Anthropology as a Career

What career paths can you take with a degree in anthropology?

Anthropology: Education for the 21st Century Job Market

Anthropology prepares students for excellent jobs and opens doors to various career paths: the course of study provides global information and thinking skills critical to succeeding in the 21st century in business, research, teaching, advocacy, and public service.

Demand for anthropologists is increasing in many areas, stimulated by a growing need for analysts and researchers with sharp thinking skills who can manage, evaluate, and interpret the large volume of data on human behavior. These demands reflect the emphasis on breadth, diversity, and independence of thought.

Anthropology's Career Advantages

Unique skill sets. Anthropology teaches careful record-keeping, attention to details, analytical reading, and clear thinking. Our training cultivates social ease in strange situations, critical thinking, and strong skills in oral and written expression. Using a range of social, behavioral, biological and other scientific research methods, anthropology majors learn to supplement statistical findings with descriptive data gathered through participant observation, interviewing, and ethnographic study. An anthropologist is a trained observer who knows the importance of collecting data, in listening and watching what others are doing, in reflecting on what has actually as well as apparently occurred, in researching the context, in applying various explanatory models, and in adopting a broad perspective for framing an understanding.

Diversity. Anthropology is a career that embraces people of all kinds. It is a discipline that thrives with heterogeneity--in people, ideas and research methods. Anthropologists know the wisdom of listening to multiple voices and linking the work coming from researchers who bring different backgrounds and apply various approaches to their endeavors.

What Job Opportunities Will Anthropology Afford the New Graduate?

Job opportunities are forged by the individual, not by the program which one follows in college. Anthropological study provides training particularly well suited to the 21st century. The economy will be increasingly international; workforces and markets, increasingly diverse; participatory management and decision making, increasingly important; communication skills, increasingly in demand.

Most jobs filled by anthropologists don't mention the word anthropologist in the job announcement; such positions are broadly defined to attract researchers, evaluators and project managers. Anthropologists' unique training and perspective enable them to compete successfully for these jobs.

Career Paths: Academic, Corporate, Nonprofit, or Government

Most of America's professional anthropologists have traditionally worked in higher educational institutions, teaching and researching, but today there are many other career options. Anthropology offers many lucrative possibilities in a variety of occupational settings in the private sector, including research institutes, nonprofit groups, government agencies and private corporations.


  • Anthropologists teach and conduct research in departments of anthropology, and in research laboratories.

  • 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.

Corporations, Nonprofit organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations

  • Non-governmental organizations, such as international health organizations and development banks employ anthropologists to help design and implement a wide variety of programs, worldwide and nationwide.

  • 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.

  • Contract archaeology has been a growth occupation with state and federal legislative mandates to assess cultural resources affected by government funded projects.

Federal, State and Local Government

  • State and local governmental organizations use anthropologists in planning, research and managerial capacities.

  • Forensic anthropologists, in careers glamorized by Hollywood and popular novels, not only work with police departments to help identify mysterious or unknown remains but work in university and museum settings.