Anthropology as a Career


Archaeology Field School 2017.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an overview of anthropology and archaeology as an occupation:

These stats are for people who work as anthropologists or as archaeologists. About half of all people who earn degrees in anthropology work in different, but related, career areas such as social work, development work, grant writing, publishing, missions work, human resources, education, law enforcement, and in virtually any other area that requires good communication and analytic skills, and the ability to work in situations of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity.

Of course there are jobs in anthropology—I have one, for example—but positions, when they open, tend to have many qualified applicants. Consequently, you should begin as early as possible in your education to find ways to distinguish yourself in ways that will help you win the competition.



One way to distinguish yourself is to develop professional work habits early. Your work at the university should be undertaken seriously and methodically, and not just in the classes of your major. The total knowledge you gain from  math, English, history, philosophy, humanities, religion, language, and other courses are important for rounding out your overall knowledge. These things will make you a better anthropologist.

Do more than just the minimum to get by in a course. In addition to your textbook(s), read the books your professors mention in class. Ask questions. Take detailed notes in class, and from your texts, so that you can really internalize and structure your knowledge. Those same notes will be invaluable to you one day when you have to teach the same course.

Participant in as much field research as possible.  This is where you will really learn how to do what anthropologists do.

Learn to write and speak well, and always try to turn in your best work. Find regular times to read and to write.

Be punctual, and turn things in on time.

Join a professional organization(s). Attend meetings. Network with other anthropologists. Read the journal(s). This is what anthropologists do. It is never too early to start acting like what you want to be.

Develop proficiency in another language.

All of these things, done with purpose and passion, can distinguish you from the average applicant. Doing these things takes extra time, but there are no shortcuts to excellence.

Below are some resources that might help you to better define your career path in relation to your anthropology major.



Here are some potentially useful resources for helping you decide what you want to do with your degree in anthropology.


Designing an Anthropology Career: Professional Development Exercises by Sherylyn H. Briller and Amy Goldmacher. AltaMira Press.


Stumbling Toward Truth: Anthropologists at Work by Philip R. DeVita. Waveland Press.


The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: From Student to a Career by Carol J. Ellick and Joe E. Watkins. Left Coast Press.


Anthropology for Christian Witness by Charles H. Kraft. Orbis.


Customs and Cultures: Anthropology for Christian Missions by Eugene A. Nida. William Carey Library.


A Handbook of Practicing Anthropology by Riall Nolan, ed. Wiley-Blackwell.


Anthropology in Practice: Building a Career Outside the Academy by Riall W. Nolan. Lynne Rienner Publishers.


Thinking Anthropologically, 3rd edition, by Philip Carl Salzman and Patricial C. Rice, eds. Prentice Hall.


Careers in Anthropology by Richard Stephens. Pearson.


Final Word

I cannot emphasize enough that if you want to be anthropologist, in any subfield, you must read, and read, and read anthropological books and journals.

Also, in most cases, you will need to complete some graduate work. So, give a lot of thought to planning what you want to do.