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How to Become an Anthropologist

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If you are fascinated by culture and the way people interact with each other within a society, then a degree in Anthropology might be right for you.

Anthropologists study cultures and societies; they investigate the origins of culture, how cultures develop, and the functions of values and traditions within a culture.

The work of an Anthropologist majorly involves research into social, cultural, and religious life. They deal with subjects such as political and economic systems, kinship systems, religion, rituals, art, cultural symbolism, music forms, beauty and aesthetics, languages and many more.

The desire to explore other societies and curiosity about human life are the major qualities that drive all anthropologists. Anthropologists often go outside of their own culture to immerse themselves in another culture, in order to see the dynamic ways by which humans live and interact.

Within the Social Sciences, Anthropology is regarded as the most scientific and most humanistic of the scientific discipline.

Depending on your area of interest, you might choose to focus on a particular aspect of Anthropology; there are various aspects like Media Anthropology, which investigates human interactions within the media space, Cyborg anthropology, which deals with human interactions with technology, medical anthropology, which investigates how medicine affects society, and a lot more diverse aspects.

Anthropology can be applied to any aspect of society today and Anthropologist now works in several fields of occupation from helping corporations understand how people’s identity shapes their use of technology, to researching into workplace culture and social relationships, to working with gangs and vagabonds in order to understand their social patterns.


Responsibilities of an Anthropologist


  • Gather information through interviews, observations, and historical narratives and documents.
  • Organize cultural research
  • Develop a unique data collection method that is appropriate in studying a particular culture, project, or speciality.
  • Manage and record notes of observations taken in the field.
  • Perform proper analysis of data, material samples, and other sources of information to discover patterns of culture, human life, organization, and origins.
  • Prepare field reports and share research findings
  • Advise government and organizations on the Impact of programs, innovations, policies, and product on a society.


Skills required as an Anthropologist


  • Critical-thinking skills: it is important for Anthropologists to possess the ability to draw information from observations, experiments, and other methods of research. They must be capable of using diverse sources of information to solve problems and answer research questions.
  • Communication skills: Anthropologists are often required to write reports of their findings in academic journals and present the monographs of their fieldwork to their colleagues and the general public. These monographs must be presented in a clear, ordered, and comprehensible form. An Anthropologist is therefore required to have a good, listening, writing, and speaking skills.
  • Physical stamina: in the course of carrying out field research, an Anthropologist may need to stand for long hours or walk several miles.
  • Analytical skills: it is important for anthropologists to acquire the knowledge of scientific methods of investigation and data collection.
  • Ability to understand cultural diversity: since it is often required that anthropologists study cultures different from their own and with values different from their own, it is important that Anthropologists engage with a culture based on the terms of the particular culture and not in comparison with their own culture. It is therefore important for Anthropologists to become more culturally sensitive, and familiar with a wide range of beliefs, rituals, religion, values, and behaviours.

Educational Requirements for a career in Anthropology


To become an anthropologist, a degree in anthropology or social sciences is required.

Regardless of the aspect of anthropology that you want to major in, most undergraduate anthropology courses often take a broad approach, and this gives you the opportunity to discover and understand what fascinates you really in anthropology. This teaching method also clarifies for you the distinction within the various aspects of anthropology – like the difference between linguistic anthropology and social anthropology.

And as an international student applying to study Anthropology abroad, it is important to check additional specific requirements that apply to you and this will depend on your choice of University, your nationality, and country you are applying to.

You can contact a counsellor at Degrees and Careers for advice on country-specific visa issues.


If you’re convinced studying anthropology is your calling, here are some great institutions that you can apply to:


Cambridge University, UK: Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge has been consistently rated top Anthropology department in the world by students and academics. Social Anthropology at Cambridge is a leading centre globally in anthropological teaching and research. Both in the UK and beyond, a large number of anthropologists teaching in major university departments received their doctoral training at Cambridge, and the current faculty members are engaged in some of the most innovative frontline research in the human and social sciences today. The cost of tuition for international students is £22,227.


Harvard University, US:  Established in 1631, Harvard is the oldest higher education institution in the United States and it is widely known for its influence, reputation, and academic pedigree as a leading university in the world. Harvard University is among the best Universities to study Anthropology; it has been ranked the third best place to study Anthropology in the world by QS world University ranking. The Anthropology course at Harvard seeks to understand the full context of people’s actions and all that they impact. The faculty is interested in long term research in local languages and the excavation of artefacts in their complicated context in order to understand social life in all its richness and depth. The Department of Anthropology offers students three programs of study: Archaeology, Social Anthropology, and a combined track that brings together both fields. The cost of tuition for international students is $51,925.


Oxford University, UK: Oxford’s distinctive combination of archaeology and anthropology, spanning three years, offers a broad perspective on human societies from earliest prehistory to the present. The course offers a comprehensive guide to the richness and diversity of human cultural experience throughout space and time. By choosing to study at Oxford, you will be able to explore how humans evolved, understand major transformational processes in human history such as the development of farming; the emergence of towns and trading systems and the spread of world religions; learn why societies structure their families, kinship systems, economic and political systems in the way that they do; and investigate how material culture represents and reproduces beliefs and ideologies. The cost of tuition for international students is £28,370.


Career Specializations in Anthropology


An anthropologist can be found in diverse fields and careers. They can work in corporations, government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organization.  Due to the broad nature of the course, graduates of anthropology can enter a variety of professions.

For the anthropology graduate, there are four main career paths that they can take:

  • Academic Careers – Anthropologists can be employed as a teacher or researcher at an institution’s department of anthropology. Many academic anthropologists can work in other departments or university programs outside the anthropology department, such as schools of medicine, public health, ethnic studies, sociology, epidemiology, epidemiology, cultural studies, media studies, linguistics, ecology, psychology, and many more.
  • Corporate and Business Careers – Many corporations employ anthropologists to carry out varying research that pertains to the organization and its products and services. In today’s world, big businesses require an anthropological perspective to understand social relationship at work and the effects of their products and services on culture.  Anthropologists undertaking market trend research among a targeted focus group within society might produce consumer preference patterns that are not readily available through statistics or survey methods. Corporate Anthropologists use their research skills to engage consumers and users of technology to discover how product and services could be improved.
  • Careers in Government: Anthropologists are employed by State and local government agencies to plan, research and manage policy formulations and implementation. Forensic anthropologists are among the most sought after anthropological specialist, as their work is required in police departments to help identify mysterious or unknown criminal cases and also in universities and museums. Possible career paths in government available for the anthropologist include Cultural resource management, International development, forensic and physical anthropology, natural resource management, law, judiciary, defence and security departments.
  • Non-profit and Community-based Careers: Anthropologist are employed by non-governmental organizations to help formulate and implement varieties of programs. Oftentimes, these anthropologists carry out their research in local, community-based settings. Non-profit and Community-based organizations that an anthropologist can work with vary widely from international health organizations to development banks employ, local schools, or environmental organizations.


Job Outlook for Anthropologists

The employment prospect for anthropologists is projected to grow 10 per cent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for many professions.

Corporations will continue to use anthropological research to gain a better understanding of consumer demand within specific cultures or social groups. Anthropologists would also be needed to analyze markets, allowing businesses to serve their clients better or to target new customers or demographic groups.


Typical Employers of an Anthropologist

·         Research centres

·         NGOs

·         Government agencies

·         Private corporations

·         Museums

·         International organizations: UN, WHO, World Bank, WTO, e.t.c.

·         Universities


Salary Estimates for Anthropologists


  • The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
  • Though there is no standard salary structure for anthropologists, however according to, a social anthropologist can earn up to $38,784 to $125,556 in the US
  • .The average pay for anthropologists and archaeologists in the United States ranges from $39,460 to $97,950 as of May 2019.


Postgraduate Options for Anthropologists


M.A. Medical Anthropology and intensive Language, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London:  The degree combines anthropological theory with ethnographic research in order to examine historical and contemporary dilemmas in medicine and to cover a range of topics including health in relation to gender, race, language, memory, psychoanalysis, science and technology, and religion.  Students will also be introduced to the bioethical implications of ongoing cultural and technological shifts and will be asked to consider these debates as frameworks to engage with current affairs and global conditions pertaining to health, inequality, conflict, and justice. The key aim of the programme is to offer insights into the emergence and evolution of modern medicine and its key institutional, cultural, and ethical tenets as well as discourses and practices.

M.A. Media and Visual Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin: Media Anthropology deals with the relationship between media and culture in a number of areas such as problems in the esentation of culture through media. This M.A programme encourages students to develop their own creativity and knowledge on their way to finding a place in the world as a human being that not only “fights” against, but also answers to injustice and the destruction of our environment and human rights with the wisdom of the combination of written and audio-visual projects.  This includes documenting injustice or enfolding cultural landscapes and local knowledge of alternative and transnational cultural performativity with the aim of rethinking our and the other’s roles, values, norms, rituals, mythologies, media practices in the age of digital modernities and with the aim to discuss digital humanities from an anthropological perspective.


M.Res Social Anthropology, Cambridge University: This one-year course provides intensive research training in Social Anthropology, social science research methods more generally, and the opportunity to complete a research thesis under academic guidance. You can use this year to work out plans for doctoral research. It is ordinarily expected that MRes students will progress directly to registration for the PhD course and fieldwork, subject to excellent results in their MRes. However, the MRes can also serve as a free-standing project if you wish to pursue advanced study and to acquire additional research skills without proceeding to the PhD programme. In addition, you will be trained in quantitative social methods.


Careers Related to Anthropology


Archaeologist: Archaeology can also be regarded as a subdivision of Anthropology. Archaeologists study the origin, development, and behaviour of human beings and their societies, both past and present. They examine cultures, languages, behaviours, archaeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in many parts of the world. They ask questions and develop theories. Archaeologists use scientific sampling techniques to guide them as to where they need to dig on the site. They observe, record, categorize, and interpret what they find, then share their findings with other scientists and the public.

Historian: Historians devote their careers to studying notable past events, such as military conflicts, political milestones, and social movements. These professionals work in universities and other educational settings, as well as for the various public, private and non-profit organizations. The world is constantly evolving, and historians play an important role in synthesizing and recording the events of the past. Their efforts make it possible for individuals and societies to learn from history in order to chart a better course for the future.

Environmentalist: An environmentalist is a person who is concerned with and advocates for the protection of the environment. Environmentalists work to protect the air, water, animal, plant, and other natural resources from pollutions or its effects. An environmentalist can be considered a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement “a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities.

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