Combining the science of physical anthropology, which studies biological mechanisms, and the science of osteology, which focuses on the human skeleton, forensic anthropology applies the science to a legal setting. This may involve identification of deceased individuals where the remains are burned, mutilated, or in advances stages of decomposition.
Adding the adjective “forensic” identifies this scientific subfield as applicable to a court of law. Forensic anthropologists often work in concert with forensic pathologists and homicide investigators to pinpoint evidence of trauma or calculate how long a person has been deceased.
Requirements to Become a Forensics Anthropologist
This is a career requiring extensive education. You will need a bachelor’s degree in anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology or anthropology as well as a graduate degree in human biology or anthropology. Though a degree at the Master’s level may qualify you to begin your investigative career, most forensic anthropologists have a Ph.D. degree.
Your level of academic achievement is important as this is not a high demand occupation. There are a relatively few positions available in the field and a high level of academic achievement is required.
Education and Training
The field of crime scene investigation and post-mortem sleuthing has gained new interest in recent years due to several popular television shows. In truth, the field of practitioners in forensic anthropology is rather small. There are specialties within this profession as some experts focus on facial reconstruction, while others may focus on skeletal studies.
Salary for Forensics Anthropologists
The salary range for this career is widely varied. For most entering the field the salary is that of a lecturer or assistant professor at a university which is approximately $35,000 – $50,000 annually. This may vary depending on whether you are part-time or full-time and will increase as you move ahead in your profession. A full time Full Professor at a major university may earn $90,000 to $100,000 per year.
If you are hired to work in the public sector by a state or federal public health service your salary will be based on experience and may be $75,000 – $95,000 and up.
In the academic setting, you will also be eligible for grants and research funds to support your special area of interest in anthropology, forensics, or research that combines the two. The results of research published in scientific journals will help your career progress within the academic community.
There is also great potential in additional income servicing as a paid consultant or expert witness for law firms, police departments, and for various law enforcement branches of the federal government.
Forensic Anthropologist Career Opportunities
As a Forensic Anthropologist you may work in a laboratory for a state or federal bureau of investigation or a private firm. Perhaps, you may be employed at national or global facilities working in tandem with a medical examiner. You may become a consultant for law firms, law enforcement agencies and federal agencies, or serve as a well paid expert witness in court.
The most common initial career path is as a professor at a major college or university. The flexible schedule allows time to pursue consulting and research and you have the status of a university to apply for grants for that research. Publishing research results in scientific journals enhances your academic standing which in turn increases your status as an expert in your field of forensics.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.