Anthropologists and archeologists typically do the following:
By drawing and building on knowledge from the humanities and the social, physical, and biological sciences, anthropologists and archeologists examine the ways of life, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world. They also examine the customs, values, and social patterns of different cultures.
Although the equipment used by anthropologists and archeologists varies by task and specialty, it often includes excavation and measurement tools, laboratory and recording equipment, statistical and database software, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Archeologists examine, recover, and preserve evidence of human activity from past cultures. They analyze human remains and artifacts, such as tools, pottery, cave paintings, and ruins of buildings. They connect their findings with information about past environments to learn about the history, customs, and living habits of people in earlier eras.
Archeologists also manage and protect archeological sites. Some work in national parks or at historical sites, providing site protection and educating the public. Others assess building sites to ensure that construction plans comply with federal regulations related to site preservation. Archeologists often specialize in a particular geographic area, period, or object of study, such as animal remains or underwater sites.
Anthropology is divided into three primary fields: biological or physical anthropology, cultural or social anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Biological and physical anthropologists study the changing nature of the biology of humans and closely related primates. Cultural anthropologists study the social and cultural consequences of various human-related issues, such as overpopulation, natural disasters, warfare, and poverty. Linguistic anthropology studies the history and development of languages.
A growing number of anthropologists perform market research for businesses, studying the demand for products by a particular culture or social group. Using their anthropological background and a variety of techniques—including interviews, surveys, and observations—they may collect data on how a product is used by specific demographic groups.
Many people with a Ph.D. in anthropology or archeology become professors or museum curators. For more information, see the profiles on postsecondary teachers, and archivists, curators, and museum technicians.
Most anthropologists and archeologists qualify for available positions with a master’s degree in anthropology or archeology. The typical master’s degree program takes 2 years to complete and includes field or laboratory research.
Anthropology and archeology students typically conduct field research during their graduate programs, often working abroad or doing community-based research. Many students also attend archeological field schools, which teach students how to excavate historical and archeological sites and how to record and interpret their findings and data.
Although a master’s degree is enough for many positions, a Ph.D. may be needed for jobs that require leadership skills and advanced technical knowledge. Anthropologists and archeologists typically need a Ph.D. to work internationally in order to comply with the requirements of foreign governments. A Ph.D. takes additional years of study beyond a master’s degree. Also, Ph.D. students must complete a doctoral dissertation, which typically includes between 18 and 30 months of field research and knowledge of a foreign language.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology or archeology and work experience gained through an internship or field school can work as field or laboratory technicians or research assistants.