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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Forensic Archeology

Majors Overview November 18, 2015

Excavating human remains archeologically and applying them in legal and medical contexts is forensic archeology, or forensic anthropology. Master of Science (M.S.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees in Forensic Anthropology are achievable in 2 years.

Information on Forensic Archeology Master’s Degree Programs

Master’s degree programs in forensic anthropology that combine the science of forensics with archeology skills are available through many schools. Students usually complete master’s program in forensic anthropology within two years.

Students learn about archeology methods including the study of human bones – including bone fragments – and the evidence they provide about the dead person and how he or she died. An overview of the process of decay (taphonomy) is also obtained by students. Criminal investigation techniques are also in the program, in addition to DNA evidence and other evidence capable of being presented in court. Labs are used to supplement many courses. Students may choose from elective course options such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and paleoanthropology.

A master’s program in forensic anthropology emphasizes research methodology; students learn the statistical skills used in the field. A thesis is a requirement for the majority of programs, and students also learn about developing their skills in presentation and writing papers for publication.

Master’s Programs in Forensic Anthropology

Program graduates can expect to gain expertise in locating, excavating and documenting human remains through the use of archeological field methods. Students gain instruction in specific techniques like results interpretation and lab analysis. The program also provides parallel training in the application of their discoveries to medical investigations and court cases involving the deaths of humans. Students learn about skeletal biology, human anatomy, and osteology to impart understanding about human remains. Core coursework may also include other core topics such as crime scene investigation, fossil studies and taphonomy, DNA analysis, expert witness testimony and courtroom presentation.

Students enrolled in some programs may have to compose a research-based master’s thesis and pass comprehensive exams before they can graduate.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Preference may be available to students who have completed undergraduate courses in anatomy, in addition to focusing on archeology, a subfield of anthropology. Applicants may also be required to submit letters of recommendation and intent and meet GRE and GPA standards.


Program coursework in both MA and MS programs combines topic areas in the natural sciences, criminal justice, and anthropology. Core coursework may commonly cover subject areas such as:

•Outdoor crime scenes
•Fragmentary osteology
•Homicide investigation
•Skeletal trauma
•Forensic Radiology
•Physical evidence recovery

Career Choices

Program graduates from an MA or MS program may seek careers in medicine, government, education and nonprofit organizations. They may choose from possible job titles such as:

•Legislative program manager
•Museum conservationist
•Cultural resources manager
•Medical examiner’s assistant

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education may pursue a terminal Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program. They may also choose from other relevant Ph.D. program fields including biological anthropology, forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, and criminal justice.

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