Two people examining artifacts

Forensic and Biological Anthropology

Graduate Certificate

The Department of Applied Forensic Sciences at Mercyhurst University offers a year-long graduate certificate program in Forensic and Biological Anthropology. The on-campus program allows students to construct their own curriculum for the school year according to their research interests to meet a minimum five-course requirement. This program is designed for students interested in complementing their undergraduate education with specialized hands-on training in the area of forensic and biological anthropology, while preparing for graduate school and/or future careers in medico-legal death investigations.

The program will expose certificate students to specific methods of forensic anthropology, including forensic archaeology, forensic osteology, and forensic taphonomy. The curriculum encompasses many key aspects of the Master of Science in Forensic and Biological Anthropology. In particular, the program is designed to address common lacking areas and training gaps common to applicants preparing for master’s and Ph.D. programs in biological anthropology fields. For example, students with strong backgrounds in archaeology may need to improve their training in osteology or quantitative skills.

Students enrolled in the graduate certificate program will be able to construct a personalized curriculum of courses in the current Mercyhurst graduate catalog, spanning a variety of subjects including forensic archaeology, forensic taphonomy, bioarchaeology, human skeletal biology, skeletal trauma analysis, zooarchaeology, biostatistics, and more.

Students will also have the unique opportunity to participate in active forensic cases conducted by the Mercyhurst Forensic Anthropology Laboratory, both during the recovery of evidence from a variety of outdoor forensic scenes, including surface scatters, buried bodies, and fatal fire scenes, as well as the forensic anthropological analysis of human biological tissues in the laboratory.

Program Overview

  • Options: Graduate certificate
  • Location(s): On campus
  • Credits: 15 to 18
  • Duration: One year
  • Cost: $1,026 per credit; $17,000-20,000 total
  • Deadline: Preferred application deadline Jan. 15
  • Start term(s): Fall semester only
  • Careers: Continued education (ex. Ph.D.), medico-legal death careers

Our forensic and biological anthropology program is one of the only programs in the country to provide students with hands-on learning and participation in real forensic casework beginning in their first semester. Called upon the assist in more than 100 cases a 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.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the Forensic and Biological Anthropology graduate certificate, and depending on your personalized curriculum, students should be able to:

  • Apply archaeological method and theory to forensic contexts.
  • Analyze and interpret human and faunal skeletal remains.
  • Effectively critically analyze and evaluate scientific ideas, research, and methodologies.
  • Communicate scientific findings in written and oral form.

Course Requirements

The one-year, 15- to 18-credit graduate certificate program in Forensic and Biological Anthropology is available to students looking to enhance their undergraduate education with courses and hands-on training in preparation for professional careers or graduate school. The certificate program is particularly useful for students interested in acquiring practical experience in the specific methods and theory of forensic anthropology. The certificate is also appropriate for applicants interested in careers in medicolegal death investigation, biological anthropology, bioarchaeology, anatomy, or other related fields.

People looking through a wooded area

Career Paths

Mercyhurst has a distinguished network of alumni working throughout the world in the fields related to biological and forensic anthropology. You can be confident that, should you successfully earn your graduate certificate in forensic and biological anthropology from Mercyhurst University, you will be well positioned to work in the medico-legal field or to pursue your master’s or Ph.D. at another university.

Admissions Requirements

Prospective applicants for the Forensic and Biological Anthropology graduate program must fulfill the following admissions requirements. The program is highly selective and has a preferred application deadline of Jan. 15. To ensure full consideration, all applications and associated documents should be received by the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions no later than Jan. 15 of each year. Applications received after Jan. 15 may be considered if seats remain in the cohort after the first round of decisions. The average annual cohort size is eight students.
Admissions decisions are made by the program director after a holistic review. Students in this program begin only in the Fall semester.

  • Completed (free) online application
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school. Ideal candidates will have a very strong undergraduate record/degree in a field of anthropology (e.g., forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, physical anthropology, or archaeology), natural science (e.g., biology, chemistry), mathematics, or forensic science.
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended 
  • Current Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of intent (500-750 words) outlining the student’s education and career aspirations as well as any relevant and/or interesting life experience and any additional information the applicant feels would be important to include. This may include any funding or scholarships achieved by the applicant, research projects, internships, professional meetings attended, publications, past careers, special skills, etc.
  • Letters of recommendation (3) from educational or professional contacts or employers who have known the applicant for a substantial amount of time on a professional basis. In addition to the letters, recommenders must complete a graduate recommendation form.
  • GRE (General Test) scores. Typically we require a score of 300 or above on the revised scale. Scores should be received by Jan. 15 for full consideration.
  • A Personal Interview. The most qualified candidates will be invited to campus for an interview with the program director. The program requires an abundance of group work, so personable, adaptable students are preferred. Compatible personalities are essential in order to produce a cohesive group and working environment.
  • International applicants whose records are written in a language other than English must have their documents translated into English and a notarized statement attesting to the accuracy of the translations
  • International applicants whose primary language is not English must attain a TOEFL score of at least 69 on the internet-based exam OR an IELTS score of at least 5.8 OR a Duolingo English Test score of no less than 100.

Explore Financial Aid

Earn an affordable certificate in forensic and biological anthropology with competitive per-credit costs. Visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at or 814-824-3351.