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Careers in Anthropology

Areas of Anthropological Study

  • Sociocultural Anthropology – Examines social patterns and practices across cultures.
  • Archaeology – Studies past people and cultures through the analysis of material remains
  • Biological Anthropology – Studies human and non-human primates past and present from ecological and evolutionary perspectives, addressing the intersection of behavior, culture, and biology and how these systems impact health and well-being
  • Linguistic Anthropology – Studies the ways in which language reflects and influences social life
  • Medical Anthropology – Seeks to better understand factors that influence people’s health and well being
  • Forensic Anthropology – Analyzes skeletal, decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains to aid in the detection of crime
  • Business Anthropology – Applies anthropological theories and methods to identify and solve business problems
  • Visual Anthropology – Uses images for the description, analysis, communication and interpretation of behavior
  • Environmental Anthropology – Examines how people interact with, respond to, and bring about changes in the environment
  • Museum Anthropology – Studies the history of museums, their role in society, and changes in this role

Where are anthropologists working?

Anthropologists can be found working in a variety of fields and careers. Today there are four main career paths that anthropology graduates typically find.

Academic Careers

On campuses, in departments of anthropology, and research laboratories. A number of academic anthropologists find careers in other departments or university programs, such as schools of medicine, epidemiology, public health, ethnic and cultural studies, and ecology.

Corporate and Business Careers

Anthropologists can bring a unique perspective to organizations. Using 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. Contract archaeology is a growing occupation with 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.

This information was compiled using resources from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) website. For more information, please visit the AAA Careers in Anthropology webpage.