Anthropology Career Options

Anthropology Artifact #4

In May 2012, anthropologists and archaeologists had median annual earnings of $57,420*.
(*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm)

Anthropologists study the origin and the physical, social, and cultural development and behavior of humans. They may examine the way of life, archaeological remains, language, or physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world. Some compare the customs, values, and social patterns of different cultures. Anthropologists usually concentrate in sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, or biophysical anthropology.

Sociocultural anthropologists study the customs, cultures, and social lives of groups in settings that range from unindustrialized societies to modern urban centers. Linguistic anthropologists investigate the role of, and changes to, language over time in various cultures. Biophysical anthropologists research the evolution of the human body, look for the earliest evidences of human life, and analyze how culture and biology influence one another. Physical anthropologists examine human remains found at archaeological sites in order to understand population demographics and factors that affected these populations, such as nutrition and disease.

Archaeologists examine and recover material evidence, such as the ruins of buildings, tools, pottery, and other objects remaining from past human cultures in order to determine the chronology, history, customs, and living habits of earlier civilizations. Most anthropologists and archaeologists specialize in a particular region of the world.

Anthropologists and archaeologists will see the majority of their employment growth in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry. Anthropologists who work as consultants often apply anthropological knowledge and methods to problems ranging from economic development issues to forensics. Also, as construction projects increase, archaeologists will be needed to perform preliminary excavations in order to preserve historical sites and artifacts. These anthropologists and archaeologists are engaged in applied anthropology.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Social Scientists.

Job Opportunities (a selection, not an exhaustive list):

  • Academic positions: The number of academic positions (community college and university jobs) are limited and are not expected to increase significantly in the coming years. Most require a Ph.D. as a minimum.
  • Archaeological field positions: There is diverse selection of work available for the archaeologist trained in field techniques. Many positions for field technicians, and as either field project managers or laboratory managers are available
  • Business/corporate anthropology: Ethnographic market research allows the anthropologist to use ethnographic fieldwork methods (participant observation and interviewing) to facilitate marketing surveys, explain workplace values and behaviors, evaluate customer experiences, and other similar opportunities.
  • Computer Science and information technology specialists provide input into database and software designs, localization and globalization of information, and human factor engineering.
  • Cultural Resource Management (CRM) applies archaeological skills towards compliance with environmental and cultural resources regulations. This area of expertise is one of the fastest growing job markets in anthropology.
  • Forensic anthropology is a popular interest among students but the job openings are severely limited, usually require a Ph.D. in biological anthropology and a lengthy internship process.
  • Museum administration/curator: Trained anthropologists may work behind the scenes, preparing and preserving the museum collections. Alternatively, overview of museum educational programs and similar venues are often possible.
  • Not-for-profit organizations are often looking for the skills of an anthropologist to facilitate a wide range of community programs. Skills as a grant writer, manager, or as a policy maker are especially useful.

As many anthropologists will be self-employed, I urge you to consider completion of the EvCC Entrepreneurship Certificate at the same time you complete your first two years of study in anthropology.

Want to Learn More?

For information about careers in anthropology, contact:

  • American Anthropological Association, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet: http://www.aaanet.org

For information about careers in archaeology, contact:

  • Society for American Archaeology, 900 2nd St. N.E., Suite 12, Washington, DC 20002-3560. Internet: http://www.saa.org
  • Archaeological Institute of America, 656 Beacon St., 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02215-2006. Internet: http://www.archaeological.org

For information about applied anthropology options, contact: