Crime, popular culture and high society — it's all part of what anthropologists and archaeologists dig up and explore every day. And to think, you thought these were boring jobs.

From the trappings of royalty to evidence of crimes committed long ago, anthropologists and archaeologists have seen it all. These STEM professionals study human culture, from prehistoric times to the present.

Employers of anthropologists and archaeologists include local government agencies, museums, private enterprises and nongovernmental organizations. The specific duties required of anthropologists and archaeologists may vary from project to project, but there are some general tasks that are typically undertaken by professionals in each field:

Performing fieldwork and making records of findings and observations

Planning and executing research projects to collect data and test hypotheses

Analyzing collected information and synthesizing new data with established knowledge

Preparing reports to explain the results of experiments and excursions

Advising organizations and informing the public

What's more, anthropologists and their techniques are also increasingly employed by market research firms and in the marketing departments of corporate institutions, where they are used to help analyze product consumption and demand among certain demographic groups.

How Much do Anthropologists and Archaeologists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), anthropologists and archaeologists earned an average annual salary of $61,980 in 2014. The lowest-paid 10 percent of earners in the field made $34,580 or less in the same year, while the top-paid 10 percent took home more than $93,650.

Many factors can influence an anthropologist's or archaeologist's salary, including the industry where one seeks employment. Here are some industry-specific 2014 mean annual salaries for archaeologists and anthropologists, according to the BLS:

  • Federal executive branch: $75,350
  • Museums, historical sites and similar institutions: $69,460
  • Local government: $60,140
  • Architectural, engineering and related services: $59,910
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting services: $59,830

The best quality of life can often be found in regions where pay compares favorably to the local cost of living. In these states, the 2014 mean annual wage for anthropologists and archaeologists matches up favorably to their ranking in a 2015 cost of living study by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC):

  • Georgia: $84,900; ranked 10th most affordable
  • Nebraska: $70,920; ranked 18th most affordable
  • Utah: $65,840; ranked 14th most affordable
  • Tennessee: $64,460; ranked 6th most affordable

In addition to having the highest statewide mean average, Georgia is home to the metropolitan area with the highest paid anthropologists and archaeologists in the country. In 2014, Atlanta residents in these occupations earned an average of $86,340 for the year.

Occupational Requirements and Job Types for Anthropologists and Archaeologists

Becoming an archaeologist or anthropologist isn't as simple as finding a historic area in which to start digging. These professionals spend years in the classroom to prepare themselves for work in the field.

For most positions, an archaeologist or anthropologist will need a master's degree. However, some advanced positions or those of a supervisory or leadership nature could require a doctoral degree. Beyond having the right degree, those working in the field must possess sharp analytical, critical-thinking and investigative skills. They also need to be good written communicators in order to document their work and findings.

Although archaeologists and anthropologists have similar duties, each occupation has a distinct focus. Here's a look at the difference in the two job types.

  • Archaeologists hunt for and study ruins, art, tools and other objects, hoping to add to the modern understanding of historical peoples or civilizations.
  • Anthropologists focus more on the study of human physical characteristics and behavior, both past and present, and aim to develop informed conclusions about the life, language or customs of a group of people.
Projected Career Growth for Anthropologists and Archaeologists

Anthropologists and archaeologists can expect rapid growth in business, consulting and cultural resource management firms. According to BLS reports, the two fields combined should see around 19 percent growth in job opportunities between 2012 and 2022, a faster rate than the average for all occupations nationwide. Because research positions in public institutions are often grant-funded, job growth outside the private sector will be determined largely by federal and state government allocation of research funds.

Job opportunities may also vary by state. According to government data, the following states are expected to see the greatest growth in anthropologist and archaeologist positions from 2012-2022:

  • California: 44.4 percent
  • Oregon: 39.4 percent
  • North Carolina: 38.3 percent
  • Iowa: 36.7 percent
  • Louisiana: 34.9 percent

Aspiring archaeologists and anthropologists who can't immediately find careers in a research capacity may also find work as college professors, archivists or curators. Research and professorial jobs typically require at least a master's degree, and many require a doctoral degree. Candidates with a bachelor's degree in archaeology or anthropology may be employed as laboratory or fieldwork assistants.

Learn more about anthropology and archaeology jobs in your area by requesting additional information from schools today.


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Article Sources

1. Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development,
2. Anthropologists and Archaeologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
3. Anthropologists and Archaeologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
4. Projections Central,