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Anthropology Jobs: 15 Highest-Paying Careers

Students Looking At Artifacts In Case On Trip To Museum

An anthropology degree may sound fascinating, with studies of ancient and far away cultures and the ways in which people form bonds and interact with one another, but how can you put that to use in the real world? Are there really jobs out there for people with a degree in anthropology?

The answer is absolutely yes. Understanding the ways that people and societies communicate and respond to situations is key to a wide range of careers. According to the American Anthropological Association, anthropology is the only contemporary discipline that approaches human questions from historical, biological, linguistic, and cultural perspectives, providing a unique perspective. Anthropology graduates can find themselves working in diverse fields such as law, medicine, foreign service, social services, and business.

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology, simply put, is the study of what makes us human. Anthropologists study human behavior, biology, cultures, and societies from ancient times through the modern day. Armed with this knowledge, many anthropologists work within their own societies, examining complex issues in economics, health, education, laws, and policies.

Various subsets of anthropology focus on different aspects of human life. Some of these include the following:

  • Social anthropology studies the development of human societies, seeking to understand the diversity as well as commonalities among various groups.
  • Cultural anthropology takes a more in-depth look at specific cultures, including their patterns of behavior, language, customs, rituals, laws, ideals, art, and more.
  • Linguistic anthropology examines how language affects social life, such as social identity, group membership, and establishing cultural beliefs and ideologies.
  • Biological or physical anthropology is most interested in human evolution, our extinct ancestors, non-human primates, and understanding the causes of current human diversity.
  • Visual anthropology often falls under the umbrella of social anthropology and consists of two main intentions: understanding modern-day photography, film, and new media through an anthropological lens; and studying art and visuals of past cultures and societies.

Quick Note: Anthropology vs Archeology

While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are distinctions between anthropology and archaeology. In North America, archaeology is generally considered a subset of anthropology, while in Europe it is considered a separate discipline.

Archaeologists primarily study artifacts to determine facts about the cultures, lifestyles, and history of ancient civilizations. Anthropologists, meanwhile, study humans across time, from the earliest societies to the present, and even look to the future.

Benefits of an Anthropology Degree

In addition to learning about fascinating people and cultures, the study of anthropology provides you with skills useful in any situation, personal or professional, where you will be interacting with people from different backgrounds. Anthropology studies center around three primary skill areas useful in any work environment: understanding human diversity; collecting, researching, and analyzing information; and communicating effectively.

Coursework in an Anthropology bachelor’s degree will likely include a foundation in math and science, along with studies of history, psychology, and politics. Curricula typically incorporate research projects, hands-on field opportunities, and a capstone experience. You can specialize your studies in a particular anthropological focus through concentrations or elective courses. You might take classes such as:

  • Human Origins and Evolution
  • Who Owns Culture? Ethics in Anthropology
  • Buried Cities and Lost Tribes
  • Social Statistics
  • Medical Anthropology and Global Health
  • Anthropology, War, and Security
  • World Hunger, Population, and Food Supplies
  • Conceptualizing and Modeling Human Environment Interactions

The study of anthropology is so broad-reaching that it doesn’t limit you to one specific job, like say accounting or law enforcement or software engineering. The four main career paths for anthropology graduates are academic, corporate and business, government, and nonprofit and community-based careers. Graduates have the advantage of possessing key skills and knowledge that will benefit them in any setting, especially as the business world becomes ever more global and interconnected.

Best-Paying Careers with an Anthropology Bachelor’s Degree

With a degree in anthropology giving you such a broad base of knowledge, this is by far not an exhaustive list of your career options. Your personal interests and experience, along with choice of degree concentration and elective courses, can provide you with endless opportunities. While many of these jobs require additional training in the form of work experience or a graduate degree, some can be pursued immediately after completing your undergraduate studies. Read on for some of the most lucrative careers related to anthropology.

1. Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker

Median salary: $52,140
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 11%

Working in a museum allows you to study, interact with, and teach about historical items from cultures around the world. Archivists focus on processing, cataloging, and preserving historically valuable records and documents. Meanwhile, curators’ work is often more public facing, overseeing collections and leading public activities for their organization. Other fascinating jobs in a museum include technicians and conservators who restore artworks and artifacts and prepare them for exhibition.

Many jobs in this sector require a master’s degree in an area such as art history, library science, museum studies, or archaeology, but some positions are available to those with a bachelor’s degree, particularly those at smaller institutions. Internships and volunteer work in museums can be the key to getting your foot in the door.


2. Survey Researcher

Median salary: $62,810
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: -4%

The emphasis on research and understanding other people gained from an anthropology degree fits perfectly with a career in survey research, where you will work to collect and analyze data in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, and desires. In this role, you might design surveys, test and solve problems with survey questions, analyze and summarize answers using software and data visualization, and evaluate the performance of surveys to improve future projects.

A bachelor’s degree can be enough to get started with entry-level positions, but you may need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in areas such as marketing, statistics, or social sciences to advance your career. While the salary can be quite good, you can expect competition for positions, as jobs in this field are expected to decline slightly over the next decade. You will set yourself up for a better chance of success by pursuing a graduate-level education.


3. Public Relations Specialist

Median salary: $62,810
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 7%

A degree in anthropology may be an unorthodox choice if you plan to go into public relations, but anthropologists can deliver a unique viewpoint when it comes to communicating with a specific audience or trying to connect with various cultures. Public relations specialists use skills in research and communication to help their clients interact with the media and the public. Your job is to be the mouthpiece for your organization and ensure that your company maintains a positive image.

You can generally start your career with just a bachelor’s degree. Employers may expect candidates to have a degree in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business, so you might take a few extra steps to make your resume stand out. A portfolio of work can help demonstrate your abilities to a potential employer. Internships in PR, writing for the school newspaper, or holding a leadership position in your school or community are also great ways to show your writing and communication skills.


4. Historian

Median salary: $63,100
Minimum education: Master’s
Estimated growth: 3%

Anthropology students spend a lot of time studying the past, so a career as a historian is a natural fit. This is one job field where you really need at least a master’s degree, if not a doctorate, to get started. Ideally, your graduate education should focus on a specific area of study so that you can become an expert, such as a particular country or region, time period, or topic.

The skills in research, communication, and storytelling gained from an anthropology bachelor’s degree are essential for historians. In this job field, you might find yourself analyzing an artifact to determine its authenticity, researching a topic and writing an article or book on the matter, or providing educational programs and presentations to the public. While moderate growth is anticipated for this career path and the high average salary is enticing, it is a fairly small field, making up only about 3,500 jobs across the US.


5. Market Research Analyst

Median salary: $65,810
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 18%

If you’re looking for a job with great pay and ample job opportunities, consider a career as a market research analyst. With more than 738,000 jobs in the US and a much faster than average expected growth rate, this is an ideal field to put your bachelor’s in anthropology to work.

Market research analysts conduct studies to help companies understand what products people want, who the target audience is, and what the best pricing strategy is. The strong research, analytical, and communication skills you honed through your anthropology coursework are key to this position, as is your nuanced understanding of different people and cultures.


6. Writer

Median salary: $67,120
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: -2%

Did your anthropology studies leave you wanting to know more about a particularly fascinating society, time period, or topic? If so, why not dig in deeper to research and share your findings with others? Writers can focus on promoting their own books and articles, or they can find success in developing content for everything from advertisements to blogs to movie and TV scripts. Your skills in research, effective communication, and understanding your audience all play into this career field.

A bachelor’s degree is enough to get started on this career path, but employers and editors will also want to see evidence of your writing and research skills. Any previous work in this area, such as with the college newspaper, magazine, radio, or TV station, or internships with advertising or publishing companies, can help showcase your experience and abilities. While the pay can be good, it’s not always a steady occupation. Many news outlets and publishers are downsizing, but if you can adapt your work to digital content, use social media, and have skills with technology, you will have an advantage over the competition.


7. Anthropologist

Median salary: $66,130
Minimum education: Master’s
Estimated growth: 5%

Did you think we would forget the most obvious career choice? Yes, if you get a degree in anthropology, you can actually get a job as an anthropologist! With a bachelor’s degree, you might be able to start out as an assistant or fieldworker, but you need a master’s degree or Ph.D. to become a true anthropologist. Putting in the extra studies is worth it, as anthropologists working for the federal government earn an average salary of nearly $80,000. Anthropologists ranked #5 in Best Science Jobs by US News & World Report, based on qualities including salary, job market, future growth, stress, and work life balance.

As an anthropologist, you might be in charge of managing and protecting an archeological site in a national park or historical area. Other anthropologists assess building sites to make sure plans follow federal regulations for site preservation. Some anthropologists actively conduct research, doing fieldwork to learn about current or past civilizations in remote locations. While this can be a great career choice and a perfect match for your degree, competition can be high for open jobs due to a relatively small number of positions compared to applicants.


8. Social or Community Service Manager

Median salary: $69,600
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 17%

With explosive growth on the horizon, good pay, and a job you can feel good about doing, becoming a social or community service manager can be a great choice for anthropology majors. You might find yourself helping veterans, working with homeless individuals, or tackling child hunger, among many other charitable causes. You will find a good fit for your skills in communication, analyzing data, and connecting with other people.

When filling a management-level position, many groups look for someone who has a bachelor’s degree and relevant experience. You can work your way up to a leadership role by starting out in jobs such as a social worker, substance abuse counselor, or community volunteer. The need for nonprofit managers will be higher than ever in the coming years, with nearly 30,000 new jobs expected in the next decade.


9. Urban or Regional Planner

Median salary: $75,950
Minimum education: Master’s
Estimated growth: 11%

Your background in anthropology can help you understand the needs of various communities and societies, which lends itself well to a career in urban or regional planning. Planners also use tools and techniques familiar to anthropologists, such as those in research, data analysis, and presentation. All of these skills can make you an asset in this career field, and the payoff in terms of salary is enticing; the median pay for planners working for the US federal government is over $102,000 per year.

To break into this field, you generally need to complete a master’s degree accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. Employers will look for your experience planning real projects and completing internships during your graduate studies. As a planner, you can choose an area of specialty such as transportation planning, community development, historic preservation, or urban design.


10. Anthropology Professor

Median salary: $89,220
Minimum education: Master’s
Estimated growth: 9%

Share your wealth of knowledge with a whole new generation by becoming an anthropology professor. In this career, you will create curriculum for college-level classes, guide teaching assistants, and teach and evaluate students. You may also have the opportunity to conduct your own anthropology research.

College professors can anticipate a growing job market in the coming years, with more and more people pursuing higher education. The great pay with this job comes with lofty educational expectations — a master’s degree at a minimum, and more commonly a Ph.D or other doctoral degree is required to teach at most four-year institutions. After all those years of studying, you’ll probably feel right at home in a college classroom.


11. Sociologist

Median salary: $86,110
Minimum education: Master’s
Estimated growth: 4%

Sociology is very closely linked to anthropology. Sociologists study groups, cultures, and social institutions to better understand how people work and interact with one another. As a sociologist, you might research the impact of a new law on a specific demographic, help formulate effective public policy, and work alongside administrators, educators, lawmakers, and social workers to create positive change.

To be considered for a sociology role, you typically need a master’s degree or Ph.D. Those with a bachelor’s degree might be able to earn an entry-level spot by completing internships and volunteer work to gain experience in the field. As a sociologist, you can specialize in a wide range of topics, such as education and health; crime and poverty; families and population; gender, racial, and ethnic relations; and more.


12. Training and Development Manager

Median salary: $115,640
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 7%

With a median salary above $115,000, an anticipated 7% growth rate over the next decade, and only a bachelor’s-level education required, this job field checks all the boxes of a great choice for anthropology majors. Training and development managers work to create and oversee organizational training programs. In this role, you’ll get to spend much of your day interacting with and teaching others, improving employee productivity and allowing people to gain new skills to advance their careers.

Training and development managers can come from a variety of educational backgrounds, but most employers will want to see that you have some knowledge of instructional design, behavioral psychology, or educational psychology. Most importantly, you’ll want to get some work experience under your belt in management, teaching, or human resources to work up to this management-level position.


13. Public Relations or Fundraising Manager

Median salary: $118,430
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 9%

Do you have the people skills to get your company’s message out to the public or bring in the big donors for your cause? As a public relations or fundraising manager, you will be responsible for maintaining the public image of your employer or for managing donations for your organization. Both positions focus on outreach, communication, and connecting with others to reach a goal, skills commonly used in anthropology.

To take on this management role, you’ll first need to start in entry-level positions to gain experience. After proving your worth, you’ll be on the right track to a great career, with much faster than average expected job growth and the top positions earning more than $200,000 salary. Certifications from organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America, CFRE International, and International Association of Business Communicators can boost your resume and opportunities for advancement.


14. Human Resources Manager

Median salary: $121,220
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 6%

Your anthropological understanding of people is key to the human resources field. As a human resources manager, you might be tasked with finding and developing the best employees, creating enticing benefits packages, or handling disputes and disciplinary issues. In a smaller organization you’ll find yourself covering all aspects of HR, while in a larger company you can specialize in areas such as labor relations, payroll, or recruiting.

You’ll need experience in the field on top of your bachelor’s degree credentials to reach manager status. College courses in conflict management and psychology can come in handy. Whether in school or in the workplace, you’ll want to learn about compensation and benefits programs, be familiar with HR software programs, and stay on top of current employment laws. If you keep working hard, you could join the top 10% of HR professionals who earn more than $200,000 per year.


15. Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager

Median salary: $141,490
Minimum education: Bachelor’s
Estimated growth: 6%

Put your understanding of people, communities, and cultures to use in a job in marketing. With an amazing salary potential, good projected job growth, and the ability to enter the field with just a bachelor’s degree, this career path is a winner on all fronts. The median annual salary for managers working specifically in advertising and PR is more than $150,000.

As an advertising, promotions, or marketing manager, you can plan traditional and digital media campaigns, conduct market research to better understand customers and market opportunities, and manage incentive programs to increase sales. Work internally for one company or serve a variety of clients working for an advertising agency. College courses, internships, or work experience in marketing, consumer behavior, market research, sales, or visual arts can help ease your transition into this rewarding career.


How to Sell Your Education to Employers

If you decide to pursue a career path other than as an anthropologist, you might need to spell out to potential employers how your education applies to the position you are seeking. Your anthropology degree provides skills in research, communication, and information analysis, as well as a comprehensive understanding of human behavior. The same skills and knowledge are key to a wide assortment of careers, such as those in marketing, social services, teaching, and human resources.

While you might feel fully prepared for this career opportunity, you may need to educate your interviewer on what your anthropology degree can bring to the table. Most employers are less concerned with your background and more interested in what you can do for their organization. Explain why your skills and experience are the perfect fit for this position. Target specific job duties and explain how your skills and insights can benefit the company. Provide examples of group projects, internships, and volunteer work to illustrate your experience and value to the company.

Growing Role of Anthropology in Business

The good news is, as businesses continue to strive to understand and reach out to different demographics, some companies are actively seeking out anthropologists. According to an article by Business Insider, major corporations such as Google, Intel, and Microsoft are increasingly hiring anthropology majors. They understand the value anthropology brings to understanding customer insights.

In just one example, athletic brand Adidas partnered with consulting firm Red Associates to better understand their customer base. Red trained Adidas’s design team in conducting anthropological research, and the company discovered that consumers were less interested in winning elite sports competitions and more concerned about leading healthy lifestyles through activities like running, biking, and doing yoga. The definition of “sport” had evolved, and anthropological thinking helped Adidas pivot to become a more inclusive brand.

Continuing Education for Anthropology

Whether you decide to pursue a graduate degree immediately after finishing your bachelor’s or after you’ve spent some time in the workforce, many options exist if you are interested in pursuing education beyond your anthropology bachelor’s degree.

Staying on Track

A graduate degree in anthropology expands on your undergraduate education and often allows you to focus on a specific field, such as evolutionary anthropology, physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, museum anthropology, or anthropological linguistics, just to name a few. Most graduates of an anthropology master’s or Ph.D. program seek jobs more closely related to anthropology, often completing research and working as archaeologists, sociologists, geographers, or teachers.

Pursuing New Possibilities

You may also decide to use your anthropology bachelor’s degree as a springboard for expanding your career possibilities and choose a graduate program in another discipline to add to your job skills. Many of the careers in our list require a master’s degree in a specific field. An MBA degree can be a great choice that prepares you for leadership in any business setting. Choose a concentration in an area such as marketing, human resources, or nonprofit administration to focus your studies on the careers that interest you the most.

Get Started with an Online Anthropology Degree

Want to learn more? Check out these fully-online anthropology degrees, and see where this versatile field of study can take you.

With an online degree, you can earn an education while balancing work, family, and social demands. Many programs offer flexible scheduling and an accelerated pace designed for busy adults. Whether you want to study ancient civilizations or the habits of today’s consumers, you can find an anthropology program that’s a perfect fit for you and your career goals.

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