Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.
What they do
Anthropologists and archeologists examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.
Anthropologists and archeologists typically do the following:
- Plan cultural research
- Customize data collection methods according to a particular region, specialty, or project
- Collect information from observations, interviews, and documents
- Record and manage records of observations taken in the field
- Analyze data, laboratory samples, and other sources of information to uncover patterns about human life, culture, and origins
- Prepare reports and present research findings
- Advise organizations on the cultural impact of policies, programs, and products
By drawing and building on knowledge from the humanities and the social, physical, and biological sciences, anthropologists and archeologists examine the ways of life, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world. They also examine the customs, values, and social patterns of different cultures.
Although the equipment used by anthropologists and archeologists varies by task and specialty, it often includes excavation and measurement tools, laboratory and recording equipment, statistical and database software, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Archeologists examine, recover, and preserve evidence of human activity from past cultures. They analyze human remains and artifacts, such as tools, pottery, cave paintings, and ruins of buildings. They connect their findings with information about past environments to learn about the history, customs, and living habits of people in earlier eras.
Archeologists also manage and protect archeological sites. Some work in national parks or at historical sites, providing site protection and educating the public. Others assess building sites to ensure that construction plans comply with federal regulations related to site preservation. Archeologists often specialize in a particular geographic area, period, or object of study, such as animal remains or underwater sites.
The work of anthropologists varies according to the specific job. Although most anthropologists work in offices, some analyze samples in laboratories or work in the field.
Archeologists often work for cultural resource management (CRM) firms. These firms identify, assess, and preserve archeological sites and ensure that developers and builders comply with regulations regarding those sites. Archeologists also work in museums, at historical sites, and for government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.
Anthropologists and archeologists often do fieldwork, either in the United States or in foreign countries. Fieldwork may involve learning foreign languages, living in remote areas, and examining and excavating archeological sites. Fieldwork usually requires travel for extended periods—about 4 to 8 weeks per year. Those doing fieldwork often will have to return to the field for several years to complete their research.
During fieldwork, anthropologists and archeologists must live with the people they study to learn about their culture. The work can involve rugged living conditions and strenuous physical exertion. While in the field, anthropologists and archeologists often work many hours to meet research deadlines. They also may work with limited funding for their projects.
How to become an Anthropologist or Archeologist
Anthropologists and archeologists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in anthropology or archeology. Experience doing fieldwork in either discipline is also important. Those with a bachelor’s degree may find work as assistants or fieldworkers.
Most anthropologists and archeologists qualify for available positions with a master’s degree in anthropology or archeology. The typical master’s degree program takes 2 years to complete and includes field or laboratory research.
Anthropology and archeology students typically conduct field research during their graduate programs, often working abroad or doing community-based research. Many students also attend archeological field schools, which teach students how to excavate historical and archeological sites and how to record and interpret their findings and data.
Although a master’s degree is enough for many positions, a Ph.D. may be needed for jobs that require leadership skills and advanced technical knowledge. Anthropologists and archeologists typically need a Ph.D. to work internationally in order to comply with the requirements of foreign governments. A Ph.D. takes additional years of study beyond a master’s degree. Also, Ph.D. students must complete a doctoral dissertation, which typically includes between 18 and 30 months of field research and knowledge of a foreign language.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology or archeology and work experience gained through an internship or field school can work as field or laboratory technicians or research assistants.
The median annual wage for anthropologists and archeologists was $63,670 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,950.
Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Corporations will continue to use anthropological research to gain a better understanding of consumer demand within specific cultures or social groups. Anthropologists also will be needed to analyze markets, allowing businesses to serve their clients better or to target new customers or demographic groups.
Archeologists will be needed to monitor construction projects, ensuring that builders comply with federal regulations pertaining to the preservation and handling of archeological and historical artifacts.
Similar Job Titles
Archaeologist, Associate Director, Curator, Director of Research Center, Principal Archaeologist, Project Director, Research Archaeologist, American Indian Policy Specialist, Applied Anthropologist, Applied Cultural Anthropologist, Evaluation Specialist, Forensic Anthropologist, Medical Anthropology Director, Project Evaluator, Research Anthropologist, Research Associate, Research Director
Sociologists, Geographers, Anthropology and Archeology Teacher-Postsecondary, Geography Teacher-Postsecondary, Curator
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Anthropological Association
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Cultural Resources Association
- American Quaternary Association
- American Schools of Oriental Research
- Archaeological Institute of America
- International Council for Archaeozoology
- Register of Professional Archaeologists
- Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
- American Association of Physical Anthropologists
- Gerontological Society of America
- International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences
- National Association for the Practice of Anthropology
- Society for American Archaeology
- Society for Applied Anthropology
- Society for Medical Anthropology
Magazines and Publications
- Anthropology Now Magazine
- Anthropology News Magazine
- Sapiens – Anthropology Magazine
- Interactive Digs
- Archeology Magazine
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Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org