete an online program may complete a master's degree program in forensic science through distance learning. Such programs may be offered in a hybrid format or 100% online. Although these programs include training on similar topics, like genetics, entomology and even forensic anthropology techniques, they do not prepare graduates for the title of forensic anthropologist. Also, undergraduate online forensic science certificate programs may be available, and anthropology majors could consider one of these programs to complement their studies.

Forensic Studies Certificate Programs

Forensic anthropology is a subspecialty of physical or biological anthropology focused on the analysis of human remains in criminal or humanitarian contexts. While some online courses in forensic anthropology are available, the subject matter necessitates hands-on study and experience. Anthropology majors enrolled in on-campus programs may elect to earn an online certificate in forensic studies for professional development or in preparation for advanced work.

Program Information and Requirements

The certificate may be completed online in less than a year and includes courses in forensic science in addition to electives in science, communication and ethics. Web resources include study guides, streaming videos, audio broadcasts and articles.

Common Courses

Forensic studies are interdisciplinary and draw on related coursework in criminal justice and from the natural and social sciences. Effective communication and documentation skills are necessary for success in the field. Ethical considerations of the field are also reviewed.

Forensic Science

In this class, the theories and scientific techniques for identifying and investigating crime scenes are reviewed. Methods in scientific recovery and analysis of biological and environmental evidence are covered.

Forensic Technology

Technological advances in forensic analysis help scientists analyze and interpret evidence. Breakthroughs in genetic and trace element analysis are discussed in this class on forensic technology.

Master's Degree in Forensic Science

Forensic anthropologists work in the field of forensic science for which online M.S. degree programs are available to post-baccalaureate students. Forensic science training covers not just the analysis of human remains, but other lines of evidence such as entomological, toxicological and genetic clues.

Program Information and Requirements

Programs are available with on-campus components or entirely online. Course exams and comprehensive exams are conducted online. Advisors may be contacted by e-mail. Online access to journals and other e-resources is available through university library systems.

Common Courses

Forensic anthropologists work with a variety of specialists. A basic knowledge of environmental, genetic and pharmaceutical effects on human remains is gained through a broader study of forensic science.

Forensic Anthropology

Highly-illustrated examples are given of the identification and scientific recovery of human remains. Students will learn to differentiate human from animal remains.

Forensic DNA

Methods for extracting and analyzing genetic evidence for the purpose of identification are explained in this class. Technological advances in biological sampling and statistical analysis are reviewed.

Biological Evidence

The conditions of preservation of biological evidence are examined in addition to methods of extraction and analysis. Case studies are presented through streaming video and other online content.

Career Information

Careers in forensic anthropology are highly competitive, even for those holding graduate degrees. Forensic anthropologists may work with police investigators at crime scenes, with medical examiners and coroners at morgues, with archaeologists at burial sites, or as expert legal witnesses in court cases. In 2018, the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was around $58,230 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The median annual salary for anthropologists in May of 2018 was $62,410.

Continuing Education

Graduate degrees in forensic anthropology are available from on-site programs. While not required, the American Board of Forensic Anthropology awards board certification to those who demonstrate mastery of theory and practice. Exams are conducted at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and recertification is given every three years.

Since there are no fully online forensic anthropology programs, students with an interest in the subject could pursue a related online program in forensic science. Options include an online undergraduate certificate and a distance learning master's degree program in forensic science.

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