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Top Colleges for Forensic Anthropologists

by John Huddle

Forensic anthropologists conduct medicolegal investigation and identification of skeletal or badly decomposed human remains. The best programs in forensic anthropology prepare graduates for certification by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology with training standards of the highest academic caliber, ample research, notable faculty and student support within world-ranked universities for the social sciences in academic rigor, research and impact. These programs demand the very best as they prepare leaders in forensic anthropology.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University of East Lansing offers a doctoral program in physical anthropology with specialization in forensics within a university that in 2013 ranked 21st among world universities according to the Ranking Web of Universities, or Webometrics, 30th according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, or ARWU, 49th according to the “Times Higher Education,” or THE, 54th by CTWS Leiden and 73rd in national universities according to “U.S. News & World Report.” The program stands out for its prominence in research, impact on the field, research funding, student selectivity, faculty and student awards, training opportunities in multiple laboratories such as the Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research, research projects worldwide, and collaboration within MSU and at other universities.

University of Florida

The doctoral level program in biological anthropology at the University of Florida at Gainesville offers a specialization in forensics. The university was ranked in 2013 as 25th by Webometrics, 49th according to “U.S. News,” 51st by ARWU, 82nd by THE and 136th by Leiden. The program is distinctive because of the department’s large faculty that allows wide diversification with rigorous course work, cutting-edge laboratories, research focus and a working forensic anthropological laboratory -- the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory, which serves the State of Florida where graduate students work closely with the director in all case aspects. Students engage in search and recovery of human remains and trauma analysis in collaboration with other departments, such as pathology and entomology, while also participating in death investigation internships at the medical examiner's office.

Boston University

Boston University offers a Master of Science in forensic anthropology within a university that in 2013 ranked 40th according to ARWU, 41st by “U.S. News,” 45th according to Leiden, 54th by THE and 62nd according to Webometrics. The Boston University program is striking for the broad perspective this program brings to the field, with training in osteology, taphonomy, human anatomy, crime scene investigation and methods of human identification. The program continues its distinctive nature with a blend of lecture- and laboratory-based learning that includes opportunities for internships, directed studies and a graduate-level research project with a full-length thesis.

University of Tennessee

In addition to rigorous course work, the Ph.D. in anthropology program at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville stands out for its student selectivity and research focus. In 2013 Webometrics ranked the university 109th, “U.S. News” listed it at 101st, and Leiden put it in 170th place. This program is also exemplary for the Forensic Anthropology Center that serves students, researchers and law enforcement with notable research faculty, an extensive forensic data bank, skeletal collections, outdoor research facilities, a body donor program and student internships.

About the Author

John Huddle is an Army veteran with enlisted service as general hospital staff and hospital chaplain's assistant. His career also included stints as a teacher, adjunct faculty, administrator and school psychologist. Twice, Dr. Huddle was a major party nominee for state office. He also served as a director on several nonprofit boards. Today he enjoys consulting and lobbying for underdog causes.

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