Cultural Anthropologist: Job Description & Career Info

Jun 28, 2019

Like other ethnology careers, cultural anthropologists get to study the unique aspects of human nature that make life interesting. Cultural anthropology jobs require a combination of education and training detailed in the following article.

What Do Cultural Anthropologists Do?

A good cultural anthropologist job description is probably still broad in nature, as cultural anthropologists study the many different cultural and historical aspects of humans and societies. These scientists look at various aspects of the human condition like technology, legal systems, language, race relations, illness, war, religion, gender, and more. Check out the table below for more career details.

Degree Required Master's degree
Degree Field Anthropology, archaeology
Other Requirements Field experience
Annual Mean Salary (2018)* $65,310 (anthropologists and archaeologists)
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* 4% (anthropologists and archaeologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Typically, the work of cultural anthropologists also requires them to customize their research methods to a specific region or subject area. Some of their specific job duties may include, but are not limited to:

  • Plan research studies
  • Conduct interviews
  • Make field observations
  • Analyze data
  • Present their findings
  • Consult on projects

Cultural anthropologists generally work full-time and may spend most of their time in an office. However, the job often requires field research and may result in some laboratory work with data analysis. Cultural anthropology jobs are rather rare, with the BLS reporting there were only around 6,000 anthropologists and archaeologists in 2018, so here we discuss the necessary steps to be competitive in the field.

How to Become a Cultural Anthropologist

Culture anthropology careers generally require students to meet specific education requirements and obtain some experience in the field. Get more details about each step in becoming a cultural anthropologist below.

Step 1: Cultural Anthropology Degree

Most anthropologists need at least a master's or doctoral degree to become an independent researcher in the field. Graduates with a bachelor's degree can usually only work as a fieldworker or assistant.

Generally, students at any of these degree levels will need to pursue an anthropology major, but may also choose to study the closely related field of archaeology. Some colleges may offer cultural anthropology programs or specializations within the anthropology department or major. Master's degree programs in anthropology typically take 2 years to complete, while a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the field requires additional years of schooling and a dissertation.

Students interested in studying anthropology and archaeology can find free online courses in either field. There are also a few colleges that offer online undergraduate degree programs in archaeology.

Step 2: Experience

Although most master's and doctoral programs in anthropology include extensive amounts of field and/or laboratory experience, students may wish to pursue additional hands-on experiences, to be competitive. Typically, these experiences can take place during their schooling and may include additional field training or internships. Internships may be available at places like historical societies, nonprofits, or museums. It is also important for students to gain experience working with both qualitative and quantitative data and methods.

Cultural Anthropology Salary

The average annual salary for an anthropologist and archaeologist in 2018 was $65,310, according to the BLS. These professionals working for the federal executive branch made the highest average salary of $80,150 for the same year. However, most anthropologists and archaeologists worked for management, scientific, and technical consulting services in 2018 and made an average salary of $60,680.

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