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At a Glance

  • Study fossils and skeletal remains
  • Cultural anthropologists study just that -- culture
  • Physical anthropologists study human physiology
  • Many travel to live with other cultures
  • Work outdoors when doing fieldwork
  • Usually work for colleges and universities
  • Have at least a master's degree

Career summary

Anthropologists use scientific research methods to study elements of human cultures and societies.

#no alt titles from 2144 social scientists

#4/9/19 lh

Anthropologists are scientists who study people. They study the customs, values, and social patterns of different cultures and how they change over time.

They may study artifacts such as tools, pottery, and baskets from ancient cultures. They also study issues of existing cultures such as overpopulation.

Anthropologists use several different research methods. Some perform interviews with people individually or with a group of people. They may live in a society in order to observe and collect information. This is called participant observation.

Anthropologists may do their studies in an office setting or they may be out in the field doing hands-on research. Anthropologists write books or reports about their findings. They may also give talks about their findings to other researchers.

Anthropologists often have field assistants to help gather data. They may train assistants in field research and data gathering.

There are several types of anthropologists:

Physical anthropologists

Physical anthropologists look at the makeup of the human body. They look at physical differences between people in different cultures. They study how culture and biology influence one another. They may study skeletal remains and human fossils from ancient cultures to understand population demographics.

Cultural anthropologists

Cultural anthropologists study how people create societies, customs, and cultures. This may be in small villages or large urban areas. They often live in the society in order to gather data.

Linguistic anthropologists

Linguistic anthropologists study how humans communicate. They study languages as well as non-verbal communications to find out what social and cultural factors influence language.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to anthropologists.

Common work activities

Anthropologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, anthropologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Anthropologists frequently:

It is important for anthropologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for anthropologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Anthropologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an anthropologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

With a bachelor's degree in anthropology you can work as a research assistant. In general, you need at least a master's degree to conduct research. Some anthropologists have a doctorate (PhD). This enables them to work as a professor at a college or university. Some programs grant a master's degree in anthropology while you are studying for the PhD. Other programs separate the master's and PhD programs.

In anthropology you learn the origin, customs, and living habits of human cultures. Most anthropologists focus on one region of the world. You want to study as much about that region as possible while you are in college.

As a master's or doctoral student you specialize in an area of anthropology. Common areas of study are linguistics, physical anthropology, and biological anthropology. Many colleges offer programs in anthropology.

Work experience

Working as a research assistant is good experience for this field. Look for this kind of job when you are a college student.

Some students complete an internship while in school. This is important work experience that may help you find a job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers at universities prefer to hire anthropologists who have a doctoral degree (PhD). Some community colleges may hire graduates with a master's degree. Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles.

Costs to workers

Workers may have to pay for association dues, reference books and journals, and seminars or college classes to keep up with changes in the field.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Anthropologists and archeologists (SOC 19-3091)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $21.86 $26.10 $35.32 $44.68 $50.09
Monthly $3,788 $4,523 $6,121 $7,743 $8,681
Yearly $45,460 $54,300 $73,460 $92,940 $104,180
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $21.15 $24.27 $30.95 $46.27 $53.89
Monthly $3,665 $4,206 $5,364 $8,019 $9,339
Yearly $43,992 $50,462 $64,372 $96,248 $112,104
    Vancouver Hourly $18.52 $21.93 $28.60 $40.67 $48.99
Monthly $3,210 $3,800 $4,956 $7,048 $8,490
Yearly $38,507 $45,611 $59,481 $84,574 $101,890
United States Hourly $17.71 $23.09 $30.01 $38.57 $46.72
Monthly $3,069 $4,001 $5,201 $6,684 $8,097
Yearly $36,840 $48,020 $62,410 $80,230 $97,170

Social scientists tend to make more when they work for the federal government than when they work for a state government agency. In general, the more experience and education anthropologists have, the more money they earn. Some areas of the country pay more than others, but this depends on the cost of living in that area.

Anthropologists who work full time usually receive benefits. Common benefits include vacation, sick leave, health insurance, and a retirement plan. 

National wage information is not available specifically for anthropologists. However, they are part of the larger group of "anthropologists and archeologists." These figures do not include anthropologists who teach at colleges and universities.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Anthropologists and Archeologists (SOC 19-3091)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 240 25.4% 16.1% 36
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 10 0.0% 8.6% 1
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 14 42.9% 11.9% 3
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 21 66.7% 14.1% 5
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 22 27.3% 14.6% 3
    King County 124 26.6% 19.6% 19
United States 6,500 9.2% 5.2% 800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Job growth is expected to be faster than average for Anthropologists. Companies will need to use anthropological research to understand the consumer demands of difference cultures and social groups. Anthropologists also will be needed to analyze markets, so businesses can better serve clients or target new customers.

The best job prospects will be for people who have advanced degrees.

Employment and outlook information is not available specifically for anthropologists. However, they are part of the larger group of "anthropologists and archeologists." These figures do not include anthropologists who teach at colleges and universities.

Other resources

American Anthropological Association (external link)
2300 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 1301
Arlington, VA 22201
American Association for Applied Linguistics (external link)
American Association of Anatomists (external link)
6120 Executive Boulevard, Suite 725
Rockville, MD 20852
American Association of Physical Anthropologists (external link)
American Folklore Society (external link)
Careers in Anthropology (external link)
Linguistic Society of America (external link)
522 21st St. NW, Suite 120
Washington, DC 20006-5012


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster