Career Profile: Anthropologist

What is an Anthropologist?

What is an Anthropologist? Anthropology is the comprehensive study of the human condition using analytical, investigative, and empirical research methods. Anthropologists use these critical thinking skills in addition to their education to effect change in cultures across the world. A medical anthropologist may use her training and education to travel to Mali, for example, and help educate mothers so that they stop breastfeeding at the appropriate time, avoiding nutritional abnormalities in children. Anthropologists are often employed by universities, government agencies, and private companies. Since many of them travel to work, anthropologists must sometimes acquire funding for their ventures via grants, contributions, and other means. Anthropologists are encouraged to specialize during their education. As such, there are physical, medical, cultural, linguistic, and archaeological anthropologists practicing today.

Degrees and Experience

Competition has raised the educational standard for anthropologists to the doctoral degree. This level of education is needed for immersion and in-depth study; it allows students to hone their specialties and prepare for work. A cultural anthropologist who wishes to travel to Burma for work, for example, will learn much of their future undertaking in their required experience and coursework as a doctoral student. Students can think of the bachelor’s in anthropology or the social sciences as a standard briefing, while the doctoral degree is an opportunity for specialization. During their education, anthropologists will learn how to gather data, think critically, and apply their findings to stimulate positive change in the environments that they study. As critical thinkers, they must use actuarial data to predict all possible circumstances of any action they take so that they don’t invite catastrophe among the populations they work with.


The salary range for anthropologists reflects the diversity of the career field. Depending on the type of anthropologist, their education, and the institution that they work for, annual salaries can range from $25,000 to $100,000. This translates to an hourly wage of between thirteen and fifty dollars an hour. Anthropologists with master’s degrees or less are more likely to reside on the lower side of the spectrum, while those with doctoral degrees earn closer to six figures. Like other careers, anthropologists tend to receive more pay as they gain experience. In addition to wages earned from their institution, many anthropologists publish their findings, opening up a steady stream of intellectual property income. Since many anthropologists travel all over for work, it is difficult to correlate geography with income, although those that teach tend to make more on the east and west coasts of the United States.

Future Employment Outlook

Competition will always be high for anthropologists, but as more environmental legislation arises, job openings will steadily increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 22 percent job growth for anthropology from 2008 to 2018. As continuously quickening technology minimizes cross-cultural gaps, anthropologists will be able to learn their future work environments from afar and publish accurate findings remotely. Even after this briefing, anthropology students should constantly ask themselves the opening question as a reminder of their ever-changing field: What is an anthropologist?