How To Become A Forensic Anthropologist?

Who is Forensic Anthropologist?

Forensic anthropologists are experts in skeletal anatomy, human variation, and the numerous circumstances that can impact the appearance and qualities of bone during life and after death. Forensic anthropologist uses this information and the advanced techniques for skeletal bone analysis to support the courts.

Fundamentally, anthropology is the study of history. A cultural anthropologist may investigate the way of life of an old civilization. A linguist may investigate a language from three hundred years ago, and a cultural anthropologist may be researching societies from the past. While the use of scientific methods and concepts to identify the deceased is known as Forensic Anthropology.

skeleton remains

Many people have watched the hit television series Bones, in which Emily Deschanel plays Dr. Temperance Brennan. The Character of the bones is inspired by Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist in real life at the University of North Carolina. Each episode of the forensics and police procedural revolves around an FBI case file pertaining to the mystery surrounding human remains that FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth brought to Dr. Temperance Brennan (Bones) who is Forensic Anthropologist. Brennan assists F.B.I. Special Agent Seeley Booth, in his investigations involving human remains that require forensic anthropological expertise in order to identify.

Forensic anthropologists frequently work alongside forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to gather evidence of trauma and determine the postmortem interval for a victim’s death when the victim’s identity is in question. Despite having no legal standing, medical examiners consider expert opinions, which is the responsibility of forensic pathologists.

Various techniques are used by forensic anthropologists when studying skeletal remains, including:

  • Creation of clay or digital replica of a face
  • We are referring to electron microscopy.
  • Thin-section methods can be used to study the histology of bones.
  • A method for making molds of the skeleton
  • Commercial preservatives can be used to preserve skeletal elements.
  • Rehydrating soft tissues to keep them from decomposing or mummifying them.

Although the path to forensic anthropology might be arduous, it is also tremendously rewarding. It is rewarding to put your abilities to use assisting law enforcement organizations in solving crimes and riddles. It requires years of learning and preparation in school. To practice forensic anthropology, one must obtain a Ph.D.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while some forensic anthropologists operate independently (for example, as a part of a medical examiner’s office or for the military), the vast majority of them are employed by universities. As a result, you will work as a college professor who mostly teaches physical anthropology while also occasionally working on forensic anthropology cases.

Experts in examining human remains, forensic anthropologists are frequently relied upon to assist with forensic investigations involving fatalities that may have been brought on by a crime or a natural disaster, such as a storm or forest fire.

A forensic anthropologist can analyze human remains and identify a person’s cause of death, such as whether it was suicide, homicide, accidental, or natural, using their knowledge of bones. With a high degree of precision, forensic anthropologists can ascertain the age, weight, sex, height, and diet of a deceased person.

Forensic anthropologist

Duties & Responsibilities Of Forensic Anthropologists

  • It is vital to remember that forensic anthropologists primarily work with human remains, contrary to how the media depicts them.
  • Law enforcement officials are helped by forensic anthropologists to create a profile of human bones and teeth.
  • In essence, they can assist in providing answers to inquiries like sex, age, culture, height, period of death, and even the degree of pain reproduced in bones through experience and the application of taught skills.
  • The forensic anthropologist may be requested to testify in court concerning the identity of the remains, trauma, or wounds noted in the bones after the identity has been established.

Forensic anthropologist’s work in the field frequently entails:

  • Handling cadaveric material
  • The removal of skeletal remains
  • examining traumatized remains to look for decomposing remnants
  • Providing biological details regarding skeletal remains
  • Reporting compilation
  • Collaborating intently with detectives and special agents
  • Giving a witness statement in court

Instead of gathering and conserving remains as evidence, a forensic anthropologist’s principal duty is to examine them. To start the examination before the bodies are relocated, forensic anthropologists are frequently called to situations where decomposed remains are discovered. They also supervise the delivery of the remains to the lab for an in-depth examination.

Experts in forensic anthropology can offer crucial details about victims’ lives. More importantly, they can tell crucial details on how and how long ago victims passed away. Forensic anthropologists can assist in figuring out the murder’s mode of operation and provide information necessary for establishing an arrest and securing a conviction by searching for evidence of trauma.


Educational Requirements and Training of Forensic Anthropologists

  • Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology and becoming knowledgeable in fields of study including archaeology, cultural and physical anthropology, as well as sciences like genetics, chemistry, and anatomy might be the initial steps in becoming a forensic anthropologist.
  • You need a master’s degree in anthropology in addition to a Ph.D. in biological or physical anthropology to pursue a career in forensic anthropology.
  • To become a forensic anthropologist, you may need to attend school for upwards of ten years, not to mention the internships, clinical rotations, and fieldwork that are required as part of the formal training programs.
  • Forensic anthropologists in training could be exposed to topics like human anatomy, graphic dissection, probability, statistics, and even quantitative analysis while enrolled in graduate school.
  • Although it allowed for expertise to be acquired in fields like pathology, human osteology, skeleton variation, and biomechanics at the doctoral level.
  • You might encounter situations involving human identification techniques, the inventory and analysis of human skeleton material, the gathering of evidence, the investigation of crime scenes, and archaeological techniques.
  • Some institutions also provide certificate courses in forensic anthropology. The University of Hawaii – West O’ahu (UH-WO), in collaboration with Leeward Community College, provides one such course.
  • Students will have a solid understanding of forensic anthropology through the course using scientific methods.
  • Successful completion of biology classes at Leeward Community College and anthropology courses at the University of Hawaii are prerequisites for the course.

Forensic Anthropologist Certifications

The American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA), in addition to fulfilling the educational requirements and successfully passing written and practical exams, awards the anthropologist with the title of Diplomate.

By becoming a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the Physical Anthropology division of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, one can qualify for additional types of recognition.

Required Skills for Forensic Anthropologists

For a successful career in forensic anthropology, the following skills are needed:

Analytical skills: The primary responsibilities of a forensic anthropologist include analysis and complicated problem-solving. Simply being able to provide as much information on the human remains as possible is his/her responsibility, and he/she must be able to record any information his subjects can divulge.

Accuracy: Since forensic anthropologists will be held accountable for their conclusions, it is crucial to conduct investigations as accurately as possible.

Organizational skills: A forensic anthropologist’s everyday activities include keeping records, and efficient time management depends on having strong record-keeping skills.

Good communication skills: The ability to communicate information is a crucial talent to have as a forensic anthropologist will need to contact others and convey his or her findings.

Being part of a team: To produce results as a member of an investigation team, a forensic anthropologist must interact, share information, and communicate with other team members, such as forensic dentists and pathologists.

Composure: When working at crime, accident, and catastrophe scenes, forensic anthropologists must exercise restraint and keep their attention on the task at hand.

Career Opportunities For Forensic Anthropologists

Universities and forensic facilities are the main workplaces for forensic anthropologists. While the majority are engaged in teaching and research, some are more focused on casework and collaborate closely with pathologists or medical examiners.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics combines anthropologists and archaeologists (BLS). A Master’s degree was reported to bring in an annual salary of $57,420 in 2012 by the BLS. A 19% increase in employment is predicted to result in the creation of 1,400 new jobs between now and 2022. The average yearly salary for forensic anthropologists ranges from $64,272 to $79,104, with the top 10% earning an average of $91,140.

Several subfields of forensic anthropology exist. These researchers collaborate with other forensics specialists to solve crimes. Those who are interested in both criminology and criminal science may find a career in these subjects to be an intriguing option.

Job Outlook As a Forensic Anthropologist

However, it does offer a classification for anthropologists and archaeologists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017, does not offer a specific categorization for forensic anthropologists. Slower than the average for all occupations, this category’s employment growth is predicted to increase by 4% through the year 2026. Additionally, given the lack of openings compared to applicants, prospective anthropologists and archaeologists will probably encounter stiff competition for employment.

Work Schedule of Forensic Anthropologists

Typically, forensics practitioners don’t work full-time in the field. Instead, they are frequently professors or researchers from universities who advise law enforcement organizations. A forensic pathologist may be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in contrast to the typical classroom schedule of 15 hours per week.

Full-time forensic anthropologists may hold positions at a museum, a medical examiner’s or coroner’s office, or a military installation.

Work Environment For Forensic Anthropologists

Most forensic anthropologists hold academic positions at colleges or universities and take on forensic cases as part of their duties to their profession and the community. Most of their work is done in lecture halls, offices, labs, and classrooms.

Other forensic anthropologists work for the military, coroner’s offices, museums, medical examiner’s offices, and other governmental organizations. It is possible for fieldwork to be local or to require travel to other states or counties.

Carrying examination equipment to inaccessible locations may be required for forensic fieldwork, maybe because of rocky terrain or dangerous situations like debris. Some scenes could be distressing to see and emotionally taxing. To do your job well, you must pay attention. The work of forensic anthropology is horrifying but interesting. However, the data offered to the investigators is priceless. Forensic anthropology may be the ideal criminology profession for you if you are interested in human biology, value science, and want to help solve complex crimes.

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