Forensic Anthropologist: Get Paid to Study DNA!

forensic anthropologistForensic anthropology has been getting a much higher profile in recent years largely due to the popularity of shows such as Bones and Body of Proof. What many people do not realize is that, despite the glamor associated with high profile cases, the criminal aspect is only a part of the job. Also, it is one that is often only used occasionally. Forensic anthropologists are more likely to be found at a university, medical examiner’s office or in the armed services. If you are considering a career as a forensic anthropologist here are the key elements of the job.

Get an Extensive Education

Forensic anthropology requires a great deal of specialized education as the field covers a very wide range of knowledge. To do the job effectively, you need to have studied topics such as sociology, pathology, archaeology and skeletal biology. Most large universities now offer majors in forensic anthropology, but to get a good job in this field you will most likely need to get a masters and in many cases also a Ph.D. in anthropology. You can start by taking this Udemy course, Computer Forensics Fundamentals.

Identify Remains

A large part of the criminal side of forensic anthropology revolves around a detailed knowledge of forensics. As part of assisting the police with solving a case, you need to be able to study the remains, often only the bones, in order to be able to recreate the identity of the person. This includes things ranging from identifying a person from their teeth, to making a re-creation of how the person would have looked when they were alive. Often where the identity is initially unknown, your skills are used to provide the age, weight, height and ethnic origin of the remains in order to assist the authorities with the identification process.

Determine Cause of Death

This area is where forensic anthropology combines with the role of the Medical Examiner and often can be one and the same person. By studying the marks on the remains, you can learn how to differentiate different traumas that the person went through during their life. This requires you to have a very highly developed attention to detail in order for you to be able to identify trauma caused by previous accidents. You must also separate those from the ones that led to the cause of death.

Co-operate with Law Enforcement

A large part of the criminal side of forensic anthropology revolves around communication at various stages of the investigation. You will need to be able to provide clear details of your findings to the people working on the case and co-operate with the other various departments involved such as the crime scene investigators and specialized laboratories. Once the case has been closed, there is a significant chance that you will need to testify during the trial about your findings and the methods you used in order to reach your conclusions. You might also be interested in Crime Studies and Criminal Justice which is comprehensively explored here.


Forensic anthropology is a living science even though it deals with the dead as there are new discoveries and methodologies evolving constantly. Outside of the criminal side of the job, you will spend a great deal of time studying communities and organizations. In depth knowledge of things such as how different societies function and the ongoing evolution of health care and standards of living are essential. You need to be able to write thoughtful research papers into these and many other topics as well as backing up any claims you make through the results of your analysis. Another beneficial Udemy course in this field is, Surviving Digital Forensics: Volume Shadow Copy.

Laboratory Testing

forensic anthropologistAs forensic anthropology is a science, you will spend a momentous amount of your time working in a laboratory. Most of the testing of items such as bones and teeth you will do yourself, and so you will need to be familiar with all of the relevant equipment in a laboratory. Being skilled in DNA testing is crucial as you will often have to test DNA both during your research and when involved with a criminal case. Some other tests you will need to know how to perform are the methodologies used in determining the age, gender and ancestry of remains.

Share Your Knowledge

Many of the full time positions for forensic anthropologists are in academia. As a result, you will need to be able to effectively teach others about various aspects of the subject and also to be able to present your research in the form of educational courses. Even if you find a position outside of academia, due to the complex nature of anthropology, you will need to be constantly educating the people you are working with on the nature of your work and how you reached the results that you did.

Be Independent

Due to the nature of the field a lot of the work you will be doing is done alone. A huge amount of the job is either research or performing test under various conditions so you will have to be able to motivate yourself. As a result of the different demands made on a forensic anthropologist, you will often have to juggle several different tasks at the same time such as delivering a research paper while assisting in the investigation of a crime and teaching a course at your university.

Forensic anthropology is without a doubt a fascinating if at times a somewhat gruesome field to work in. At the same time if you are looking for a career that requires you to be highly skilled in a wide range of academic, technical and personal areas then this could be the career for you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the demand for forensic anthropologist is set to increase by around 20 percent over the next 10 years, so there is an ever increasing demand for these skills.

If you feel that you have most of the required qualities highlighted above such as the ability to communicate clearly, excellent attention to detail and a very analytical nature then you should look into starting the educational requirements. In addition, because you need effective communication skills, you should check out this Udemy blog, Communication Barriers: Not Always a High Hurdle.