How to become a forensic anthropologist

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A forensic anthropologist applies the study of physical anthropology and human skeletons in a legal setting, most often in criminal cases. They determine the manner and time of death for decomposed, burned or mutilated corpses. Forensic anthropologists are called in when there is little left to the body except skeletal remains.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Have a strong stomach. Forensic anthropologists work on badly mutilated bodies, and decaying flesh, terrible orders and body fluids are commonplace. Avoid being disturbed by these factors and concentrate on the detective aspect of the job.

  2. 2

    Prepare yourself for 10 years of post-secondary education. You will need a Ph.D., including extensive training in crime labs and with law enforcement agencies. Many major universities offer forensic anthropology as a major.

  3. 3

    Pursue various job options. Forensic anthropologist work in the military, medical examiners' offices or in universities. Forensic anthropologists sometimes teach at universities and conduct autopsies the rest of the time. Forensic anthropologists sometimes work as museum curators.

  4. 4

    Study law enforcement and legal terminology. You will be reporting to police, detectives and lawyers when determining the cause of death. Understanding the pressures that they have to deal with will prevent miscommunication.

Tips and warnings

  • Remain composed if you have to work on a sensationalistic or bizarre case. Forensic anthropologists deal with the macabre in their day-to-day business, and this is multiplied tenfold in more disturbing cases, particularly when the media is involved.

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