Anthropology is a multidisciplinary field that draws knowledge from social and biological sciences. It focuses on the origin, present and future of humans. Anthropologists seek to understand human practices across several cultures and how people adapt to diverse environments.
If you have an inquisitive mind and excellent research skills, and willing to spend several years in college, you can consider becoming an anthropologist.
What Do Anthropologists Do?
Before embarking on the duties of anthropologists, it is essential to note that they can work as:
- Cultural anthropologists – Study the customs, beliefs and culture of various communities
- Linguistics anthropologists – Study the impact of language and communication on people
- Biological anthropologists – Study human evolutions
Regardless of specialty, anthropologists have the following primary tasks:
- Conducting research to gather more information on various human aspects
- Handling research equipment, such as excavator
- Conducting experiments in laboratories
- Preparing research reports and presenting their finding in conferences or authoring books
- Advising businesses on product marketing practices, and government agencies on human services policies and programs
Anthropologists typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Being a profession that involves extensive research, anthropologists typically spend their time in laboratories or field sites. However, since they need to compile their findings, they also spend some time in an office.
While executing field assignments, they are exposed to harsh weather conditions, and often work into the evening and during the weekends.
The following table provides a breakdown of the salaries prospective anthropologists can expect to earn in various settings:
Annual Mean wage
Scientific research organizations
Technical consulting firms
Architectural and engineering firms
Museums and historical sites
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
To get started as an anthropologist, you need to complete the following steps:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in history, museum studies, biology or any other social or biological science field – At this point, you can find employment as a fieldworker or research assistant.
- Complete a master’s degree in anthropology – Although you can qualify for anthropology jobs with this credential, many holders find teaching jobs in high schools and colleges
- Earn a PhD in anthropology – With this degree, you can qualify for research positions in universities and independent research centers. You can also work as a museum curator.
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, it is important to find an internship to gain some work experience.
Essential Skills and Abilities
To be a successful anthropologist you should have:
- Strong analytical and research skills
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Strong investigative skills
- An interest in human history
- A keen eye for detail
Now, what next for a PhD holder? You should focus on enhancing your knowledge through research and expanding your professional networks. Some of the organizations you can join are:
Apart from networking opportunities, these organizations also offer certifications and awards to anthropologists who make significant research contributions.
Qualified anthropologists can find jobs in:
- Higher institutions of learning
- Independent research centers
- Historical societies
- Business entities, especially advertising agencies
Competent and experienced anthropologists can be hired as policy analysts in government agencies, such as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of anthropologists will grow by 19 percent from 2012 through 2022 – significantly faster than the 11 percent average for all jobs in the U.S. Economy. So if you are convinced this is the career of your dreams, there are several job vacancies waiting to be filled. Good luck!
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