Forensic Anthropologist Career, Salary and Training Information

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.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

25 comments… add one
  • Fake Name

    This really helps!

  • Real name

    Awesome duuuuuuudes

  • awsome :P

    thnx….i needed that

  • zareda

    oh my eight years… but it helped !!! thanks

  • Rosemary Ramirez

    Wow, this is great, I think Even though it’s a hard goal to persevere i’m still Going To go At it [:

    • Nikky

      Great attitude, Rosemary! You can do ANYTHING you put ur mind to, gurl!

  • April

    This site was very useful.

  • Brianna C.W

    I’m on my way to high school and always wanted to study the deceased. This site really helped me understand how hard I have to work if I really want this:)

  • Rita Taylor

    This is really useful to me. Especially when your teacher dogs on you for reliable sources. Thank you soooo much!

  • december

    that was really helpful a lot of work its so worth it tho

  • taliyah cann

    this was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo useful this has totally confirmed my dream of becoming a forensic anthropologist so Thank You.

  • Megan

    Hi, I’ve begun to be interested in forensic anthropology, but I’ve heard that this job isn’t in high demand, does that mean I would have a hard time finding a job after college? Would it be a waste of time to pursue this career if I would have a hard time finding a job?

    • Lilli

      It is never a waste of your time to go to college but what they are saying is that the work like on TV shows like Bones are rarely needed. It is harder to find those kinds of jobs while teaching at a university or college. Hope that answers your questions!

  • Jesse

    Ive always wanted to be a forensic anthropologist its hard work but its worth it

  • Claire

    I always wanted to pursue a career in forensic anthropology, but im not sure if i should invest all the time and energy into it and then not be able to find a job. i’ve been accepted to princeton and wondered if me going to an ivy league school versus going to a state university would better my chances of getting a job.does anyone know?

  • Kaitlyn

    I am interested in becoming a Forensic Anthropologist. I don’t want to be a professor at a college. I want to actually examine bones and not be stuck in a classroom. Everything that I read says that most people are professors and few actually work with the FBI. Is it worth my time and will I be able to examine bodies from crime scenes?

  • Sandra

    Always wanted to be a a forensic anthropologist and will never give up, I know it’s hard work and nothing like on tv but if you set your mind to it you can do it.

    PS. The tv series BONES is awesome!!

  • victoria

    I really want to study this, but like Kaitlyn said I also don’t want to be a professor, I want to go to scenes and investigate the bones. I just don’t know if I should pursue this career path if its not in high demand, or I wont get to work with the corpses. I am a senior in high school and I would really like some feedback. I’m deciding what college to go to so it would mean a lot if I got some help.

  • Izzy Varner

    WOW!!! This website proves to me that this is one cool job. I have wanted to be a Forensic Anthropologist since I was 8! Thank you!!!!!

  • Diana

    This post really helped me. I’m in an early college school. Your post are helping me decide my career. Thank you

  • forensic science

    this website helps me a lot thanks (: now i can get started on my journey in being what i want to be in life ♥

  • Casey

    Ive recently decided i wanna b a forensic anthropologist but should i waste all the time and effort if im just gonna end up not able to b studying bones in a lab and have a possibility of just being a professor for my occupation… Even tho im just entering high school its nice to have everything mapped out

  • Florence

    This was helpful in many ways, I am highly interested in becoming either a linguistic or forensic anthropologist. I have to say I am leaning towards a forensic one, from what I have seen in this writing. I have always loved a good challenge, and it seems as though I might have found a very good one, in pursuing forensic anthropology.

    Thank you,

  • Callie

    I am currently a junior in high school, and I have become very interested with the field of forensic anthropology. While I would enjoy this career path greatly, my main goal is to become a facial reconstruction artist, or simply a forensic artist. This is because I am quite artistic, my main focus being people. Through research I have found out that those two job titles are very rare nowadays and that if someone is willing to pursue becoming that type of artist they must first get a job in criminal justice. If anyone knows of anyone who works as a forensic artist or facial reconstructionist, I would be very thankful for advice about what colleges to go to, what degrees to get, and just any general information that you believe would be helpful! Thank you so much!

  • Kamryn

    okay, I am in 6th grade and I want to be a forensic anthropologist. I want to go to Syracuse University and this website has helped me learn a little about forensic anthropology!

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