"Anthropology: the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities."
American Anthropological Association
Anthropological Careers

It's a great time to become an anthropologist! 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations" (US Department of Labor). These numbers suggest there are not have enough anthropologists and that this is a robust career choice, growing at a significantly higher rate than the 11% growth forecast for all occupations.

An anthropologist in the United States made, on average, $57,420 in 2012. 

Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Anthropologists and Archeologists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm (visited December 12, 2014).

Choosing a Career Path

An anthropology degree prepares students for excellent jobs and opens doors to many different career paths. Anthropologists have traditionally worked in higher educational institutions, teaching and researching, but today there are many other career options for trained anthropologists. Anthropologists work in practically every environment and setting imaginable. They can be found working in large corporations such as Intel and GM or studying primates in Africa. Anthropologists work in deserts, cities, schools, even in underwater archaeological sites or as forensic anthropologists in crime labs. There are not many limits on career choices for anthropologists. Most jobs filled by non-academic anthropologists don't mention the word anthropologist in the job announcement; such positions are broadly defined to attract researchers, evaluators and project managers. Anthropologists' unique training and perspective enable them to compete successfully for these jobs. Whatever the job title, anthropologists find that their research and analytical skills lead to a wide variety of career options, ranging from the oddly fascinating to the routinely bureaucratic.

Medical Anthropology PhD candidate Alan Schultz doing a cross-cultural music survey with a local Borjano, Jorge, in San Borja, Bolivia during September 2011.

Many anthropologists with master's degrees or bachelor's degrees work for contract archaeology firms at archaeological sites, in physical anthropology laboratories, and in museums in a wide range of areas. Similarly, there are many opportunities as social science researchers and in other areas available to anthropologists at every level of training. A doctorate is required for most academic jobs.

The nonacademic employment of cultural anthropologists is greatly expanding as the demand for research on humans and their behavior increases. Since 1985, over half of all new PhDs in anthropology have taken nonacademic positions in research institutes, nonprofit associations, government agencies, world organizations, and private corporations. While the job market for academic anthropologists is relatively steady, demand for anthropologists is increasing in other areas, stimulated by a growing need for analysts and researchers with sharp thinking skills who can manage, evaluate and interpret the large volume of data on human behavior.

 Anthropologist Lynne Goldstein does archaeological field work on campus at Michigan State University by cleaning a profile wall and avoiding damage to tree roots.

Today there are four main career paths for anthropology graduates:

Academic Careers

On campuses, in departments of anthropology, and in research laboratories, anthropologists teach and conduct research. They spend a great deal of time preparing for classes, writing lectures, grading papers, working with individual students, composing scholarly articles, and writing books.

A number of academic anthropologists find careers in other departments or university programs, such as schools of medicine, epidemiology, public health, ethnic studies, cultural studies, community or area studies, linguistics, education, ecology, cognitive psychology and neural science.

Connie MulliganUniversity of Florida anthropologist Connie Mulligan teaching a molecular genetics workshop at Sana'a University in Sana'a, Yemen. Using funds from a NSF grant, Mulligan and her collaborator, Dr. Ali Al-Meeri, set up a genetics laboratory to enable Yemeni researchers to develop their own projects.

Corporate and Business Careers

Many corporations look explicitly for anthropologists, recognizing the utility of their perspective on a corporate team. A corporate anthropologist working in market research might conduct targeted focus groups to examine consumer preference patterns not readily apparent through statistical or survey methods. These anthropologists use their research skills to talk to consumers and users of technology to find out how products and services could be improved to better meet the needs of consumers.

Debra OcchiAnthropologist Debra Occhi prepares to interview members of the Uwajima Chamber of Commerce responsible for producing the image of a yuru kyara named Mooni in packaging and other various guises to represent Uwajima products.

Government Careers

State and local governmental organizations use anthropologists in planning, research and managerial capacities. Contract archaeology is a growing occupation with state and federal legislative mandates to assess cultural resources affected by government funded projects. Forensic anthropologists, in careers glamorized by Hollywood and popular novels, not only work with police departments to help identify mysterious or unknown remains but also work in university and museum settings.

The federal government is one of the largest employers of anthropologists outside of academia. Possible career paths include: international development, cultural resource management, the legislative branch, forensic and physical anthropology, natural resource management, and defense and security sectors.

Sara AriasAnthropologist Sara Arias arranges juvenile remains at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Non-profit and Community-based Careers

Non-governmental organizations, such as international health organizations and development banks employ anthropologists to help design and implement a wide variety of programs. However, these aren't the only opportunities available.

Many anthropologists work in local, community-based settings for non-profit agencies. Sometimes, they work through community-based research organizations like the Institute for Community Research. Other times, they might work for established organizations in a community like the YMCA, local schools, or environmental organizations.

Janelle ChristensenAnthropologist Janelle Christensen (center) interviews a Batwa family in Bwindi, Uganda. At left, Sam Bigaruka, who heads Community Health Outreach at Bwindi Community Hospital, acted as interpreter.

Want to learn more? Check out one of these links below:

Pearson's Leave Your Mark, Major in Anthropology

Careers in Anthropology Webpage from the American Anthropological Association

Anthropology Careers from the Society for Applied Anthropology

Or search our interactive database and explore careers anthropologists have near you!

Created: 07/09/2012 Modified: 12/12/2014
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