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What Does it Take to Become a Forensic Anthropologist?

This information is geared towards high school, undergraduate, or new graduate students who are interested in forensic anthropology and want to know more about the discipline.

Here at The University of Tennessee, we often receive questions from students who want to know what forensic anthropology is, and how they can become involved. Hopefully, this page will answer some of your questions!

The road to forensic anthropology can be a long one, but it is also very fulfilling. To use your skills to help law enforcement agencies resolve crimes and mysteries is rewarding. But be prepared – it involves years of study and training in school. You will need to earn a PhD degree in order to practice forensic anthropology, and that means at least another eight to ten years of school after you graduate high school!

Another factor to consider is this: while there are a few forensic anthropologists who work independently (as part of a medical examiner’s office, for the military, etc.) the overwhelming majority of forensic anthropologists work in universities. This means you will be a college professor who teaches physical anthropology most of the time, and works on forensic anthropology cases some of the time.

You also have to consider if you can deal with the sights, smells, and impact of death. Truly, this work is not for the faint of heart – sights, sounds, odors and the tangible products of human decomposition are everyday occurrences. Also, you will run across many sad and disturbing cases that might affect you, so please make sure you are prepared. The good news is, however, that most people who are serious about becoming forensic anthropologists are able to overcome these obstacles.

Good Advice

Dr. Midori Albert, a forensic anthropologist at UNCW, has prepared her “Frequently Asked Questions about Forensic Anthropology” website with answers to questions like what how do I find a graduate program, what college courses do I need, at which universities can I study forensic anthropology, and more.

Dr. Randy Skelton, a physical/forensic anthropologist at UM-Missoula, has prepared his “So You Want to Be a Forensic Anthropologist” webpage with information that includes facts about forensic anthropology, forensic sciences, job opportunities, universities that offer forensic anthropology programs, and more.

If you think forensic anthropology is for you, your next step is to decide where to go to school. Besides here at The University of Tennessee, there are other undergraduate and graduate programs across the country.

Reddy has compiled a huge list of colleges and universities that offer all kinds of forensic programs. Note that these include more than just forensic anthropology programs, and they are organized by state and country. Very helpful!

More Sources for Information