Anthropologists and Archeologists

Summary

anthropologists and archeologists image
Anthropologists and archeologists often do fieldwork.
Quick Facts: Anthropologists and Archeologists
2014 Median Pay $59,280 per year
$28.50 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 7,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 300

What Anthropologists and Archeologists Do

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.

Work Environment

Anthropologists and archeologists typically work in research organizations, government, and consulting firms. Although most work in an office, some analyze samples in laboratories or do fieldwork. Fieldwork in remote areas usually requires 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 $59,280 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower 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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for anthropologists and archeologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of anthropologists and archeologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about anthropologists and archeologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Anthropologists and Archeologists Do

Anthropologists and archeologists
Some anthropologists and archeologists excavate artifacts.

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 research projects to answer questions and test hypotheses about human behavior and the interaction between humans within a culture, between different cultures, and between nature and culture
  • Develop data collection methods tailored 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.

Many anthropologists and archeologists use sophisticated tools and technologies in their work. Although the equipment used 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). Technology is integral to modern research and fieldwork and the use of new technologies is rapidly expanding in the field.

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 on site preservation. Archeologists often specialize in a particular geographic area, period, or object of study, such as animal remains or underwater sites.

Some anthropologists study the social and cultural consequences of current human issues, such as overpopulation, natural disasters, warfare, and poverty; others study the prehistory and the evolution of humans.

A growing number of anthropologists perform market research for businesses by 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.

The following are examples of types of anthropologists:

Biological anthropologists, also known as physical anthropologists, research the evolution and development of the human species. They look for early evidence of human life, analyze genetics, study primates, and examine the biological variations in humans. They analyze how culture and biology influence each other. Some may examine human remains found at archeological sites to understand population demographics or to identify factors—such as nutrition and disease—that affected these populations. Others may work as forensic anthropologists in medical or legal settings, identifying and analyzing skeletal remains and genetic material.

Cultural anthropologists study the customs, cultures, and social lives of groups. They investigate social practices and processes in settings that range from remote, unindustrialized villages to modern urban centers. Cultural anthropologists often spend time living in the societies they study and collect information through observations, interviews, and surveys.

Linguistic anthropologists study how humans communicate and how language shapes social life. They investigate nonverbal communication, the structure and development of languages, and differences among languages. They also examine the role of language in different cultures, how social and cultural factors affect language, and how language affects a person’s experiences. Many linguistic anthropologists study non-European languages, which they learn directly from native speakers.

Work Environment

Anthropologists and archeologists
Archeologists manage and protect archeological sites.

Anthropologists and archeologists held about 7,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most anthropologists and archeologists were as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 28%
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 23
Federal government, excluding postal service 19
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 8
Engineering services 7

Anthropologists and archeologists worked in research organizations, government, and consulting firms among other types of organizations. The work of anthropologists varies according to the specific job. Although most anthropologists work in an office, some analyze samples in laboratories or work in the field.

Archeologists often work for cultural resource management (CRM) firms. CRM firms identify, assess, and preserve archeological sites and ensure that developers and builders comply with regulations regarding archeological 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. They often will have to return to the field for several years to complete their research.

Fieldwork may require travel to remote areas or international locations, where 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 may also work with limited funding for their projects.

Work Schedules

Most anthropologists and archeologists work full time during regular business hours. When doing fieldwork, anthropologists and archeologists may be required to travel and work many and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends.

How to Become an Anthropologist or Archeologist

Anthropologists and archeologists
Students may attend archeological field schools to learn how to excavate historical and archeological sites.

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 degreeholders may find work as assistants or fieldworkers.

Education

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 in 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 several years of study beyond a master’s degree. Ph.D. students must also complete a doctoral dissertation, which typically includes between 18 and 30 months of field research.

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. However, anthropologists and archeologists need a master’s degree to advance beyond entry-level positions.

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 workers.

Other Experience

Graduates of anthropology and archeology programs usually need work experience in their respective fields and training in quantitative and qualitative research methods. Many students gain experience through field training or internships with museums, historical societies, or nonprofit organizations.

Important Qualities

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.

Communication skills. Anthropologists and archeologists often have to present their research and findings to their peers and to general audiences.

Investigative skills. Anthropologists and archeologists must seek and explore all facts relevant to their research. They must be able to combine various sources of information to try to solve problems and to answer research questions.

Writing skills. Anthropologists and archeologists need strong writing skills because they often write reports detailing their research findings and publish results in scholarly journals and public interest publications.

Pay

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Social scientists and related workers

$71,030

Anthropologists and archeologists

$59,280

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for anthropologists and archeologists was $59,280 in May 2014. 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 $34,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,650.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for anthropologists and archeologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $74,120
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 55,710
Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 55,070
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 54,780
Engineering services 54,300

Many anthropologists and archeologists work full time during regular business hours. When doing fieldwork, anthropologists and archeologists may be required to travel and work many and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Social scientists and related workers

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

Anthropologists and archeologists

4%

 

Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. These workers will be needed to study human life, history, and culture, and to apply that knowledge to current issues.

Corporations will continue to use anthropological research to gain a better understanding of consumer demand within specific cultures or social groups. Anthropologists and archeologists will also 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 monitor construction projects, ensuring that builders comply with federal regulations on the preservation and handling of archeological and historical artifacts.

Because anthropological and archeological research may be dependent on research funding, federal budgetary decisions can affect the rate of employment growth in research.

Job Prospects

Overall, prospective anthropologists and archeologists will likely face strong competition for jobs because of the small number of positions relative to applicants. Job prospects will be best for candidates with a Ph.D., extensive anthropological or archeological fieldwork experience, and experience in quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Job opportunities for anthropologists are expected to continue to grow in businesses and consulting firms. Archeologists should have the best job prospects in cultural resource management (CRM) firms.

Employment projections data for anthropologists and archeologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Anthropologists and archeologists

19-3091 7,700 8,000 4 300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Curators and museum technicians

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Archivists appraise, process, catalog, and preserve permanent records and historically valuable documents. Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

See How to Become One $46,300
Economists

Economists

Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Master's degree $95,710
Geographers

Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine phenomena such as political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

Bachelor's degree $76,420
Historians

Historians

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

Master's degree $55,870
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $70,790
Psychologists

Psychologists

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

See How to Become One $70,700
Sociologists

Sociologists

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Master's degree $72,810
Survey researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Master's degree $49,760
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Anthropologists and Archeologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm (visited February 12, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015