Anthropology: Forensic & Biological Anthropology Concentration - MS

Program Code: MSANTHFBA
Master of Science

Availability: campus

The Master of Science in Anthropology: Forensic and Biological Anthropology Concentration is one of the only programs in the country to provide students with hands-on learning and participation in real forensic casework in addition to a strong foundation in biological anthropology. The curriculum combines field and laboratory training to produce students with the skills and experience necessary to be competitive candidates for Ph.D. programs in a variety of fields, including biological anthropology, bioarchaeology, and anatomy. Students have also been successful in seeking employment with local, state, federal, or international agencies.

Because the department is called to assist or consult on over 100 forensic cases per year, students in this program have the unique opportunity to conduct forensic archaeological recoveries of human remains and use their knowledge of human and faunal skeletal remains while working on real forensic cases. In addition to our service to the community through forensic casework, our program emphasizes science-based, quantitative research. Through the development of a publishable master’s thesis, students are expected to disseminate research in written and oral formats, particularly at national and regional scientific conferences. This program, while intensive, fosters a strong bond between fellow students as well as with faculty. As such, teamwork ends up being a very strong component over the course of the two years. The curriculum is constructed such that fulltime students must complete seven (7) core courses in their first year and four (4) core courses in the second year. Students in their second year have the option of taking a variety of elective courses. At the end of the first year, students are required to take a comprehensive examination, including a written and practical portion, in order to demonstrate competency to move on to the second year. Most students have their master’s thesis proposals formulated by the end of their first year and will write and defend their thesis by the end of their second year, although some have taken up to three years to finish.

Mission Statement
The mission of the Master of Science in Anthropology: Forensic and Biological Anthropology Concentration is to develop, through hands-on learning, students that are prepared to enter the workforce or pursue advanced study in a variety of areas including forensic science, forensic anthropology, biological anthropology, bioarchaeology, or anatomy. We aim to provide students with a broad understanding and appreciation of human variation in the past and present that will inform their world view. In addition, we strive to provide service to the community through forensic casework and training for law enforcement and medicolegal professionals. Through this service, graduate students have the opportunity to participate and learn from real-world forensic cases. As a department, we actively engage in research that advances justice while contributing to the larger body of scientific knowledge. In this pursuit, we aim to foster a positive faculty-student bond by providing student opportunities for collaborative research with an emphasis on scientific writing, communication, and quantitative data analysis.

Admission Requirements
Applications for the Forensic and Biological Anthropology Master’s program will be evaluated based on range and performance on undergraduate coursework, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, experiences connected to forensic anthropology, biological anthropology or related STEM fields, the personal statement, and professional references.

Ideal candidates have a strong undergraduate record in the natural sciences, as well as foundation courses in physical/biological anthropology. Because of the extremely collaborative nature of the program among both the students and the faculty, strong applications have also demonstrated that they work well with others and are able to function as a member of a team. Once applications are reviewed, a video, phone, and in-person interviews are used to select the final individuals for acceptance into the program.

To apply, students much meet the following minimum requirements and submit the following items:

  • An undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 overall, with at least 3.0 in their major field.
  • An undergraduate degree in the area of intended graduate study or in an approved, related field. The most competitive applicants have an undergraduate degree in biological anthropology, archaeology, biology, chemistry, or forensic science, however, applicants from all fields will be considered. All official transcripts from accredited higher education institutions are required to apply (transcripts from international universities must be evaluated by World Education Services or equivalent service approved by the Office of GCE; please use “course-by-course report”).
  • Graduate record examination (GRE) scores of 150 or above in both the quantitative and verbal sections, and a 4.0 or above in the writing section. Otherwise exceptional applicants with scores below these thresholds will be considered.
  • A professional résumé or curriculum vitae.
  • A personal statement (maximum of 800 words) describing the candidate’s interest in the program, background, related experience, career aspirations, and research interests. If the applicant has an undergraduate degree in a field not listed above, their interest and preparation for study in this field should be discussed within the personal statement.
  • Three positive letters of recommendations from supervisors or faculty that emphasize one or more of the following: the applicant’s performance in class, maturity, ability to work as a member of a team, capacity to learn and work independently, and potential for success in graduate school.
  • A completed application form, which can be found online at www.mercy
Program Student Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the Forensic and Biological Anthropology Concentration curriculum in the Master of Science in Anthropology program, students will be able to:

  • Apply archaeological method and theory to forensic contexts.
  • Analyze and interpret human and faunal skeletal remains.
  • Develop, through advanced quantitative analysis, science-based research designs.
  • Effectively critically analyze and evaluate scientific ideas, research, and methodologies.
  • Communicate scientific findings in written and oral form.
Program Requirements:

Comprehensive Exam
All students in the Master’s program are required to take a comprehensive exam in the spring of their first year. The three-day exam consists of written and practical portions that cover the full range of topics covered during the first year. An 80% or above must be obtained on each section to progress to the second year of the program. At the discretion of the faculty, students may be given a single opportunity to repeat one or both sections of a similar exam. At the discretion of the Department Chair, students who have completed satisfactory coursework, but fail to pass the comprehensive exam may earn a Graduate Certificate before exiting the program.

The required master’s thesis in the Forensic and Biological Anthropology master’s program must be high-quality, scientifically oriented publishable document that is based on unique research that addresses a specific issue in the fields of forensic anthropology, physical anthropology, forensic archaeology, human skeletal biology, growth and development, human variation, forensic taphonomy, and/or skeletal trauma analysis. Prior to the second year of the program, the student should select a primary thesis advisor. Final approval of the thesis topic and research design must be obtained by at least three graduate faculty members. A 25-minute public presentation of the final thesis is required. At least three members of the faculty must approve the final submitted thesis. Presentation at a national meeting, as well as publication of the research in a scientific periodical or book, is strongly recommended but is not required. A non-thesis option is not available.

The Biological and Forensic Anthropology Master’s Program operates on a semester calendar. The student must complete 9 required courses, many with associated labs, and a master’s thesis. Additional elective courses can be completed within the program. Students must start the program during the fall semester and most courses must be completed in a predetermined sequence. Students may transfer up to six graduate credits with a grade of B or better into the program upon approval of the program chair.

The minimum requirements for the award of a Master’s degree are:

  • Completion of the course requirements designated by the graduate program
  • An overall GPA of 3.0.
  • Completion and successful defense of a master’s thesis.
  • A completed “Application for Degree” form filed with the Registrar’s office by Feb. 1 of the year of intended degree completion.

Year 1

Year 2

Click here to see this course group.
Click here to see this course group.
Click here to see this course group.