What Does an Anthropologist Do?

AnthropologistAre you curious about what an anthropologist does? Contrary to the popular image of anthropologists who live with and study native tribes, most anthropologists actually work in an office setting. These researchers study human behavior, culture, and development, but because the range of this area of study is so broad, what anthropologists actually do depends heavily on the specific niche they research within the field. Read on to learn more about the four different subtypes of anthropologists and what their roles are within the field.


You might picture archaeologists digging in the dirt to find artifacts and dinosaur bones. But beyond that image, archaeologists study human culture by looking at the tangible objects that cultures leave behind. They collect and analyze remains of cultures ranging all the way back to ancient times as well as those who are closer to the present day.

Biological Anthropologists

These professionals study the evolution of humans and how people are affected by disease and other biological conditions. They do this work by not only studying living humans, but human cadavers, primates like apes and monkeys, primate cadavers, and human fossils, looking for similarities and differences in these groups that span across species and across time.

Cultural Anthropologists

Cultural anthropologists are interested in studying the ways that humans behave within a group setting: the language, culture, rituals, and relationships they develop. Often, the best way to do this is to spend time within these cultures as an observer, not as a participant. But while some anthropologists work around the globe in foreign lands, others study smaller subcultures within the United States.

Linguistic Anthropologists

By studying letters, documents, recordings, and other forms of communication, linguistic anthropologists research the ways that humans communicate with one another, and how communication methods and structure have changed over time. They are interested in the ways in which language shapes the way we live, the way that power is assigned, and how human cultures adapt and are governed.

Becoming an Anthropologist

If these roles sound intriguing to you, you might want to consider becoming an anthropologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals earn an average of $57,000 per year, and the profession as a whole is expected to grow by 19 percent over the next decade. Anthropologists typically earn a master’s degree and complete research within the subfield where they want to work. Many anthropologists, particularly those interested in leadership roles, go on to earn a doctoral degree. Learn more at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Related Resource: Sociologist

There are several good online resources if you want to learn more about the life and work of an anthropologist. A good place to start is the American Anthropological Association, which maintains resources online. You may also consider visiting colleges and universities that have an active anthropology department. Either of these is a good place to continue your research about what an anthropologist does.