How to Become a Bioarchaeologist: Investigating Human Remains

How to Become a Bioarchaeologist: Investigating Human Remains

Are you interested in uncovering the mysteries of the past through the study of human remains? Becoming a bioarchaeologist could be the perfect career path for you. In this article, we will explore the steps you need to take to become a bioarchaeologist, the skills required for success in this field, and the potential job opportunities available to you. Read on to learn more about this fascinating and rewarding profession.

Education and Training

As a bioarchaeologist, obtaining the right education and training is crucial in order to effectively investigate and analyze human remains. There are several paths you can take to become a successful bioarchaeologist, including pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as obtaining certifications and continuing education in the field.

Undergraduate Degree

To start your journey towards becoming a bioarchaeologist, it is recommended to obtain a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, archaeology, biology, or a related field. These programs typically cover foundational knowledge in human anatomy, osteology, archaeology methods, and cultural anthropology. It is important to take courses that focus on human remains analysis, as this will be a key aspect of your future work as a bioarchaeologist.

Graduate Degree Options

While a bachelor’s degree can provide you with a solid foundation, many bioarchaeologists choose to further their education by pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in bioarchaeology or a related field. Graduate programs in bioarchaeology typically offer advanced coursework in osteology, skeletal analysis, bioarchaeological methods, and research techniques. These programs also often include hands-on experience working with human remains in laboratory settings, which is essential for developing the necessary skills for a career in bioarchaeology.

Certifications and Continuing Education

In addition to obtaining a formal education, bioarchaeologists may also benefit from obtaining certifications in specialized areas such as forensic anthropology, skeletal analysis, or archaeological fieldwork. These certifications can demonstrate your expertise and dedication to the field, and may open up additional opportunities for career advancement. Additionally, continuing education through workshops, conferences, and seminars can help bioarchaeologists stay current on the latest research and developments in the field, ensuring that they are equipped to conduct high-quality analyses of human remains.

Skills and Qualifications

Aspiring bioarchaeologists must possess a unique set of skills and qualifications in order to excel in this field. Key areas of expertise include anthropological knowledge, laboratory skills, and fieldwork experience.

Anthropological Knowledge

A strong foundation in anthropology is essential for bioarchaeologists. Understanding human culture, behavior, and evolution is crucial for interpreting human remains and their significance in archaeological contexts. Knowledge of osteology, the study of bones, is particularly important as bioarchaeologists often analyze skeletal remains to make interpretations about past populations.

Laboratory Skills

Proficiency in laboratory techniques is another crucial skill for bioarchaeologists. This includes the ability to properly handle and analyze human remains, as well as knowledge of specialized equipment and procedures used in the laboratory setting. Bioarchaeologists must be detail-oriented and meticulous in their work, as accurate analysis of human remains is essential for drawing meaningful conclusions about past populations.

Fieldwork Experience

Fieldwork experience is also a valuable qualification for aspiring bioarchaeologists. This includes participating in archaeological excavations to recover human remains, as well as conducting surveys and documenting archaeological sites. Fieldwork experience provides hands-on training in the methods and techniques used in bioarchaeology, and allows individuals to gain practical experience working with human remains in a real-world setting.

Overall, a combination of anthropological knowledge, laboratory skills, and fieldwork experience is essential for individuals looking to become successful bioarchaeologists. By developing these skills and qualifications, aspiring bioarchaeologists can make meaningful contributions to the field of archaeology and gain valuable insights into the lives of past populations through the analysis of human remains.

Job Responsibilities

As a bioarchaeologist, your main responsibility is to investigate and analyze human remains found at archaeological sites. This involves conducting excavations, recovering skeletal remains, analyzing and interpreting the data, and writing reports for publication.

Excavation and Recovery

One of the key responsibilities of a bioarchaeologist is to participate in excavations at archaeological sites to uncover human remains. This involves carefully excavating burial sites, documenting the context of the remains, and ensuring that all skeletal elements are recovered intact. Bioarchaeologists must also work closely with archaeologists and other team members to ensure that proper excavation techniques are used to preserve the integrity of the remains.

Analysis and Interpretation

Once the skeletal remains have been recovered, bioarchaeologists analyze and interpret the data to learn more about the individuals whose remains were found. This includes determining the age, sex, and health status of the individuals, as well as any injuries or diseases they may have had. Bioarchaeologists also use various scientific techniques, such as DNA analysis and stable isotope analysis, to gather more information about the individuals and the time period in which they lived.

Report Writing and Publication

After analyzing the skeletal remains, bioarchaeologists write detailed reports documenting their findings and interpretations. These reports are often published in academic journals or presented at conferences to share their research with the larger archaeological community. Bioarchaeologists must also ensure that their reports comply with ethical guidelines and standards set by professional organizations to ensure the accuracy and integrity of their research.


In conclusion, becoming a bioarchaeologist involves a combination of education, experience, and passion for unraveling the mysteries of the past through the study of human remains. By following the steps outlined in this article, aspiring bioarchaeologists can embark on a rewarding and fulfilling career in this fascinating field. From excavating burial sites to analyzing skeletal remains, bioarchaeologists play a crucial role in understanding our shared human history. By honing their skills and staying up-to-date with the latest research methods, bioarchaeologists can make valuable contributions to our understanding of the past and help preserve and protect our cultural heritage for future generations.