What Can You Do With An Anthropology Degree? – Forbes Advisor


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Species of humans have been around for almost a million years. We’ve had a long time to grow, develop and evolve. As a result, human languages, customs, habits and even genetic makeup are strikingly diverse, while also sharing interesting consistencies. (Have you ever thought about how most every region of the world has its own spin on noodles?)

If you could read about and discuss these kinds of topics to no end, an anthropology degree might be right for you. But what can you do with an anthropology degree?

Anthropology encompasses a broad range of subjects, including biology, linguistics and archaeology. It can lead to career paths in academia or the public or private sectors. Keep reading to discover what an anthropology degree can do for you.

What Is Anthropology?

Simply put, anthropology is the study of humanity. It encompasses a blend of biological and social sciences to examine what makes us human, from our cultures and languages down to our DNA.

Anthropology is commonly divided into four categories: biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology and linguistic anthropology. Across these disciplines, anthropologists gain a deeper understanding of humans, including their lifestyles, how they prepare and share food, their belief systems, their customs and their languages.

Anthropologists apply their knowledge to solve modern-day issues like overpopulation, war and poverty. They advise governments and companies about the humanistic implications of their policies and programs. They use research techniques such as interviewing and surveying to discover how people across the world live. Ultimately, anthropology aims to explore what makes us human.

Careers in Anthropology

Anthropology is applicable across various industries and professions. The below salary data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


Median Annual Salary: $63,940
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; master’s degree recommended for more advanced positions
Job Overview: Anthropologists work for governmental organizations, research firms or academic institutions. They study the development and history of humanity to add deeper context and understanding to current societal issues. Anthropologists plan and execute cultural research, examine data and laboratory samples, collect data from surveys, and advise organizations about the humanistic implications of their policies and programs.

Anthropology Professor

Median Annual Salary: $85,000
Minimum Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Overview: Anthropology professors teach at the college or university level. They create lesson plans and exam material, grade student work and provide their students with academic and career guidance. Many professors also conduct research and contribute to academic papers, or publish their findings in books and articles.

Survey Researcher

Median Annual Salary: $60,410
Minimum Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Overview: Survey researchers collect and analyze survey data for various research purposes. They plan and develop survey methods, interpret their results and chart their findings using tables, fact sheets and graphs. Survey researchers often work for governmental agencies, health organizations or research firms. Their surveys can encompass a wide variety of topics, such as health, public opinion and education.


Median Annual Salary: $73,150
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: Writers research and develop stories for newspapers, magazines, books and other mediums, often focusing on a particular subject. Writers collaborate with editors to ensure their copy is clean and well-written. They may conduct interviews or gather data from public records to shape a detailed narrative.

Archivist or Museum Technician

Median Annual Salary: $58,640 for archivists, $47,270 for museum technicians
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree for museum workers; master’s degree for archivists
Job Overview: Archivists are responsible for historical artifacts and documents. They preserve and catalog these items, typically in a museum, historical site or similar institution. Museum technicians care for and display artifacts of past civilizations, including coins, tools, clothing and pottery.

Forensic Science Technician

Median Annual Salary: $63,740
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: Forensic science technicians photograph evidence and collect specimens—such as fingerprints or bodily fluids—from a crime scene for laboratory analysis. It’s their job to investigate clues left behind and provide a deeper understanding of the events that occurred. They usually collaborate with law enforcement officials and consult with other experts in specialized fields, such as toxicologists.

Human Resources Specialist

Median Annual Salary: $64,240
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: HR specialists manage talent acquisition and retention for employers. They screen and interview job candidates, guide employees through orientation processes, and sometimes administer benefits and payroll.

Anthropology Specializations

In the U.S., the field of anthropology is divided into four specializations: biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology and linguistic anthropology. Most anthropologists specialize in one or two of them but will have a general understanding of them all.

Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is the study of human biology from an evolutionary perspective. Biological anthropologists study the genetic and molecular makeup of human beings, as well as how they have adapted to and impacted their environments.

Some biological anthropologists study recent human remains—usually in the context of a crime scene. Others study those of past societies to obtain a broader understanding of the conditions people lived through prior to their deaths.

Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropologists study global cultures and their associated beliefs and practices. They examine the cultural systems that shape societies, behaviors and the social organizations of communities.

Some cultural anthropologists immerse themselves in a particular group or community for an extended period as part of their research. In other cases, cultural anthropologists conduct surveys and interviews to gain a better understanding of cultures and individuals.


Archaeology is the study of humans through their material remains, such as bones, jewelry, building ruins and art. Archaeologists study both ancient and recent history, from the fossilized remains of the first humanoids to old factories in modern cities.

Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic anthropology deals with the development of human languages. It explores how languages shape cultures and societies, as well as the fundamental building blocks of languages themselves. Linguistic anthropologists examine languages through their documentation and manifestations in art.

Anthropology vs. Archeology: What’s the Difference?

Archaeology is a type of anthropology. Both practices involve the study of humanity. However, archaeology deals specifically with the study of artifacts left behind by humans instead of human biology, linguistics and cultures.

Archaeologists study artifacts like ancient tools, skeletons and building ruins to gain a sense of human lifestyles, cultures and diets. Archaeology also helps put historical events into context. For example, a 1920s discovery of an arrowhead lodged in the skeleton of a now-extinct bison revealed that humans inhabited North America since the last Ice Age. The arrowhead put the bison skeleton and its location into context.

Professional Organizations for Anthropology

Many professional organizations support workers in the anthropology field. Below are a few examples.

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

AAA was founded in 1902. Dedicated to applying human understanding to modern issues, AAA is the world’s largest professional and scholarly anthropology society. The organization publishes 22 journals, provides services for career planning and professional development, sponsors a paid summer internship program and hosts conferences.

American Ethnological Society (AES)

The AES is dedicated to advancing the study of ethnology, or the study of cultures in varying contexts and time periods. The AES publishes a journal, hosts two book awards, organizes panels for AAA meetings and puts on a spring conference for members of the AES.

Association for Africanist Anthropology (AfAA)

AfAA promotes the study of Africa, Africanist scholarship and professional interests of anthropologists in the African continent and beyond. It aims to amplify the contributions of African research and data to the field of anthropology. AfAA also promotes the use of anthropological research to address issues present in contemporary African societies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Anthropology Careers

What careers can you get in anthropology?

The field of anthropology encompasses a selection of career options, in both academic and non-academic settings. Examples of anthropology-based careers include professor, museum technician, writer, human resources specialist and forensic scientist.

What kind of work do anthropologists do?

Anthropologists deal with the study of what makes us human. They research, examine and analyze the cultures, languages, dwellings and remains of past and present societies.

Is anthropology a high-paying job?

It depends on what kind of anthropology career you pursue. Anthropologists earn a median salary of $63,940 per year, according to the BLS, but certain professions, such as postsecondary instructor, can earn a median of $85,000.


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