How to Become an Anthropologist
Anthropologist Careers & Degrees

An anthropologist studies and documents human behavior, physiology, and language.

If you’re interested in human nature, psychology, biology, and history then you might like to become an anthropologist.

An anthropologist’s role is to ask the question, ‘What are human beings?’ They study our history, our culture, and physiological form.

Anthropology is actually quite a diverse field, nearly all anthropologists will focus their career on one of the four fields of anthropology.

These include cultural anthropology, archeology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology.

When you become an anthropologist you could find yourself working in a diverse range of environments.

Some spend their career researching and teaching at colleges.

Others work on archeological site digs, while some will travel the world studying different cultures.

Education Requirements to Become an Anthropologist

If you would like to become an anthropologist, then you should definitely enjoy academics since it will be a large part of your career.

To become an anthropologist, you will need to climb the ranks of academia, and eventually earn a doctorate to be competitive in this field.

Start by getting good grades in English and the humanities while you are at high school.

You’ll then need to complete a four year bachelor’s degree at college, most likely with a major in anthropology.

It would be wise to do well enough to obtain honors or complete a dissertation.

You then will need to go on to a masers program, followed by a doctorate.

A good idea is to take on a teaching position as soon as you are able.

You might start with tutoring students one on one and then move on to teach your own classes.

As soon as you are able to, you should start publishing your own papers.

Usually at the honors or masters level you’ll have the opportunity to publish your own research.

It’s important to make good contacts in the academic world.

It’s most likely that you will be employed by a university or college when you become an anthropologist.

Most spend the majority of the year teaching and publishing papers, and usually attend digs or cultural studies during summer.

Another path to become an anthropologist is to get grants to conduct your own research.

These are highly competitive, and you will need to have a strong background of published research before you are given a grant.

They are usually given out by universities, government departments, and non-profit organizations.

The American Anthropological Society is a good place to find out more information about this career path.

Anthropologist Job Description

The role of an anthropologist is to study, record, and research the traits of the human race so as to gain a better understand of it.

Anthropology is divided into four sections:

Cultural Anthropology – The study of human behavior and the way society has functioned in different ways throughout history and in the present.

Biological Anthropology – The study of the human form, and how it has changed over time.

Linguistic Anthropology – The study of human speech, language, and communication.

Archeology – The study of buildings and structures, and how they contribute to and alter the way humans behave.

Many anthropologists teach and research in the context of colleges.

They will divide their time between teaching, researching, reading and publishing their own findings.

They may attend field trips once or twice a year.

Some anthropologists complete research all year round.

Some are employed by universities; others work with the assistance of grants and other funding.

Here are some of the tasks of an anthropologist:

  • Attending an archeological dig
  • Completing a field trip to study human behavior
  • Teaching in a college
  • Conducting research in a college
  • Publishing papers
  • Keeping up to date with recent findings
  • Applying for grants and funding

Anthropologist Salary and Career Path

To become an anthropologist, you’ll need to study anthropology at a doctoral level at college.

You’ll probably start working as a teacher, or a teacher’s assistant.

Once you have established a name for yourself through publishing papers, you’ll have more opportunities to attend digs, field trips, and other hands on research.

The wage for an anthropologist will vary significantly.

When you first start teaching, you may only be working part time and not make a lot.

Working as a college professor, your income would be significantly higher, possible over $100,000.

The current median income for an anthropologist is $54,000 according to BLS.gov.

Some similar career paths include:

When you become an anthropologist, you will be rewarded with a very challenging and intriguing career path.

While you will face a lot of hard work throughout your career, if this is an area that you are passionate about, then it’s likely that you will enjoy it greatly.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$66,810
$39K
$49K
$66K
$81K
$97K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$54,700
Alaska$92,740
Arizona$64,150
California$69,890
Colorado$56,580
Connecticut$65,590
Florida$52,720
Georgia$71,060
Hawaii$78,440
Idaho$72,330
Illinois$62,660
Iowa$62,960
Kentucky$68,750
Louisiana$71,010
Maryland$54,830
Massachusetts$91,270
Minnesota$74,870
Montana$61,240
Nebraska$76,850
Nevada$64,820
New Hampshire$63,400
New Jersey$66,660
New Mexico$61,220
New York$73,380
North Carolina$64,110
North Dakota$62,800
Ohio$58,510
Oklahoma$57,230
Oregon$63,970
Pennsylvania$71,470
South Carolina$63,790
South Dakota$55,560
Tennessee$61,840
Texas$70,410
Utah$70,260
Virginia$64,680
Washington$78,620
Wisconsin$59,020
Wyoming$67,130

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $92,740.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $92,740
Massachusetts - $91,270
Washington - $78,620
Hawaii - $78,440
Nebraska - $76,850
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Anthropologists and Archeologists, OCC Code 19-3091, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does an anthropologist do?

Anthropologists are scientists who study and research archeological, sociohistorical, biological, and linguistic aspects of humanity.

There are a few sub-disciplines of anthropology – archaeology, cultural/social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and biological/physical anthropology.

Depending on the specialization, the typical duties of the scientist will differ a bit.

For example, linguistic anthropologists research language development and the ways in which it applies to today’s cultures; the main aim of these specialists is to understand the concerns and values of specific cultures and, ultimately, develop effective intercultural relationships.

Biological/physical anthropology has a couple of other specializations – neuroanthropology (the study of the evolution of the brain) and forensic anthropology (examination of human remains to assist coroners and police).

The absolute majority of anthropologists are employed by universities, governments, and major firms.

QuestionHow much do anthropologists make?

On average, an anthropologist can make a little more than $62.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $37.000 and $97.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Anthropologists that work in Massachusetts and Hawaii, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level anthropologist can expect to earn $18 per hour, while specialists with years of experience can make $47 per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an anthropologist?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, in order to become an anthropologist.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you should go for a master’s degree ($6.000-$22.000 per year).

Those who want to become a university professor and conduct independent research should have a doctorate degree ($36.000-$49.000).

Nowadays, the majority of anthropologists hold a doctorate degree.

QuestionWhat is the demand for anthropologists?

Between 2016 and 2026, the anthropologist job market is expected to grow by 3.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is slower than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

A great part of new positions will be produced by consulting, business, and cultural resource management firms.

Some entry-level anthropologists can also find jobs as curators and archivists.

The industry is mainly concentrated in California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an anthropologist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree should be enough to qualify as a fieldwork assistant.

A master’s degree will typically take you 2 years to obtain, while a doctorate degree will require 3-7 years.

The majority of employers expect you to have years of field and internship experience.

The sooner you decide what sub-discipline you want to specialize in, the better; you might be required to have specific skill sets (archeologists, for example, should take courses in geography and geology).

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