Anthropologist Job Description
Anthropologists study the origins of human language, cultures, institutions, organizations, and other social and physical developments.
Most anthropologists are specialized, and can normally be categorized into one of the following groups:
Cultural anthropologists study the customs, cultures, and social rules of different groups. Some cultural anthropologists study cultures in large urban settings that are familiar to most of us, while others study remote cultures that we know little about. They normally use interviews and observational methods to learn more about their subjects. Depending on the location of the culture, extended travel may be required for people in this specialty.
Linguistic anthropologists study ways that humans communicate, and the impact that language has on our lives. Some linguistic anthropologists study spoken language, but most also study non-verbal cues (like body language), and identify ways that these signals change from culture to culture. Sometimes, it’s necessary to study distant cultures to really understand the impact of language.
Biological anthropologists study the evolution of humans. They often spend their careers looking for past evidence of human life, and identify differences between current humans and our ancestors. Sometimes their work takes on forensic qualities, as they might try to identify reasons for a particular group’s demise. Some biological anthropologists spend a lot of time working on legal proceedings. For example, they might analyze skeletal remains to help a jury understand how a person may have died.
Work Environment and Schedule
The work environment for anthropologists varies greatly depending on the type of work that they do. Some spend their days working in an office, while others spend their time analyzing samples in a laboratory or conducting fieldwork.
Anthropologists who work in the field may have to travel extensively and be away from home for long periods of time. In some cases, they may have to learn foreign languages or live in remote regions of the earth.
Traveling to remote places can be risky. Healthcare is often not as reliable as it is back home, and safe drinking water and food may not be readily available. Also, not all cultures are as welcoming as other, and that can pose a risk as well.
Anthropologists who work in an office setting are normally able to work a regular schedule during normal business hours, but those who do fieldwork normally work very long hours.
How to Become an Anthropologist
A minimum of a master’s degree is required for most anthropologist jobs. While it’s possible to get a job in the field with a bachelor’s degree, opportunities are rare.
If you plan on dedicating your career to anthropology, it would be worth your time and money to get Ph.D. A Ph.D. opens up many new career options, including working as a museum curator, college professor, and leading overseas projects. Without a Ph.D., you may find that your opportunities for advancement are limited.
Earning a Ph.D. takes several extra years of coursework after earning a master’s degree. Programs are normally very research intensive, and students may spend anywhere between one and three years doing field research that they will use in their dissertation.
If you decide not to get a Ph.D., then you should try and get an internship during your master’s program. Work experience is highly desired (even for entry-positions). If your life situation prevents you from picking up and traveling the world, you may be able to find some internships with museums or historical societies.
To learn more about the internship opportunities available to you, you should stop by your college’s career center.
There are currently 6,100 anthropologists in the United States, with 380 new anthropologist job openings created each year.
Anthropologist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Anthropologist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most anthropologists make between $41,100 – $74,100 per year, or $19.77 – $35.62 per hour.