Margaret Mead pioneered anthropology research in Samoa, New Guinea and Bali.

Anthropologists study the behavior, culture and traditions of groups of people, often exploring major world issues. A graduate degree in anthropology lets you understand and perhaps improve people's lives. A master's degree is common, but a doctoral degree will let you become a leader in the field.

Master's Degree

Many jobs are open to an anthropologist with a master’s degree. To be accepted into a master’s program, you don't have to major in anthropology as a undergrad. You must choose a specific area of concentration, such as archeology, ancient technology or linguistic, biological, medical or sociocultural anthropology. It takes an average of two years to complete a master’s degree. You'll probably need to pay for it yourself or take out student loans because master’s programs don’t receive much outside funding.


If you want to work at a university, run a museum or lead projects, you'll need a doctorate in anthropology. Ph.D. programs prepare students to do research in fields such as globalization, media, race, popular culture and traditions. You spend about three years taking classes before starting work on your dissertation, an original research project. Doing the research and collecting data takes a year or two, and then you’ll need a year or more to write about your work. Finally, you present your dissertation to a faculty committee and answer their questions.

Professional Work

Government agencies, schools, corporations and nonprofit groups employ anthropologists to look into issues important to the specific organizations. Jobs are varied, including university professor and researcher, museum curator, public health worker, social services administrator, forensic anthropologist, management consultant, law enforcement personnel, human rights activist, historical preservationist and market researcher. Anthropologists work all over the world in urban, suburban, rural and abandoned or damaged areas.

Job Prospects

In 2010, the annual median pay for anthropologists was $54,230. The federal government is one of the field’s largest employers. It also paid the best: $70,800 per year. Anthropologists often work as consultants in science, management or technology, but their average yearly income, $46,280, is considerably less. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that anthropology will be a growing field between 2010 and 2020. Jobs will increase more than 20 percent, which is faster than average. Most of the increase will come from businesses that hire anthropologists. More research is needed as companies move into new markets and want to understand different types of consumers.

2016 Salary Information for Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists earned a median annual salary of $63,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, anthropologists and archeologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $81,430, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 7,600 people were employed in the U.S. as anthropologists and archeologists.

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