Anthropologists, along with archaeologists, study human beings. They look at our origin, development and behavior. There are three major types of anthropologists: cultural, physical and linguistic. A cultural anthropologist studies groups' customs, social structures and cultures. A physical or biological anthropologist does research on the evolution of humans. A linguistic anthropologist specializes in communication among people.
In 2010 there were just over 6,000 anthropologists and archaeologists*. Research organizations, museums, colleges and universities and the federal government employed many of them. Others worked for local governments and private consulting firms.
When you think of an anthropologist you may picture someone traveling the world in order to gather information about the people he or she is studying. While many anthropologists do fieldwork, others spend the majority of their time working in offices and laboratories. Many have full time jobs and work regular hours. While working out in the field, anthropologists often put in many hours and don't adhere to a typical "9 to 5" schedule.
To work as an anthropologist one needs, at the minimum, a master's degree in anthropology. It typically takes two years to earn a master's degree after first spending four years completing a bachelor's degree. Those who want to teach at a college or university should earn a doctoral degree (PhD). This will take an additional several years. There aren't many positions available to those who have only a bachelor's degree, but one may be able to find work as a laboratory, field or research assistant. Experience, which may be attained through internships, is a must for all entry-level jobs in this field regardless of the degree one has earned.
Anthropologists, in order to collaborate on research and present their findings, need excellent communication skills. Perseverance is another required trait, given the number of years anthropologists spend working on individual projects. Anthropologists should also have excellent critical thinking, analytical and investigative skills.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the job outlook for anthropologists will be excellent through 2020. Employment will grow more quickly than the average for all occupations but, because this is a relatively small field, this high rate of growth will not lead to many additional job opportunities.
Anthropologists earned a median annual salary of $56,070 and median hourly earnings of $26.95 in 2011.
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A Day in an Anthropologist's Life:
On a typical day an anthropologist's tasks might include:
- designing research projects in order to gather information about humans
- testing hypotheses
- developing methods for collecting data
- collecting data, using observations, interviews and documents as sources
- analyzing data
- writing reports and presenting research findings
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Social Scientists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm (visited November 5, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Anthropologist, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/19-3091.01 (visited November 5, 2012).
*Note: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics combines wage and employment data for Anthropologist and Archaeologist.