What Is the Difference Between an Anthropologist & an Archaeologist?

Archaeologists and anthropologists may seem very similar since their careers involve researching past civilizations, but there are some critical differences in their roles and focus, and those aspects of the work are explored further here.

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Comparing Anthropologists to Archaeologists

Although anthropologists and archaeologists are involved in research of the past, the specific things they study and do differ. Archaeologists are focused on physical evidence of prior civilizations, such as buildings. Anthropologists study ancient cultures to learn about things like how languages evolved or what caused a community to migrate.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)**
Anthropologist Master's Degree $48,648 4%
Archaeologist Master's Degree $47,566 4%

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Anthropologists vs. Archaeologists

Anthropologists and archaeologists are involved with historic research. Archaeologists do things like locate historic sites and excavate ruins. They can take steps to protect the sites from destruction, and use what they learn to shape their understanding of the culture and way of life that the people who lived in those ruins had. Anthropologists focus more on how people have changed over time. They use historical evidence to trace human evolution and assess how variables such as culture and language developed. Anthropologists spend a considerable amount of their time studying things like artifacts, historic documents and research data.


A master's degree in anthropology is normally required for this profession, although a doctoral degree may help improve job prospects. Anthropologists spend much of their time in an office or laboratory, although they may travel to historic sites as part of their duties. When they aren't traveling they work standard business hours Monday to Friday. People who typically work as anthropologists are usually good at investigating so that they can uncover pertinent information relevant to their research, and they are also good at assessing data. They use their skills to inform their understanding of how past cultures lived, how mankind has changed over time, or how religions, cultures, languages and other aspects of people's lives have evolved.

Job responsibilities of an anthropologist include:

  • Traveling to historic locations or sites relevant to research focus
  • Performing tests on samples
  • Studying historic texts
  • Writing reports
  • Applying knowledge to modern studies about products
  • Conducting interviews


Archaeologists explore the earth to reveal secrets about history. Their work involves locating historic items and ensuring that historic sites and artifacts are preserved. They can begin their career with a master's degree in archaeology, although job a doctoral degree may be an asset for those entering this profession. Although some archaeologists are employed at museums or specific historic sites, many travel to different locations to work on dig sites. When they travel they may work on weekends and during the evening, as well as during the day.

Job responsibilities of an archaeologist include:

  • Studying historic texts and artifacts
  • Identifying potential historic sites
  • Excavating sites to locate historic buildings, ruins, tools or other items
  • Identifying artifacts recovered
  • Educating people about historic locations
  • Inspecting sites to ensure regulations are followed

Related Careers

Sociologists study how people interact and socialize, so anyone interested in anthropology may be interested in this career option since they may also study social aspects of different cultures. Aspiring archaeologists may also want to consider a career as an archivist, since archivists preserve materials and may work with historic items in museums.

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