An anthropology class at North Central College.

What Do Anthropologists Do?

Reviewed by Jacob Imm

Jul 12, 2023

What Can You Do With an Anthropologist Degree?

George Lucas, the executive producer of the hit “Indiana Jones” franchise, claims he always envisioned his title character as a rogue anthropologist. If your conception of anthropologists is Harrison Ford scaling crumbling ruins in search of mythical treasure, you may not have the whole story about what the profession entails. So what is anthropology, and what careers do those who studied anthropology pursue?

There are many types of anthropology that can be studied. Additionally, a wealth of anthropology jobs are both fulfilling and financially rewarding (without the need for cinematic stunts). What can you do with an anthropology degree? From education to research, there are a variety of options. 

Let’s dive into the list of top career opportunities available to a contemporary anthropology major. 

#1 Postsecondary Educator

What do anthropologists do? Very often, the answer is teach. 

Postsecondary education is a popular career path for anthropology graduates, and professors in the field get to participate in unique research projects. According to American Anthro, if you’re considering teaching this liberal arts subject at the university level, you may be responsible for:

  • Educating students and aspiring anthropologists on relevant curriculum 
  • Conducting research and publishing scholarly articles
  • Preparation and administrative work, such as planning for classes, grading papers, and mentoring individual students in their career development

If you plan on becoming a lecturer or professor, you’ll likely have to pursue further education. Many postsecondary roles require an advanced higher education degree, like a Ph.D., though some schools may hire you to teach as an assistant professor or early in your master’s program.

Regardless, if you choose to go the postsecondary route, you’ll be well rewarded. The average professor in America makes just shy of $80,000 annually, according to the BLS.

#2 Business Analyst or Consultant

While it may not seem as obvious of a next step as education, business careers are actually a fantastic fit for anthropology graduates.

In a world of spreadsheets, board meetings, and corporate mergers, it may be difficult to see how someone with a background in Mayan history or early Asian civilizations fits in. However, anthropologists’ depth of cultural knowledge makes them a hot commodity to corporations.

Anthropologists are uniquely qualified to connect a population number on a screen to the cultural realities of a demographic. In order for their campaigns and products to resonate with as many people as possible, brands like Intel and Microsoft hire anthropologists to connect those dots. 

Organizations hire anthropologists for roles such as:

  • Consultant – While most people envision number-crunchers and marketing experts as consultants, some firms forego technically-skilled advice in favor of a more human touch. Companies such as Adidas, Samsung, and Carlsberg employ consulting firms composed entirely of individuals with backgrounds in the human behavior sciences, such as anthropology. Compensation for consultants varies widely depending on the nature of the role, but the median salary is about $84,000 a year, per Glassdoor.
  • Analyst – While statistical analysts need to know how many potential consumers are in a market, it’s also advantageous to understand those consumers’ backgrounds and cultural makeup. Anthropological market researchers help companies develop more robust profiles of consumers and determine their motivations and preferences. According to the BLS, they’re paid a healthy sum for their efforts as well, with the average take-home income for the role hovering around $64,000.

Find out more about anthropology at North Central College

#3 Government-Contracted Anthropologist

Aside from academia, the government is another entity that favors candidates with anthropological backgrounds and offers a wealth of job opportunities. While a variety of government jobs don’t require formal education or degrees, certain roles mandate education in the field of anthropology. Government departments would be most likely to hire an anthropologist for:

  • Resource management – An anthropologist’s birds-eye view of a project, country, or problem is well-suited for a resource management job in the government sector. Municipal bodies need help strategically planning and using natural and cultural resources, according to Jstor. These resources could be as basic as water or as specific as a historic monument in the middle of town. Anthropologists have the insight to understand what resources are available and what the costs look like to civilians when they’re used. On average in the United States, cultural resource management professionals earn $63,691 per year, according to Comparably.
  • Forensic anthropology – Crime dramas like “CSI” and “Bones” may have sensationalized the role of the anthropologist. However, forensic anthropology is one forensic science field that can be just as thrilling as the media portrays. Forensic anthropologists use archaeological techniques to examine human remains and aid law enforcement in investigations. Their work can lead to the capture of criminals and peace of mind for mourning families. If you intend to pursue employment in forensic anthropology, you can expect to make—like a contracted archaeologist—roughly $62,000 annually, according to the BLS.

Take the First Step Toward Your Career in Anthropology 

Whether you’d like to build detailed customer profiles or educate burgeoning minds on the social classes of the Ming dynasty, careers in anthropology begin with a degree in anthropology. 

When considering where to take the first step on your anthropological journey, pick a school that balances in-class sessions with practical fieldwork. That way, after being a student, you’ll be prepared with the skills needed for whatever career you pursue as an anthropology graduate.

For example, North Central College’s bachelor of arts in anthropology offers a varied mix of study and practice. From learning about civilizations and languages to practicing physical anthropological skills in independent research, North Central’s program covers the essentials of the discipline and more.

Jacob Imm is the associate director of communication in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 13 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.



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