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Careers in Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropologists conduct research to inform practice. The 'applied' in applied anthropology refers to turning theory and knowledge into action or practice. This article highlights just a few of the many careers in applied anthropology.

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Career Options in Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropologists have skills and knowledge that are very useful for a wide array of sectors and industries. They work in academia, public health, medicine, the high-tech sector, for nonprofits such as environmental organizations and international development agencies, in the corporate world, and for local, state, tribal and federal governments. Read below about some of the exciting careers in applied anthropology, what professionals in these positions do and the education required for each job.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Contract Archaeologists $63,190 (for all anthropologists & archaeologists) 3% (for all anthropologists & archaeologists)
Market Research Analysts $62,560 23%
Applied Linguistic Anthropologists $77,020 (for all social scientists & related workers, all other) 6% (for all social scientists & related workers, all other)
Archivists, Curators & Museum Workers $47,230 13%
Environmental Scientists & Specialists $68,910 11%

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Applied Anthropology Career Information

Contract Archaeologists

Many archaeologists are employed by federal, state, tribal and local government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior, to name just a few. Contract archaeologists assess cultural resources affected by government funded projects such as roads and new buildings, to protect these valuable resources. To become a contract archaeologist, you need a master's or doctoral degree; fieldworkers and assistants, though, may often enter the field with just a bachelor's degree. Contract archaeologists embody the concept of applied anthropology; they apply their research, analysis, surveying and excavating skills to real world problems, such as when the government plans to dig in an area known to have Native American remains and artifacts.

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts, who are employed in nearly all industries and sectors, conduct and analyze market research to determine what products and services consumers will buy and how much they will pay for them. They also examine market conditions and help companies understand what products and services to sell, when, where and for how much. To become a market research analyst, you need at least a bachelor's degree, excellent math and analytical skills; more advanced positions require a master's degree. This is a great career for people who have studied and done applied anthropology, since conducting surveys, qualitative and quantitative research and analysis and understanding human behavior are all assets and skills needed by market research analysts.

Applied Linguistic Anthropologists

Applied linguistic anthropologists do many different things; they may help develop speech recognition technology for a software company or study an endangered language so they can help communities maintain and revitalize their dying languages by producing textbooks and collections of texts. They may work with software engineers to develop language learning software or research how culture affects language use. Work in this field requires a master's or doctoral degree. Linguistic anthropology is one of the three main subfields within anthropology--practicing applied linguistic anthropology means applying knowledge gained through research to solve practical problems in the world, thus it is an excellent career for applied anthropologists.

Archivists, Curators & Museum Workers

Archivists, curators and museum workers preserve and catalog documents and objects of cultural and historical value, educate and inform the public, and plan and display exhibits at museums and significant sites. To work in this field typically requires a master's degree, though museum technicians often hold just a bachelor's degree. Working as an intern or volunteer in a museum or an archive is a great way to find a job in this field. These positions are great for applied anthropologists in that they can utilize knowledge gained through research and then apply those insights to the practical problems of cataloging, archiving, collecting, storing and displaying information and objects, as well as educate the public.

Environmental Scientists & Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists protect human health and analyze and solve environmental problems. They may advise policy makers, businesses, legislators and the public; help clean up polluted waters and land; help companies reduce waste; take water, air, land and food samples and test and analyze them for toxins; conduct environmental surveys; and write research reports to share with stakeholders. For entry-level positions in this field, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in environmental or ecological anthropology with coursework in the natural sciences; a master's or doctoral degree is required for more advanced jobs. Since environmental scientists and specialists conduct research, surveys and tests, then apply their knowledge to solving real-world environmental problems, this is a wonderful career for applied anthropologists.

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