What Is the Average Starting Salary for a Forensic Anthropologist?

CSI enthusiasts and others interested in pursuing a career as a forensic anthropologist may be curious to know what the average starting salary is for this particular occupation. The amount of money a forensic anthropologist makes varies greatly based primarily on what occupation the individual chooses and where he decides to work.


The primary job of a forensic anthropologist is to analyze human remains to determine who the person is. Since forensic anthropologists usually need a doctorate degree that can take up to 10 years of post secondary school to earn, they often have a great deal of student loan debt that needs to be repaid. As a result, most will be looking for the highest paying jobs they can find.

Career Options

Anthropologists, in general, earn an annual income somewhere between $45,000 to $55,000 a year. Starting salaries can be significantly lower, in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 annually, depending on the area of the country where the forensic anthropologist works. In general, certain areas of the country,like the Northeast and California, where the average pay is higher for all occupations also pay more to their forensic anthropologists.

Several different career choices are available to forensic anthropologists. For example, they could work for the government or the military. They could also choose to work as a college instructor, earning starting salaries in the range of $55,000 to $77,000 annually. Another option would to be to work at a law enforcement agency where the starting salary might be upwards of $70,000 per year. Working in a crime lab could earn an individual anywhere in the range of $57,000 to $70,000 every year. One of the lower paying job options would be to become a museum curator with an annual starting salary between $25,000 and $30,000.


Forensic anthropologists face a great deal of competition for only a few available jobs. Since the demand for these specialists is low, many end up take jobs as professors or museum curators rather than helping to solve crimes for various local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. However, there are some who consult for the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii or on human rights cases identifying victims of crimes in places like Latin America, Croatia and Bosnia.

In order to compete, you must not only have a stellar academic record, but you must also have a great deal of lab experience. You’ll have to be able to tell the difference between human bones and those that are not human. In addition, you will have to be able to identify bone fragments and human teeth and then determine the sex and age of the deceased individual as well as his height, ancestral background and whether the person suffered from any kind of trauma or disease that contributed to his death. Forensic anthropologists will also have to be able to exhume bodies and examine them upon request. A knowledge of technology, radiography and photography are very important for a forensic anthropologist as is experience with the rules and regulations of various law enforcement agencies. In fact, the more a person knows, the more likely he is to be able to land one of the coveted jobs that are so rare in this field.