become an anthropologist

What does a Anthropologist do?

An anthropologist is interested in the origins, cultures, customs, and connections humans have with one another. They study these areas by researching, collecting, and evaluating information of humankind. There are also four subfields of anthropology: archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.

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How to Become an Anthropologist

Most anthropologists pursue a degree in anthropology or social sciences. You must first earn a bachelor’s degree and then move on to earn a master’s. All programs include an internship that gives students experience, some may even require you to write a thesis prior to graduating with your degree. Students can also volunteer at museums or even historical buildings to gain experience.

To advance beyond entry level positions some earn a doctorate degree. A master’s degree usually take 2 years and then it can take another 4-5 years to earn your doctorate. There may also be specific areas of anthropology you want to focus on. For example, you can focus on biophysical (also known as forensics), sociocultural, linguistics, or archaeological anthropology. Coursework in a specialty usually occurs at the graduate level.

Job Description of an Anthropologist

Tasks can vary greatly depending on the anthropologists area of focus. Though the most common area of study is human development and behaviors. Some anthropologists may investigate and study human remains to determine their origins and way of life while others may learn about current languages in a particular culture and how those languages changed over time. Some anthropologists study and observe cultures in economical and geographical settings to determine differences. Lastly, what most individuals relate anthropology to is studying artifacts, jewelry, pottery, or even tools that an archeologist may have dug up. All anthropologist collect, analyze and draw conclusions these findings.

Anthropologist many times must know other languages and be analytical problem solvers. They document findings and have to be very organized and methodical in their recordings. Many times they work with other cultures, therefore they must also have strong communication skills and be culturally sensitive. Most anthropologist work full time, though hours can be flexible they often work more than a regular work week exceeding more than 40 hours. They often times work in the field and can work in harsh outdoor conditions. Many times that travel internationally and work very closely with archeologist. Libraries, offices, and classroom are common locations visited by anthropologist as well.

Free Student and Teacher Resources

Visit the American Anthropological Association Resources for High School Students page (link opens in a new tab). This website also lists internship and scholarship opportunities.

Free Online Course on Anthropology

The University of Queensland Australia offers a free Anthropology of Current World Issues course on (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.

By taking this course, you’ll learn:

  • The basic skills of the anthropological toolkit.
  • How to better understand cultural differences and sameness.
  • How to better engage in cultural comparison.
  • How to see the world from a range of perspectives and points of view.
  • How to understand key anthropological concepts and methods.
  • A knowledge and understanding of current world issues relating to identity, power and everyday life as experienced in a variety of places by a variety of people.

Related Careers to Research:

Anthropologist Career Video Transcript

Where did human life begin? How did world cultures evolve? What impact have natural disasters had on people and civilization? Anthropologists and archaeologists explore these types of questions to learn about human history, and bring insight to current issues. Anthropologists and archaeologists study the cultures, languages, archaeological remains, and physical characteristics of people across the world and through time. Typically, they conduct research to answer questions and test hypotheses about human behavior and culture. Data collection and analysis form the core of their work. Their projects may result in published research or reports on the impact of potential land-use policies, healthcare programs, or even products.

Most anthropologists work either in research organizations, for government, or at consulting firms. Archaeologists focus on physical findings; they analyze human remains and artifacts such as tools, pottery, cave paintings, and ruins. They also preserve artifacts, and interpret their significance through their knowledge of related historical information. Archaeologists work in museums, at historical sites, and for government agencies. They also work for cultural resource management firms that identify and preserve archaeological sites and ensure compliance with regulations. Anthropologists and archeologists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in anthropology or archeology. Fieldwork experience, either in the United States or abroad, is important for both disciplines. Bachelor’s degree holders may find work as assistants or fieldworkers.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Anthropologists and Archeologists.

National Center for O*NET Development. 19-3091.01. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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