Anthropologists and Archeologists

What Anthropologists and Archeologists Do

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypxwqsWshJ0

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 an Anthropologist or Archeologist

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for anthropologists and archeologists was $63,670 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Prospective anthropologists and archeologists will likely face strong competition for jobs because of the small number of positions relative to applicants.

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.

Duties

Anthropologists and archeologists typically do the following:

  • Plan cultural research
  • Customize data collection methods according to a particular region, specialty, or project
  • Collect information from observations, interviews, and documents
  • Record and manage records of observations taken in the field
  • Analyze data, laboratory samples, and other sources of information to uncover patterns about human life, culture, and origins
  • Prepare reports and present research findings
  • Advise organizations on the cultural impact of policies, programs, and products

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 held about 8,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of anthropologists and archeologists were as follows:

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 27%
Federal government, excluding postal service 19
Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 19
Self-employed workers 11
Engineering services 8

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.

Work Schedules

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.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of anthropologists and archeologists.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Curators and museum technicians

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Archivists and curators oversee institutions’ collections, such as of historical items or of artwork. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore items in those collections.

See How to Become One $49,850

Economists

Economists

Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.

Master’s degree $105,020

Geographers

Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.

Bachelor’s degree $81,540

Historians

Historians

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and write about the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Master’s degree $63,680

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $79,540

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.

See How to Become One $80,370

Sociologists

Sociologists study society and social behavior.

Master’s degree $83,420

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data.

Master’s degree $59,170

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor’s degree $71,360

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

American Association of Physical Anthropologists

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Anthropologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Archeologists


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Anthropologists and Archeologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm (visited ).