Forensic anthropology schools are quickly becoming more popular, and quite a bit of thanks goes to increased awareness about these specialists in the media. From television dramas such as “Bones” to documentaries about the actual work that goes on in the world of the forensic anthropologist, it is no wonder that the career is getting more attention. Imagine the thrill of helping police to solve a decades old crime or “cold case” based on bone reconstruction, or the satisfaction that comes from helping families of natural disasters find closure when it comes to what may have happened to a loved one.
Forensic anthropology programs are perhaps best suited to those who combine a love for science and investigation with an interest in seeing justice served. The degree should help hard-working students to develop the foundational skills required to succeed in both the field and the lab and ultimately thrive as forensic anthropologists.
Anyone who wants to become a forensic anthropologist will need to be ready to invest heavily in schooling. In most cases, a forensic anthropologist must have a PhD to be able to work in the field. Those who are working in labs may be able to have a master’s degree and still be able to find work. However, many lab scientists eventually pursue PhD programs to be able to further their careers. The amount of time it can take to complete these degrees varies, but students attending full time can generally complete a bachelor’s of science degree in forensic anthropology or a related field in four years.
Still attending school full-time, they should then be able to complete a master’s degree in two years and then move on to a PhD in forensic anthropology following that, which can take another two or more years. This is the common path for those interested in entering the forensic anthropology field.
Once a PhD is obtained, many anthropologists will then go on to receive certification. One of the most popular certifications that forensic anthropologists seek is from the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA). This certificate may help forensic anthropologists who are looking for new or different employment options or are wanting to make a solid statement about their expertise.
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Students who want to become forensic anthropologists will find that they have a number of different courses that they will likely have to take at forensic anthropology schools. Some of the most common courses include chemistry, biology, biochemistry, forensic anthropology, and even field archeology. Students will then take progressively more intensive and difficult courses as they work on their bachelor’s master’s, and doctoral degrees. Other classes that they might take include microbiology, physiology and anatomy, and organic chemistry. Because much of the work of the forensic anthropologist is focused on skeletal remains, understanding the bones and taking coursework in osteology will also be very important.
It is possible to find some online classes that will be able to help meet a portion of the requirements for 4-year and 2-year degrees in forensic anthropology. Some courses that students of forensic anthropology programs could find online include basic forensic anthropology, pharmacology, toxicology, osteology, and crime scene preservation. These are not necessarily going to require lab work, and it may be possible to complete these without visiting a campus. However, most of the schooling for a student who wants to be in the forensic anthropology field will be through campus-based programs, such as those available through Mercyhurst University, or the California State University at Chico.
Students who are choosing forensic anthropology schools and certifications should always check to see what bodies are accrediting those schools first. Many different accrediting organizations are out there and helping to ensure that forensic anthropology programs are setting high standards for students. Two of these associations include the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology.