What They Do: Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.
Work Environment: Anthropologists and archeologists typically work in research organizations, government, and consulting firms. Although most work in offices, some analyze samples in laboratories or do fieldwork. Fieldwork may require travel for extended periods.
How to Become One: Anthropologists and archeologists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in anthropology or archeology. Experience doing fieldwork in either discipline is also important. Bachelor’s degree holders may find work as assistants or fieldworkers.
Salary: The median annual wage for anthropologists and archeologists is $61,910.
Job Outlook: Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of anthropologists and archeologists with similar occupations.
Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.
Anthropologists and archeologists typically do the following:
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.
Anthropology is divided into three primary fields: biological or physical anthropology, cultural or social anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Biological and physical anthropologists study the changing nature of the biology of humans and closely related primates. Cultural anthropologists study the social and cultural consequences of various human-related issues, such as overpopulation, natural disasters, warfare, and poverty. Linguistic anthropology studies the history and development of languages.
A growing number of anthropologists perform market research for businesses, studying the demand for products by a particular culture or social group. Using their anthropological background and a variety of techniques—including interviews, surveys, and observations—they may collect data on how a product is used by specific demographic groups.
Many people with a Ph.D. in anthropology or archeology become professors or museum curators. For more information, see the profiles on postsecondary teachers, and archivists, curators, and museum technicians.
Anthropologists and archeologists hold about 7,500 jobs. The largest employers of anthropologists and archeologists are as follows:
|Research and development in the social sciences and humanities||28%|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||22%|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||19%|
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.
Most anthropologists and archeologists work full time during regular business hours. When doing fieldwork, however, anthropologists and archeologists may be required to travel and to work many and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends.
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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.
Graduates of anthropology and archeology programs usually need experience in their respective fields and training in quantitative and qualitative research methods. Many students gain this experience through field training or internships with museums, historical societies, or nonprofit organizations while still in school.
Analytical skills. Anthropologists and archeologists must possess knowledge of scientific methods and data, which are often used in their research.
Critical-thinking skills. Anthropologists and archeologists must be able to draw conclusions from observations, laboratory experiments, and other methods of research. They must be able to combine various sources of information to try to solve problems and to answer research questions.
Communication skills. Anthropologists and archeologists often have to write reports or papers in academic journals and present their research and findings to their peers and to general audiences. These activities require strong writing, speaking, and listening skills.
Physical stamina. Anthropologists and archeologists working in the field may need to hike or walk several miles while carrying equipment to a research site.
The median annual wage for anthropologists and archeologists is $61,910. 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 $37,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,830.
The median annual wages for anthropologists and archeologists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||$80,910|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||$60,540|
|Research and development in the social sciences and humanities||$50,230|
Many anthropologists and archeologists work full time during regular business hours. When doing fieldwork, however, anthropologists and archeologists may be required to travel and to work many and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends.
Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 800 openings for anthropologists and archeologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
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 ensure that builders, museums, and other organizations comply with federal regulations pertaining to the preservation and handling of archeological and historical artifacts.
Because anthropological and archeological research may depend on research funding, federal budgetary decisions can affect the rate of employment growth in research.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
|Anthropologists and archeologists||7,500||7,900||6||500|
For more information about careers in anthropology and archeology, visit
American Anthropological Association
For more information about careers in archeology, visit
Archaeological Institute of America
Society for American Archaeology
For more information about physical anthropologists, visit
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.