The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

The Impact of Forensic Anthropology in Undergraduate Anthropology Programs


1Anthropology and Sociology, Western Carolina University, 2Department of Economics, Management, and Project Management, Western Carolina University, 3Anthropology Department, University of Nevada, Reno, 4Forensic Anthropology Program, Washburn University

April 18, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Anecdotally, it has been suggested that undergraduate anthropology students are more interested in forensic anthropology than any other specialty, but that forensic anthropologists are less-desired as colleagues in academia due to the nature of their work. The goal of this project was to examine these two related questions: (1) does having a forensic anthropologist, or an undergraduate concentration in forensic anthropology, increase the number of majors in anthropology programs? And (2) are forensic anthropologists less likely to be hired for relevant biological anthropology academic positions? To address these questions, the following data were analyzed: number of degrees in anthropology, by U.S. institutions (from the National Center for Education Statistics); number of forensic anthropology and anthropology majors at institutions with forensic anthropology concentrations; number of forensic anthropology job postings per year (from the Bioanth job wiki pages); and number of forensic anthropologists hired for those jobs.

Results found that programs with a forensic anthropology concentration saw large increases in the overall number of anthropology majors, contrary to the national trend of declining anthropology degrees. Programs that hired a forensic anthropologist also saw increases in the overall number of anthropology majors; however, to a smaller and varied extent. For academic jobs specifically desiring a forensic anthropologist, forensic anthropologists were hired in only 58% of postings (no failed searches were included). This study shows a reluctance to hire forensic anthropologists in academia, despite their positive impact on the growth of anthropology programs; it also has implications for the education of future forensic anthropologists.

Slides/Poster (pdf)