Forensic Anthropologist Career: Are there Any Jobs?

Forensic anthropology is a specialty branch of anthropology that involves using anthropological knowledge to help the law. Most typically, a forensic anthropologist will be called into a law enforcement agency when skeletal remains are found in order to help identify the victim. Forensic anthropologists are educated in the study of bones and from the remains of a body can identify age, sex, height, and health status of the individual bones.

Educational Requirements

In order to become a forensic anthropologist, it's necessary to have a master's degree or Ph.D. in forensic anthropology. A person interested in this career should study a broad form of anthropology as an undergraduate. Some classes to consider in your undergraduate courses include chemistry, biology, criminology, physics, biochemistry, statistics, electron microscopy, and computer forensics. Top forensic anthropologists have an expert grasp on osteology; understanding bones and their characteristics is a large part of the job. The American Board of Forensic Anthropologists offers certification that requires candidates to pass an examination that covers practice and theory.

Career Choices as a Forensic Anthropologist

There are three main choices for careers as a forensic anthropologist. The first is working as a faculty member at a university or as a museum curator. The second is working for the armed services, which hires forensic anthropologists to work at their centers in Washington, D.C. and Hawaii. The final choice of career as a forensic anthropologist is working for a state, federal, or local crime lab as a staff member, who happens to have a forensic anthropology background. These jobs are all very difficult to obtain, as there are oftentimes more candidates for the positions than there are open positions.

Hints and Tips for Obtaining Jobs in Forensic Anthropology

Most individuals interested in forensic anthropologist jobs take the route of working in a local, state, or federal crime lab as a basic lab tech. The main reason for this is that the job opportunities are more plentiful within this area of the forensic science industry. Another way to gain information about jobs in the forensic anthropology field is to join a local anthropology group. This is a way to meet individuals working in the area. Joining a local anthropology group also offers a wonderful way to network skills when seeking out a job within the industry.

Career Outlook

The career outlook for a person wishing to become a forensic anthropologist is not great. In order to be hired in the industry, it's necessary to have a Ph.D. in the field. The reason for the lack of jobs is simple: There just are not enough cases to keep a forensic anthropologist busy, even in large cities like New York and Los Angeles. Another reason there are not many jobs available is that many students who are studying forensic anthropology will work on cases for free in order to gain experience.

If you're considering a career as a forensic anthropologist, it's important to understand that getting a job in the industry may be difficult. In addition, most jobs will require a Ph.D., which means attending school for a long time. One of the best ways to work in the forensic anthropology field is to take a job as a lab technician with a law enforcement agency.