Postgraduate study

Forensic Anthropology

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding available

Intensive and challenging, this programme prepares you for a career in the rapidly growing area of forensic human bone analysis, identification, and interpretation.

Whether recovered from crime scenes, war graves, or mass disasters, the bones and teeth of a deceased person can provide such information as age at death, sex, stature and indications of general health and lifestyle, all of which can assist in the personal identification of that individual, and provide an insight into the circumstances surrounding death.

Through a multidisciplinary combination of academic theory and practical application, you’ll learn to approach osteological problems creatively and develop the ability to develop and test research, critically investigate data sources and relate scientific analyses to forensic problems.

Crucially, you will also study the legal, scientific and evidential framework of forensic anthropology, which will aid you in the proper interpretation of recovered osteological remains.

The programme consists of seven compulsory courses and combines lectures, seminars and hands-on practical work with archaeological skeletal assemblages and reference collections. In addition to essays, reports and practical assessments, you will complete a dissertation on a topic of your choice.

Compulsory courses include:

  • Analytical Methods in Human Osteology
  • Forensic Taphonomy
  • Legal and Evidential Framework in Forensic Anthropology
  • Human Musculoskeletal Analysis Anatomy
  • Practical Osteology
  • Scientific Evidence in Forensic Anthropology
  • Skeletal Pathology

On successful completion of the programme, you will be able to:

  • identify and interpret human bone remains
  • develop hypothesis testing skills
  • carry out relevant scientific analyses, often in cooperation with experts in other disciplines
  • engage in theoretical and methodological discussions relevant to forensic anthropology
  • design research strategies based on transferable skills providing a basis for advanced studies (PhD and beyond)

Many students who choose this programme do so to gain the necessary osteological knowledge for relevant PhD study. Others are seeking employment in mainstream forensics.

Other possible career options include working as a freelance forensic anthropologist, or employment with a private forensic company, a national institution, or the United Nations.

Applicants with previous knowledge of human anatomy/osteology may be eligible to apply for an MScR in Archaeology and carry out Masters level research on a forensic anthropology-related topic. In this case potential candidates are advised to get in touch with the Programme Director before applying.

MSc by Research Archaeology

A UK 2:1 honours degree with a mark of at least 65%, or its international equivalent (GPA 3.4), in a relevant subject, such as archaeology, anthropology, anatomy, medical sciences and related fields.

You do not need to have any previous knowledge of human osteology.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than two and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

For detailed information on fee status, policies and payment see:

Owing to its popularity, there are restrictions on the numbers we can admit to this programme, and a non-refundable deposit of £500 will be payable by all applicants when they accept an offer. This will be offset against tuition fees upon entry to the programme.

Additional costs may be incurred if your dissertation involves fieldwork or specialist laboratory analysis.

  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit a reference with your application.

We will process applications prior to the application deadline, but we will not make entry decisions until after this date. It is your responsibility to ensure you submit a complete application, including all documentation and references, by the deadline.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG