Forensic Anthropologist

A forensic anthropologist specializes in using skeletal remains to identify information about an individual such as height, weight, gender and ancestry. Some anthropologists assist in the recovery and delivery of remains to protect the integrity of the bones during the transfer from recovery site to laboratory. Unlike coroners or medical examiners, forensic anthropologists do not typically determine the specific cause of death.

Forensic anthropologists may work with various organizations including those within the federal government, museums, medical examiners’ offices and research institutions.

According to the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, there are few opportunities for employment in this field if one only holds a bachelor’s degree. Most successful forensic anthropologists hold doctorate degrees. The ideal path to acquire a career in this specialized scientific field includes:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in physical or biological anthropology or forensics
  • Master’s Degree in physical or biological anthropology
  • Doctorate in physical or biological anthropology

Forensic Anthropologist Job Description

Forensic anthropologists use scientific techniques to analyze human remains, specifically bones, often for the purpose of solving a crime. They work directly with other forensic experts, such as forensic pathologists and law enforcement professionals. The forensic anthropologist may help identify a person who would otherwise remain unknown.

Forensic anthropologists may also assist law enforcement by identifying any distinctive trauma to the remains and assist in determining when a person died. This professional can also be of assistance to law enforcement by helping reconstruct what happened to a person prior to death and ascertain a person’s behavioral patterns while living, from the sports a person played to the type of job held.

A forensic anthropologist might perform any of the following tasks:

  • Recover human remains.
  • Oversee the transfer of human remains from site to laboratory.
  • Analyze the physical and biological make of a person’s bones.
  • Assist law enforcement to help establish the identity of remains.
  • Help reconstruct events that occurred prior to death.
  • Establish a person’s behavioral patterns based on remains.
  • Testify in court as an expert witness.

A forensic anthropologist must be analytical and detail oriented in nature. When working with law enforcement, this profession requires a strong stomach and ability to deal with disturbing and emotional situations.

Forensic Anthropology Salary

Forensic anthropologists may work part time on a contractual, hourly basis or in another academic or scientific position that includes this specialty. Those professionals working on an hourly basis typically earn $100 to $200 per hour.

Often forensic anthropologists also incorporate teaching at a college, working in a museum or as a research specialist in a private firm. Few jobs are currently available in medical examiners’ or coroners’ offices for full-time forensic anthropologists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that those who also work as instructors make from $37,000 to about $110,000 annually depending on course load.

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