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A forensic anthropologist needs to know the human body like the palm of their hand, which they know very well since they have to have finished medical school. The primary task of a forensic anthropologist is to gather evidence to assist in the identification of human remains found at a crime scene and determine the cause of death. Therefore, forensic anthropology is considered a criminal justice career and is as important as a detective’s job is. Forensic anthropology is a specialized discipline, and many organizations seek the services of forensic anthropologists.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Laboratory Division added forensic anthropology as a service in 2010, through which it provides field and laboratory analysis and assistance to FBI units and other law enforcement agencies. Forensic anthropologists employed by the FBI are considered professional staff and are granted access to the most advanced technologies and equipment available to work on the FBI’s most challenging cases. Openings at the FBI’s headquarters and field offices are often posted. Museums and research institutions also hire forensic anthropologists to examine and to catalog important collections and sometimes to analyze new specimens.
The Smithsonian Institution’sDepartment of Anthropology is one of the most widely known and respected anthropology centers in the US. The Smithsonian’s staff of anthropologists has been involved in assisting law enforcement investigations for over 100 years. Its collection of human skeletons (real and fake) is one of the largest in the world, with over 30,000sets. Membership opportunities are posted on the Smithsonian’s opportunity page. Forensic anthropologists might also consider a career as a professor of forensic anthropology. The faculty of theDepartment of Anthropology at The University of Tennessee Knoxville are active in the field of anthropology and are connected with some other highly respected institutions.
As well as the Forensic Anthropology Center, the department also offers courses to professionals from diverse fields and graduate student research needs. Forensic anthropologists are deeply involved in the legal system as they are increasingly called on to testify in court as expert witnesses, whether they have worked directly on a case or are consulting as professionals. The daily work of forensic anthropologists is highly varied, but most spend much of their time in the laboratory, examining direct evidence and remains through observation, X-ray analysis, and with other technological devices, as well as checking dental and medical records. They may also assist in recovering bodies from the scenes where they are located.
Since forensic anthropologists must understand human anatomy, anthropology, and aspects of many other scientific disciplines thoroughly, most hiring organizations require candidates for these positions to possess a graduate degree. But some employers may accept a lesser degree, especially if it is offset by experience. Professional forensic anthropologists may also earn certification through organizations such as the American Society of crime laboratory Directors or the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. Students interested in this career may consider earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or anthropology as a starting point, which may allow them to find work in the forensic sciences while pursuing a graduate degree. In order to become a forensic anthropologist, you should expect to follow these steps:
1. Acquire a degree and/or the education necessary for the forensic anthropologist position.
2. Apply for a forensic anthropologist job.
3. Earn certification as a forensic anthropologist (optional).
4. Undergo a background investigation.
5. Pass a drug test.
6. Be interviewed.
7. Get hired as a forensic anthropologist.
8. Receive on-the-job training.
Most anthropologists generally complete extensive hands-on training while earning their master’s and/or doctoral degree. On-the-job training may also be necessary if the anthropologist has no real experience. Anthropologists who specialize in forensics have complex responsibilities, and as a result, require a skill set and experience to do their jobs well.
Experience working with law enforcement and with using lab equipment are both essential. Photography skills and knowledge of how to use and read X-rays are also useful. The US Bureau ofLabor Statistics (BLS) says that anthropologists and archeologists earn a median salary of $57,420 per year. Because there is not a huge demand for forensic anthropologists competition for open positions, especially if they are full-time, is highly competitive.
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