Several U.S. colleges and universities offer degree programs in forensic anthropology. Students pursuing a degree in forensic anthropology study topics related to human remains recovery, osteology, death investigation, human anatomy and pathology. Most forensic anthropology degree programs place heavy emphasis on science courses and research. Aspiring forensic anthropologists should carefully select an academic degree program suitable for their career goals and objectives beyond college graduation.
Forensic anthropology is the study of human remains as they relate to identifying the deceased or cause of death. In collaboration with law enforcement organizations, forensic anthropologists examine skeletal evidence. Forensic anthropologists are trained to determine the age, sex, ancestry and distinctive features of human skeletal remains, according to the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. Forensic anthropology is considered a subfield of physical anthropology or biological anthropology, one of the four primary areas of anthropological research.
The American Board of Forensic Anthropology suggests a few undergraduate degree programs for students majoring in forensic anthropology. Western Carolina University, located in Cullowhee, N.C., offers students the opportunity to earn a bachelor of science degree in anthropology with a concentration in forensic anthropology. Students must earn 120 credit hours to receive the B.S. degree. Western Carolina University forensic anthropology majors have the unique opportunity to gain practical experience at the Western Carolina Human Identification Laboratory. The lab is designed to provide students with experiences handling and analyzing human remains.
Mercyhurst University in Erie Pennsylvania prepares students for careers in forensic anthropology with its bachelor of science degree in applied forensics. The degree program offers three focus areas, including forensic anthropology, criminalistics/forensic biology and forensic chemistry. The B.S. in applied forensics at Mercyhurst provides a multidisciplinary approach.
Generally, a master's degree or doctorate are prerequisites for securing forensic anthropology related professional positions. Advanced degrees are mandatory for students seeking employment as college faculty or researchers. Boston University School of Medicine offers a master of science degree in forensic anthropology. The 42-credit-hour program prepares future forensic practitioners to conduct medicolegal death investigations. All Boston University School of Medicine forensic anthropology graduates complete research projects before being awarded their degree.
The University of Florida offers a highly competitive doctoral degree in physical anthropology with a concentration in forensic anthropology. According to data released by the university, the anthropology department accepts approximately 3 percent of those applying for admission. Ph.D. students at the University of Florida have the opportunity to receive hands-on experience working at the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory on campus. The laboratory provides forensic anthropology services to medical examiners and coroners.
Crime shows such as CSI and NCIS have contributed to the wide-spread appeal of forensic anthropology. For students strongly interested, or simply desiring to explore the field, a certificate in forensic anthropology may be an alternative option. Leeward Community College in Pear City, Hawaii, offers a 30-credit-hour certificate. Students can also earn a certificate in forensic identification at California State University, Chico. The certificate requires completion of 27 to 38 credit hours of coursework.
- ABFA American Board of Forensic Anthropology: What is the Practice of Forensic Anthropology
- ABFA American Board of Forensic Anthropology: What is Forensic Anthropology
- Western Carolina University: Forensic Anthropology Program
- Mercyhurst University Archaeological Institute: Applied Forensic Sciences Department
- Anthropology University of Florida: Forensic Anthropology at the University of Florida
- Forensic Anthropology: CSI in Action
- California State University Chico: Anthropology Department: Certificates:
Cassandra Ifie is a librarian living in Richmond, Va. She has also been a writer since 2008. Ifie received her Master of Library Science degree from Texas Woman's University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Rust College.