Difference Between Anthropologist & Historian

Research is a critical part of the work that anthropologists and historians do, but historians and anthropologists differ in their focus and the application of their work. Continue reading to compare these careers further.

Comparing Anthropologists to Historians

Anthropologists and historians are professionals who are interested in the past. Anthropologists tend to focus more on how people have changed over time, while historians may focus more on specific events, places or things that have historical significance.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Anthropologist Master's Degree $49,750 (2017)* 4% (for anthropologists and archeologists)
Historian Master's Degree $55,110 (2016)** 2%

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Anthropologists vs. Historians

Anthropologists and historians both perform research. Anthropologists may need to travel as part of their work so they can study historic sites, talk to people who have knowledge about past cultural groups from different regions, or spend time with different ethnic groups. Historians tend to do a lot of their research from documents. Anthropologists and historians may also use their skills for practical applications. Historians may advise governments about public programs, while anthropologists may help businesses make decisions about product development.

Anthropologist

Anthropologists are usually required to have a master's degree to enter their career field, although a doctoral degree may be necessary for some positions. Anthropologists spend their careers researching human development. Some specialize in specific fields, such as the evolution of languages. Their work also has practical applications, and they may study things such as the effects of war on society or perform market research studies for businesses. Their work hours and environment depend upon their area of focus, and some anthropologists may spend a lot of time traveling to foreign countries or living overseas while conducting research.

Job responsibilities of an anthropologist include:

  • Determine the focus of their study
  • Identify data that's relevant to their research
  • Travel to historic locations or live with cultural groups overseas
  • Interview people with relevant information
  • Document their findings

Historian

Historians specialize in researching past events. A master's degree is typically required to become a historian, but some career options may require a doctoral degree. The majority of historians work for the government. Others work at museums, colleges or universities. Historians need to have good research skills, since they may spend a lot of time investigating specific topics or events. Historians may apply their skills to current issues and do things such as research the history of a political program, which may help people understand the value of the program.

Job responsibilities of a historian include:

  • Identify research topic
  • Find relevant information sources
  • Verify that documents or materials are authentic
  • Educate the public about historical places or events
  • Document their research
  • Preserve historical items in museums or historic locations

Related Careers

Since anthropologists and historians specialize in research and are typically involved with studying the past, those who are interested in either profession may also be interested in becoming an archaeologist or a museum curator. Archaeologists use research about historic events and places to help locate historic sites while museum curators may be involved with authenticating historic artifacts and preserving them in museums.

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