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Careers in Anthropology

It's a great time to become an anthropologist! According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations." These numbers suggest there are not enough anthropologists and that this is a robust career choice, growing at a significantly higher rate than the 11% growth forecast for all occupations. Students can take classes from the four anthropological sub-fields that lead to different career tracks, such as:

  • ATH 101-104: foundational survey courses that are important for all career tracks
  • ATH 207-209, 234 career track: field research, ethnography, education
  • ATH 230-232, 212, 214, 235 career track: cultural resource management, EPA tribal cultural consultant, historic preservation, archaeology, museum curation

Where are anthropologists working?

Anthropologists can be found in corporations, all levels of government, educational institutions and non-profit associations. Anthropologists work in disaster areas, including Ground Zero in New York and the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today there are four main career paths for anthropology graduates:

Academic Careers

On campuses, in departments of anthropology, and in research laboratories, anthropologists teach and conduct research. They spend a great deal of time preparing for classes, writing lectures, grading papers, working with individual students, composing scholarly articles, and writing books.

A number of academic anthropologists find careers in other departments or university programs, such as schools of medicine, epidemiology, public health, ethnic studies, cultural studies, community or area studies, linguistics, education, ecology, cognitive psychology and neural science.

Corporate and Business Careers

Many corporations look explicitly for anthropologists, recognizing the utility of their perspective on a corporate team. A corporate anthropologist working in market research might conduct targeted focus groups to examine consumer preference patterns not readily apparent through statistical or survey methods. These anthropologists use their research skills to talk to consumers and users of technology to find out how products and services could be improved to better meet the needs of consumers.

Government Careers

State and local governmental organizations use anthropologists in planning, research and managerial capacities. Cultural Resources Management, or contract archaeology, employs nearly 98% of all archaeologists in North America and is based in state and federal legislative mandates to assess cultural resources affected by government funded projects. Forensic anthropologists, in careers glamorized by Hollywood and popular novels, not only work with police departments to help identify mysterious or unknown remains but also work in university and museum settings.

The federal government is one of the largest employers of anthropologists outside of academia. Possible career paths include: international development, cultural resource management, the legislative branch, forensic and physical anthropology, natural resource management, and defense and security sectors.

Non-profit and Community-based Careers

Non-governmental organizations, such as international health organizations and development banks employ anthropologists to help design and implement a wide variety of programs. However, these aren't the only opportunities available.

Many anthropologists work in local, community-based settings for non-profit agencies. Sometimes, they work through community-based research organizations like the Institute for Community Research. Other times, they might work for established organizations in a community like the YMCA, local schools, or environmental organizations.

The American Anthropological Association surveyed anthropology graduates and found that most hold positions in the following areas:

  • Education/Outreach
  • Administration/Management
  • Archaeology
  • Ethnography/Cultural Anthropology
  • Cultural Resources Management (CRM)
  • Evaluation/Assessment
  • Historic Preservation
  • Health (international/public health)
  • Museum/Curation/Project Design
  • Environment and Natural Resources
  • Community Development
  • Business Advocacy (human rights/social justice)
  • Tourism/Heritage
  • Human/Social Services
  • Healthcare Management/Services/Delivery
  • Computers/Software Development/Information Technology
  • Design (products and/or services)
  • Social Impact Assessment
  • International Development/Affairs
  • Market Research
  • Forensics
  • Law/Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement
  • Mass Communication
  • Humanitarian Efforts
  • Management Consulting/Organizational Development/Training

These data are from the American Anthropological Association’s website.

Professional organizations and associations

Below are links to Anthropology and Archaeology professional organizations and associations. Each contains "jobs" or "employment" links so that you can start thinking about your future career in anthropology.