What do Anthropologists and Archeologists Do

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Archeologists and Anthropologists study the behavior, development and origin of humans. They examine many aspects including archeological remains, cultures, physical characteristics and languages of different people all over the globe. 


Archeologists and anthropologists often partake in the following:

  • Present research findings and prepare reports
  • Planning cultural research
  • Managing and recording records of field observations
  • Present research findings and prepare reports
  • Advise organizations on the cultural impact of products, programs and policies
  • Collect information from documents, interviews and observations
  • Analyze lab samples, data and additional information sources of information to uncover patterns regarding origins, culture and human life

Archeologists and anthropologists build on knowledge from the physical, social, biological sciences and humanities to examine languages, physical characteristics, archeological remains and ways of life from people all over the world. They also examine the customs, social patterns of different people along with the values of numerous cultures. 

Related Equipment

There is an abundance of material and equipment utilized by archeologists and anthropologists depending on the specialty and task at hand. These items often include recording and laboratory equipment, GIS or Geographic Information Systems, recording and laboratory equipment, measurement and excavation tools, database and statistical software. 

These professionals are responsible for examining the social patterns and customs of various cultures and cultural values of many civilizations. 

Preserving Evidence

Archaeologists specialize in preserving evidence of human activities by recovering and examining items from previous cultures. They analyze artifacts and human remains, cave paintings, tools, building remnants and pottery, clothing, and fossils among other things. 

They use this evidence to connect their discoveries with information relating to past environments. This data is utilized to learn more about the customs, habitats, and history of people from earlier times. 

Site Protection and Management

Protecting and managing archeological sites is another specialty that these professionals participate in. Some archeologists work at historical sites or in national parks. They may educate the public and offer site protection. 

Other professionals will check the building sites to ensure that construction plans are in place with federal regulations and comply with site preservation requirements. Archeologists commonly specialize in a certain geographic location, the object of study, or period. This may involve underwater locations and animal remains. 


Anthropology is divided into three main categories: linguistic anthropology, social or cultural anthropology and physical or biological anthropology. Linguistic anthropologists study the development and history of languages. 

Cultural anthropologists study the cultural and social consequences of a variety of issues related to humans including natural disasters, poverty, warfare and overpopulation. 

Physical and biological anthropologists specialize in studying the changing nature of the biology of humans and primates that are closely related.

Numerous anthropologists conduct market research for companies. They are responsible for studying the demand for items by a certain social group or culture. These professionals use their background in anthropology and other techniques including observations, surveys and interviews. 

Data is collected regarding how a product is utilized by a certain demographic group. Individuals with a Ph.D. in archeology or anthropology often become curators of museums or university professors. 

What's Involved In Becoming an Archeologist or Anthropologist

Typically, anthropologists and archeologists require a minimum of a master's degree in one of these two fields. There will be important experience required to complete fieldwork in either discipline as well. Individuals with a bachelor's degree may become fieldworkers or assistants. 


Archeologists and anthropologists often qualify for jobs once they have earned their master's degrees in archeology and anthropology. Generally, master's degree programs take approximately 2 years to finish. 

They include research time in the lab and fieldwork. Graduate programs for archeology and anthropology have students working abroad or conducting field research in a nearby community. Students can opt to attend field schools specializing in archeology. 

Here, they will learn how to correctly excavate and preserve archeological and historical sites along with interpreting and recording their data and findings. 

Obtaining a master's degree will enable you to work in a variety of jobs. However, a Ph.D. may be necessary for jobs that need advanced knowledge and leadership skills. Archeologists and anthropologists usually require a Ph.D. to work at international sites. This is a common requirement to comply with foreign governments. 

A Ph.D. takes extra time to earn after a master’s degree to complete years of study. Ph.D. students are also required to finish a doctoral dissertation. This can include anywhere from eighteen to thirty months of field research and understanding a foreign language. 

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in archeology or anthropology who have experience with field school, or an internship may find positions as research assistants, laboratory technicians, or field technicians. 

Additional Experience 

Archaeology and anthropology grads will require experience in their specific fields. They will undergo training in qualitative and quantitative research methods. Most students obtain experience via historical societies, museum internships, field training, or non-profit organizations while they are still attending school. 

Important Qualities 

Physical Stamina: Anthropologists and archeologists working in the field may need to hike or walk several miles while carrying equipment to a research site. Archeologists and anthropologists conducting field studies will have to walk or hike several miles and carry heavy equipment with them to their research site. 

They may have to descend or ascend and use stairs or steep paths. Some sites may only be accessible during certain times of the year due to weather so they may be traveling in hot and dry climates.

Analytical Abilities: Archeologists and anthropologists possess knowledge of data and scientific methods that are frequently relied on during their research. 

Great Communication: Archaeologists and Anthropologists must write papers and reports in academic journals and present their research findings to general audiences and peers. These activities require advanced listening, speaking and writing skills. 

Critical-thinking Abilities: Archeologists and anthropologists need to be able to conclude from research methods, laboratory experiments and observations. They must combine numerous information sources to try and answer research questions and solve problems. 

Work Environment

Anthropologists and archeologists held about 8,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of anthropologists and archeologists were as follows:

  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services - 27%
  • Research and development in the social sciences and humanities - 20%
  • Federal government, excluding postal service - 19%
  • Self-employed workers - 12%
  • Engineering services - 7%

The work of anthropologists varies according to the specific job. Although most anthropologists work in offices, some analyze samples in laboratories or work in the field.

Archeologists often work for cultural resource management (CRM) firms. These firms identify, assess, and preserve archeological sites and ensure that developers and builders comply with regulations regarding those sites. Archeologists also work in museums, at historical sites, and for government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

Anthropologists and archeologists often do fieldwork, either in the United States or in foreign countries. Fieldwork may involve learning foreign languages, living in remote areas, and examining and excavating archeological sites. Fieldwork usually requires travel for extended periods—about 4 to 8 weeks per year. Those doing fieldwork often will have to return to the field for several years to complete their research.

During fieldwork, anthropologists and archeologists must live with the people they study to learn about their culture. The work can involve rugged living conditions and strenuous physical exertion. While in the field, anthropologists and archeologists often work many hours to meet research deadlines. They also may work with limited funding for their projects.

Work Schedules

Many anthropologists and archeologists work full time during regular business hours. When doing fieldwork, however, anthropologists and archeologists may be required to travel and to work many and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 800 openings for anthropologists and archeologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


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

Archeologists will be needed to ensure that builders, museums, and other organizations comply with federal regulations pertaining to the preservation and handling of archeological and historical artifacts.

Because anthropological and archeological research may depend on research funding, federal budgetary decisions can affect the rate of employment growth in research.


The median annual wage for anthropologists and archeologists was $61,910 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,830.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for anthropologists and archeologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • Federal government, excluding postal service - $80,910
  • Engineering services - $64,650
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services - $60,540
  • Research and development in the social sciences and humanities - $50,230

Many anthropologists and archeologists work full time during regular business hours. When doing fieldwork, however, anthropologists and archeologists may be required to travel and to work many and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends.

Academic Programs of Interest

Ancient Studies
Ancient Studies seeks to encourage the study of antiquityin all its facets - including its history, art, architecture, literature, music,philosophy, religion, and science - and to promote interdisciplinary approaches to ancient culture. Ancient Studies may draw on the expertise of many different departments. These may include: Anthropology, Classical Studies, Fine Arts, Geological Sciences, History, History and Philosophy of Science, Jewish Studies, Musicology, Philosophy, and Religious... more
Archeology is the science that studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation, analysis and interpretation of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, features, biofacts, and landscapes. The goals of archeology vary, and there is debate as to what its aims, and responsibilities are. Some goals include the documentation and explanation of the origins and development of human cultures, understanding culture history, chronicling cultural... more
Cognitive Science
Cognitive science is most simply defined as the scientific study either of mind or of intelligence. It is an interdisciplinary study drawing from relevant fields including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, biology, and physics. Cognitive science is a large field, and covers a wide array of topics on cognition. However, it should be recognized that cognitive science is not equally concerned with every... more
Egyptology is the study of Ancient Egypt and Egyptian antiquities and is a regional and thematic branch of the larger disciplines of ancient history and archaeology. A practitioner of the discipline is an Egyptologist, though Egyptology is not exclusive to such practitioners. more
Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks, burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised faeces, palynomorphs and chemical residues. Studies of prehistoric hominins, their culture and their behaviour are the purview of two other disciplines, archaeology and paleoanthropology. more