Become a Forensic Archaeologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a forensic archaeologist. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in forensic archaeology.

View 10 Popular Schools »

Do I Want to Be a Forensic Archaeologist?

Forensic archaeology is a sub-field of forensic anthropology, so people who practice this specialty are more commonly called forensic anthropologists. Professionals in this field use their knowledge of anthropology to help identify human remains, usually in medical or legal situations. In a few cases, forensic anthropologists employ archaeological methods to assist in the excavation of human remains.

Sometimes, the hours can be long, and evening and weekend work isn't uncommon. The demand for forensic anthropologists is limited, so full-time jobs in this field are rare. Those who do work full-time are employed in several settings, such as medical examiners' offices, the armed services, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.

Job Requirements

Forensic anthropologists, including those who specialize in forensic archaeology, typically need at least a master's degree, and those interested in becoming university professors usually need a PhD. The table below summarizes the requirements for forensic anthropologists who specialize in forensic archaeology.

Common Requirements
Degree Level A master's degree may be acceptable, but a PhD is preferred or required for some positions*
Degree Field Graduate degree with a specialization in forensic, biological or physical anthropology**
Experience Varies; some jobs may require up to 4 years' experience**
Key Skills Analytical and problem-solving abilities, critical thinking and writing skills***

Sources: *American Board of Forensic Anthropology, **Job postings from August 2012, ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students who want to pursue careers in forensic anthropology with a specialization in forensic archaeology should strongly consider undergraduate majors in anthropology or archaeology. Specializations in physical or biological anthropology are recommended for admission by some master's degree programs. However, for students whose schools don't offer these majors, an undergraduate degree in biology, chemistry, math or forensic science can also provide solid preparation.

Success Tips

  • Participate in an internship. In many cases, students who are accepted to graduate programs in forensic anthropology have completed internships as undergraduates. Typical settings include archaeological excavation sites, law enforcement agencies and medical examiners' offices.
  • Choose electives carefully. Some forensic anthropology master's degree programs prefer to accept students with coursework in areas like statistics, experimental design, anatomy, chemistry and biology. Students planning to apply to these programs can stand out by taking these courses as undergraduates, even if they're not required.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program

The next step toward becoming a forensic anthropologist specializing in forensic archaeology is to earn a master's degree. Admission to forensic anthropology master's degree programs tends to be highly competitive, and they are typically designed to prepare students for doctoral programs. However, graduates could also qualify for some jobs in settings such as law enforcement agencies, medical examiners' offices and crime labs. A master's degree program in general anthropology can also provide good preparation for this career if it includes solid training in topics like physical anthropology, osteology and statistics.

Success Tip:

  • Publish completed research. This advice is particularly important for those who plan to apply to doctoral programs. Publications demonstrate a PhD candidate's preparedness for independent research.

Step 3: Enroll in a PhD Program

Although a PhD is not strictly required for all forensic anthropology jobs, competition for the limited number of positions in this field is likely to be fierce, so doctoral degree holders may be preferred over master's graduates. Also, for those who want to teach and conduct forensic anthropology and archaeology research in academic settings, a PhD is usually essential. Since there are currently no PhD programs specifically in forensic anthropology or archaeology, those pursuing careers in this profession can earn a doctoral degree in anthropology and specialize in, study or research forensic anthropology.

Success Tip

  • Get teaching experience. Those who plan to seek tenure-track positions in academia should take advantage of any teaching opportunities their PhD programs offer. In addition to research experience and publications, a strong track record in the classroom can be helpful on the job market.
Show me popular schools

Related to Become a Forensic Archaeologist: Education and Career Roadmap

  • Related
  • Recently Updated
  • Popular
Careers in Forensic Psychology: Overview of Options

Forensic psychology pairs the study of the human mind with the workings of the legal system. Forensic psychologists help...

Forensic Nurse: Job Outlook for Forensic Nursing

A forensic nurse requires specialized, graduate-level formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements...

Best Forensic Accounting Schools: List of Top Schools

Learn about some of the top schools in the country to offer programs in forensic accounting. Get ranking details on the schools...

Forensic Auditing Courses and Certification Programs

Forensic auditing courses teach individuals how to investigate businesses and individuals for fraud, corruption or other...

Forensic Pathology Courses and Classes Overview

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • All degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree or higher
    • Post-Master's Certificate degree applicants must have a Masters degree or higher
    School locations:
    • Maryland (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Undergraduate applicants must be a high school graduate or have completed GED and completed some college. Master's degree applicants must have a bachelor's or higher.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 21 years of age or older and have completed some college or 24 years of age or older and a high school graduate for a Bachelor's degree
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    Which degree level do you plan to pursue?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8)

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (2 campuses)
    • California (5)
    • Colorado (2)
    • Florida (1)
    • Illinois (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • New Mexico (1)
    • Nevada (1)
    • Texas (2)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (1)

    Do you prefer online or campus based learning?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BA in Sociology

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • A minimum 2.0 GPA
    • Submit high school transcript(s)
    • Submit college transcript(s) (if applicable)
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

Popular Schools

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • Which subject are you interested in?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • When do you plan to begin your studies?

    • B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8)

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Do you prefer online or campus based learning?

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics