forensic anthropology bachelor degree

Last Updated on September 7, 2022 by Smile Ese

Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology and human osteology (study of bones) to resolve issues brought to the attention of law enforcement agencies or to identify human remains. Forensic anthropologists are tasked with examining skeletons, forensic odontology (bite marks left on bones), as well as the age and sex of a skeleton, where and when a death occurred, and determining the manner in which a person died. You will discover more details below.

Collegelearners affords a plethora of information on forensic anthropology salary, forensic anthropology colleges, forensic anthropology and archaeology and so much more. Ensure you peruse through our catalogue for relevant information on similar topics.

forensic anthropology bachelor degree


While a bachelor’s degree is required to eventually become a forensic anthropologist, in most cases a BS in forensic anthropology is not necessary. Rather, students can choose to major in anthropology, forensic science, or another science such as biology or chemistry.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from high school (or equivalent), competitive GPA (e.g. >2.75), personal statement (500-600 words), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) scores, TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: cultural anthropology; archaeology; linguistics; genetics; biology; chemistry; physics; anatomy/physiology; zoology; and statistics
  • Sample program: University of California at Davis (UC Davis)

Master’s Degree in Forensic Anthropology

Some future forensic anthropologists move directly from a bachelor’s degree program to a doctoral track while others earn a master’s degree first.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from bachelor’s program (e.g., criminal justice, biology, chemistry, forensic science, or related discipline) with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0), proof of specific coursework (e.g., introduction to CJ, law, statistics, etc.), personal statement, interview (in-person or web-based), letter(s) of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: osteology; forensic anthropological techniques and procedures; forensic anthropology field methods; biological anthropology theory; taphonomy; human anatomy; crime scene investigation; methods of human identification
  • Sample program: Boston University School of Medicine

Doctoral Degree in Forensic Anthropology

As with most PhD programs, doctoral programs for forensic anthropology can be extremely competitive. Applicants should be sure to meet all application requirements and be prepared to apply to more than one program if necessary.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from all university degrees with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.2), completion of specific coursework, resume or CV, personal statement, interview (in-person or web-based), letter(s) of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination (GRE), TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: method and theory in cultural anthropology;theory in archaeology; method and theory in biological anthropology; graduate statistics; research methods; dissertation
  • Sample program: University of Tennessee Knoxville


Following are a few of the on-campus forensic anthropology programs that are available to interested students:

At Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA students can earn a bachelor of science degree in applied forensic science that can act as a stepping stone to graduate programs in forensic anthropology. The BS program allows students to choose a concentration in forensic anthropology and includes coursework in criminalistics, crime scene archaeology and death investigation.

Michigan State University is home to the Michigan State University Forensic Anthropology Laboratory (MSUFAL) where students can choose from a master or doctoral level program. The program has ABFA diplomates on staff, meaning training comes from professionals who are experienced in the field.

At Texas State University (TSU) students are able to train at the Forensic Anthropology Center of Texas State (FACTS). TSU offers anthropology programs at all levels (BS, MA and PhD) with undergraduates being elgible to join the unviersity’s Forensic Anthropology Society.


It is possible to find some online classes that will be able to help meet a portion of the requirements for degrees in forensic anthropology. However, a fully online forensic anthropology degree is not possible due to the hands-on laboratory requirements for training in this field. 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.

Obtaining an undergraduate degree from an online program before applying to a graduate program is also a possibility. At Oregon State University, for instance, students can earn a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts in anthropology through the school’s e-campus. Prospective forensic anthropologists may want to choose the archaeology focus, which also requires 12 hours of fieldwork that can be completed at a location convenient for the students.

The University of Florida offers a forensic anthropology program that does not result in a degree, but could help students decide whether they want to pursue the field further. Consisting of four online courses, students will receive “an introduction to the basic knowledge of human anatomy and osteology, including human remains recovery and laboratory processes that are required of a forensic anthropologist.”

At Arizona State University students can earn a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology online. The 120-credit program includes courses in food and culture, globalization, and medical anthropology. It is important to note that since this is a BA program, applicants should ensure that they are meeting prerequisite requirements for the graduate program they want to apply to upon graduation.


Students who are choosing forensic anthropology schools and certifications should always check to see what bodies are accrediting those schools first. Typically, students can look for both programmatic and institutional accreditation. However, there are no accrediting bodies that are specific to forensic anthropology. While the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) offers accreditation to forensic science programs, they do not currently accredit forensic anthropology programs. ABFA does also not currently offer accreditation.

Rather, students should be sure to investigate a school’s programmatic accreditation, which represents that the school was thoroughly evaluated for faculty, facilities, and curricula. SOme of the accrediting bodies that have been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) include:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

forensic anthropology colleges

Best Forensic Anthropology Schools In The USA

  1. Eastern New Mexico University (Roosevelt County, New Mexico)
    Eastern New Mexico University
    While the school does not offer a specific degree program in forensic anthropology, the Eastern New Mexico University in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, offers a related curriculum. The school offers a degree program in Forensic Science with an emphasis in Forensic Anthropology that is based on the demand of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Aside from assisting academics, the school also offers their students help in finding and applying for jobs.
  1. Mercyhurst University (Erie, Pennsylvania)
    Mercyhurst University
    Instead of an undergraduate program, the Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania offers a Master’s degree program in Anthropology with a Forensic and Biological Anthropology track (Other alternative tracks are the Archaeology track and Geoarchaeology track). This program is the first ever program in the country that covers bioarchaeological anthropology with an emphasis on the field of forensic anthropology. Its subfields include forensic taphonomy, forensic archaeology, forensic osteology, skeletal trauma, and biostatistics.
  1. The University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, Mississippi)
    University of Southern Mississippi
    The University of Southern Mississippi is one of the few universities in the United that offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensics, with anthropology as your major (Aside from this field, students could also choose chemistry, biology, or criminal justice). Here, students will be introduced and engaged in different field and laboratory forensic techniques, as well as be familiar with the usage of forensic testimonies.
  1. Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
    Texas State University
    Located in San Marcos, Texas, Texas State University is a premier university that offers a graduate degree in Anthropology. While there is no specific program for forensic anthropology, students could major in fields like biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and archaeology. Aside from that, the department houses the famous Forensic Anthropology Center which is committed to the study of the said field, as well as research.
  1. Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts)
    Boston University
    Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Boston University is another university that offers a graduate program in Forensic Anthropology. BU offers a full-time MS program (42 credit units) that encompasses the fields of anthropology, osteology, and anatomy to study biological remains. Interestingly, this graduate program is the sole graduate program in the US that is both a part of a medical center and a department of anatomy. Such environment further aids students in having accessible research facilities and laboratories.
  1. The University of Montana (Missoula, Montana)
    University of Montana
    The next university in this list is the University of Montana which offers an undergraduate degree in Anthropology. By taking this degree program, students have the choice to pursue a track in Forensic Anthropology. Here, students will learn about various related fields like skeletal biology, forensic pathology, and odontology. Aside from that, students are also expected to learn about law enforcement topics.
  1. Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, North Carolina)
    Western Carolina University
    The West Carolina University offers an undergraduate degree in Anthropology with an emphasis on Forensic Anthropology, and alternatively, a minor in Forensic Anthropology. The school specializes in helping their students find careers related to their major, as well as other related fields like medicine, death investigation, and medicine. Aside from that, at WCU, students have the freedom to choose their minors: biology, history, chemistry, criminal justice, or foreign language.
  1. Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
    Michigan State University
    The next university in this list is the Michigan State University in East Lansing Michigan. While it does not have a specific degree program with a major in Forensic Anthropology, MSU offers a Physical Anthropology graduate degree with three fields of specialties: forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, and the human biology of contemporary populations. Students engaged in the Forensic Anthropology track have the opportunity to work in the university’s dedicated consulting, teaching, and research facility–the MSU Forensic Anthropology Laboratory. If you want to explore the research side of Forensic Anthropology, MSU is a good choice.
  1. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
    University of Florida
    The University of Florida’s Master’s degree program in Forensic Anthropology is considered as one of the best in the US. The university works with C. A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory (CAPHIL), an academic laboratory that specializes in forensic anthropology service, teaching, and research. By employing specialized production and documentation techniques in the said field, students of UF become directly engaged with activities like the process of human remains, legal testimonies, and more.
  1. California State University (Los Angeles, California)
    California State University
    It is important to note that this graduate program is not a degree specialized in Forensic Anthropology but rather a program with an emphasis on forensic applications. Taking this track at California State will not only engage students in anthropology but also in other fields of law enforcement. MA Graduates of Forensic Anthropology are involved in various careers like being forensic scientists, forensic technicians, teaching staff, and others.
  1. Loyola University (Chicago, Illinois)
    Loyola University
    The next university in this list is Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. While it does not have an individual program dedicated to the study of forensic anthropology, it offers a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science with combined coursework from anthropology and other fields like biology, and criminal justice. This program is one of the less than 20 undergraduate programs in the United States that has been fully accredited by the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
  1. Arkansas State University (Jonesboro, Arkansas)
    Arkansas State University
    The Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas does not have a specific degree program for Forensic Anthropology, but you could choose to enroll in an Anthropology degree with a major area of study. You could choose from three major fields: biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and archaeology. Among these three, biological anthropology is the closest since it also encompasses the principles of forensic anthropology, as well as other areas like biomechanics, dental anthropology, and various quantitative techniques.

forensic anthropology salary

In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7,180 anthropologists and archeologists were employed in the United States (BLS May 2020). Earning an average annual salary of $69,960, the median wage was $66,130. Professionals in the lowest 10 percent earned $40,800 or less annually, while those in the top 10 percent earned 102,770 or more per year.

Many different factors can determine pay. For example, the type of work that the anthropologist is doing can make a difference. Following are the top-paying industries for anthropologists and archeologists, according to the BLS:

  • Federal government: $82,040
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services: $73,480
  • Local government: $73,180
  • Scientific research and development services: $67,240
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $66,540

This data shows that forensic anthropologists are more likely to be employed in government-related positions, meaning that the salary potential for this specialty field of anthropology could be higher.

Payscale, a site that shares self-reported salary data, reports the average forensic anthropologist’s salary is slightly lower at $57,537 based on 26 individuals reporting (Payscale January 2022).

Location is a significant factor affecting salary, and living costs are essential to consider when negotiating wages. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2022) offers a cost of living data series to compare the most and least expensive places to live in the United States. This data explains why three of the BLS’s top five paying states for anthropologists and archeologists are also in MERIC’s top 10 most expensive states to live.

According to the BLS (May 2020), the top-paying states for anthropologists and archeologists are:

  • New York: $92,710
  • Alaska: $88,340
  • Hawaii: $85,560
  • Illinois: $76,960
  • Idaho: $76,260

This data shows that forensic anthropologists looking for work in Illinois and Idaho can make their money go further by living in areas of the country with more affordable living costs. As of December 2021, Idaho ranks solidly in the middle at #25 on MERIC’s cost of living list, while Illinois ranks as the ninth most affordable state to live.

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