Careers in Anthropology: Job Options and Education Requirements

Anthropology degrees cover human culture and its history as well as research methodology. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for anthropology graduates.

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With the proper education and experience, there are a number of career options available to you that are based on the study of anthropology. From pedagogy through practical application and field work, you may be able to find a career area that matches your interests and abilities.

Essential Information

While many anthropologists work typical hours as educators or consultants in a variety of industries, others may choose careers that lead them all over the world, where they entrench themselves in local culture on a daily basis. Many anthropology students need master's degrees to seek employment in the field. Experience is also beneficial and can be obtained through internships or assistantships.

Career Titles Anthropologist Postsecondary Anthropology Teacher Archaeologist Linguist
Education Requirements Master's or Doctoral degree Master's or Doctoral degree Master's or Doctoral degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% 13% 4% 4%
Average Salary (2015)* $61,220 $77,650 $61,220 $61,220

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Anthropologists study human culture, both past and present, by conducting methodical research. They may work as professionals in the field or as college instructors. More details about these career options are listed below.

Anthropologist

Physical or biological anthropologists specialize in researching human remains to obtain information about individuals' lives. Forensic anthropologists work with law enforcement agencies to help obtain data that might help solve cases. For example, physical anthropologists working at the Smithsonian Institute conduct research on behalf of several governmental agencies. Other possible career paths include epidemiology and positions with museums.

Physical anthropologists are expected to obtain master's degrees. Programs with a focus on physical anthropology include specialized coursework on anatomy, chemistry, conducting field research, hands-on laboratory work and osteology, as well as standard anthropology classes. Many colleges offer specialized programs that include law enforcement-related content, such as homicide investigation and crime scene processing.

The occupations of anthropologist and archaeologist are categorized together by the BLS, so in May 2015, the reported average salary for physical anthropologists was also $61,220, with an expected job growth rate of 4 percent during the 2014-2024 decade. The District of Columbia, New York and Massachusetts were the top-paying states for anthropologists and archaeologists in general in 2015, with a mean yearly wage of $64,290 in May 2015.

Postsecondary Anthropology Teacher

According to the American Anthropological Association, the largest concentration of anthropology positions is in academia.. Anthropologists often find work as educators or researchers employed by universities on the postsecondary level. In these positions, they may teach courses on a variety of topics, usually specializing in one of the four main branches of anthropology: sociocultural anthropology, linguistics, physical anthropology or archaeology. Academic research positions are available with schools and might include running a research laboratory or conducting field research on behalf of the institution.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in May 2015, anthropology and archaeology postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $77,650. The BLS also predicted that postsecondary anthropology teachers will experience job growth of 13 percent through the 2014-2024 decade as enrollment in colleges and universities continues to increase.

Prospective postsecondary anthropology professors and academic researchers will need a minimum of a master's degree to begin applying for positions, according to the BLS. Master's degree programs in anthropology focus on one of the field's specialties. In many cases a Ph.D. may also be required, and an advanced degree could help applicants stand out in one of the discipline's most competitive fields. Additional experience teaching at the college level may be helpful, and the BLS suggests prospective postsecondary educators might benefit from working as graduate teaching assistants.

Archaeologist

Anthropologists with a specialty in archaeology work with physical remains and historical artifacts. They are often responsible for discovering and excavating items, maintaining collections for museums and doing detailed research on their finds. A growing segment of archaeologists is employed by consulting firms specializing in cultural resource management. These firms often complete contracts from federal or local governments and may be responsible for public outreach programs.

According to the BLS, in May 2015, archaeologists made an average salary of $61,220; the highest-paying employer was the federal government, with average wages of $76,180. Professionals in this field can expect job growth of 4 percent from 2014-2024. Although this rate is faster than the average, archaeology is a small profession, with strong competition for new jobs.

According to the Society for American Archaeology, the minimum requirement to obtain work as an archaeologist is a master's degree in anthropology. Prospective archaeologists with bachelor's degrees and hands-on experience in the field are qualified to apply for assistant positions. Those looking for more advanced work should consider pursuing a master's or doctorate degree program that includes field and laboratory work. Solid writing and research skills are also important for this career path. Programs with a dedicated archaeologist on staff are ideal.

Linguist

Linguistic anthropologists study language, both verbal and nonverbal, and how it connects to culture. Most often, linguists will work as researchers, analyzing current and past languages or pursuing hands-on research across the world. Linguists can also find work within government agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Many anthropologists find work as consultants for various companies and government agencies as need for their services arises.

BLS salary and job outlook information for archaeologists and anthropologists in general applies to linguistic anthropologists, so in May 2015, these professionals also earned an average salary of $61,220. The scientific research and development services sector provided the most jobs.

Working as a linguistic anthropologist requires, at minimum, a four-year bachelor's degree and experience conducting research. Training in statistics and multiple languages may be required. The more education prospective linguists complete, the better their chances of success will be. Possible coursework includes culture and media, discourse analysis, grammatical analysis, phonological analysis and semantics.

With the exception of linguists and assistants, most positions in the field of anthropology require a master's degree or doctorate. With the exception of postsecondary educators, job projections in the field are expected to increase at a slower rate than the average for all occupations.

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