Cultural Anthropology Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about salaries for careers in cultural anthropology. Read the job descriptions and learn about education, training requirements, and job prospects to decide if cultural anthropology is right for you.
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Careers in Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology is the study of human cultures and societies from ancient through modern times. Careers involving cultural anthropology include cultural anthropologist, professor and archaeologist. The following is an overview of each of these career options:

Cultural anthropologist Professor Archaeologist
Career Overview Cultural anthropologists are scientists who study the cultural origins and developments of humankind. Professors of cultural anthropology teach and research at colleges, universities and community colleges. Archaeologists study the cultures and societies of prehistoric and ancient civilizations.
Education Requirements Master's degree; doctoral degree may be required for technical positions Doctorate, although a master's degree may be acceptable for certain positions Master's degree; doctoral degree may be required for technical positions
Program Length 2-3 years for the master's, with an additional 3-4 years for the Ph.D. 3-4 years full-time after the completion of a master's degree for a Ph.D. 2-3 years for the master's, with an additional 3-4 years for the Ph.D.
Certification and Licensing Licensing not typically required Licensing not typically required Licensing not typically required
Experience Requirement Prior experience in anthropology or related field typically required Teaching experience may be required Prior experience in archaeology or related field typically required
Job Outlook for 2014-2024 4%* 13%* 4%*
Median Annual Salary (2014) $59,280* $74,750* $59,280*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cultural Anthropologist

Cultural anthropologist jobs tend to primarily involve research and writing. Many of the jobs offered in this field are at universities, think tanks and other research-intensive facilities. There are also many industries, businesses and marketing divisions for companies around the world that benefit from cultural anthropologists. As a cultural anthropologist, you may spend some time in the office; however, extensive travel and fieldwork are also commonplace.


It typically takes years of education to become a cultural anthropologist. Although certain employers may accept a master's degree, a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology or a related discipline is also a common requirement. Many positions also will require you to have completed a considerable amount of work in the field.

The following are a few job listings posted by employers in the fall of 2012:

  • A cultural anthropologist with a Doctor of Cultural Anthropology and at least four years of postgraduate experience was sought by a company based in Washington, DC, offering services to the government.
  • The University of Chicago Department of Anthropology was looking for a sociocultural anthropologist to conduct research with the goal of innovation in the field. Applicants needed a Ph.D., recommendations and at least two published works to apply.
  • A non-profit institution with headquarters in California was seeking an anthropologist with a Ph.D. to conduct research on labor markets, education, international affairs and other cultural issues.

Standing Out

When it comes to standing out from other cultural anthropologists, your chosen area of research and findings can be important. Many corporate jobs are international in nature, so combining cultural anthropology with knowledge of international trade, markets and economies can be useful.

Cultural and social anthropology can also be helpful when developing and reforming education standards. Organizations such as the Council on Anthropology and Education can provide you with information about using your knowledge of cultural anthropology in the education system.

Cultural Anthropology Professor

A common career choice for a cultural anthropologist is to teach at a community college, college or a university. As a postsecondary teacher or professor, you may conduct research in addition to teaching and advising anthropology students. Although you may be able to earn job security in a tenure-track position, these jobs are in high demand and can be difficult to obtain.


Although education requirements may vary, you'll typically need to earn a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology or a related field to become a college professor. Certain positions, particularly at community colleges, may only require a master's degree. Many employers require years of experience in academia and in the field. A tenure-track position can take at least seven years of moving up through the ranks at a particular college or university.

In October 2012, these colleges and universities were seeking cultural anthropology professors:

  • A community college in central New Jersey was looking for a part-time cultural anthropology instructor with teaching experience and a master's degree.
  • A non-tenure track teaching job that would be renewable every three years was offered by a university in Chicago. Candidates would need a Ph.D., as well as expertise in the Middle East, Africa, and gender and religious studies.
  • A Catholic liberal arts university in Massachusetts was seeking a cultural anthropology scholar specializing in Africa for a tenure-track professor position. Candidates would need teaching experience and a Ph.D. by the time the teaching appointment begins.

Standing Out

There are numerous steps that you can take to get ahead as an anthropology professor. For example, try to have the research findings from your dissertation or other writings published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Not only is this a good way to bolster your resume, but it may also help you earn the respect of your peers and potential employers. In fact, some employers may even require that you have published works. Completing a teaching assistantship can also help prospective teachers gain the experience required by many employers.

Anthropological Archaeologist

As a cultural anthropologist, you may also decide to pursue a career in a closely related field like archaeology. While working as an archaeologist, cultural anthropology can be the primary focus of your work. In many archeological positions, it's likely that you'll be utilizing your anthropology knowledge in the field at a variety of sites. Typically, it will be your job to study and learn about past human civilizations and cultures.


As is the case for most careers in anthropology, a master's or doctoral degree is a common requirement. However, there are also jobs available that may require only a bachelor's degree. Similar to many careers in this field, employers typically require a significant amount of related fieldwork and/or research experience.

Check out these job listings from October 2012 for information on archeology jobs that require degrees in anthropology:

  • A company based out of Pittsburgh was searching for an on-call, full-time archaeological field technician with at least a bachelor's degree in anthropology/archaeology.
  • Another on-call archaeological science job was available in California to candidates with a bachelor's or master's degree in anthropology. Candidates with a degree in a similar field or at least five years of related cultural resources management (CRM) experience would also be considered.
  • A cultural resource specialist was needed in Oregon for environmental conservation projects. At least a bachelor's degree in anthropology was required along with five years experience or professional training in archaeology.

Standing Out

To stand out as a cultural archaeologist, gaining significant, recognized experience in the field before seeking employment is a solid option. One way to accomplish this is by attending a field school recognized by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA). In addition to experience, you'll also gain knowledge of the RPA's Code of Conduct and Standards of Research Performance. The BLS notes that CRM firms should offer the best job prospects for archeologists. Completing elective courses or an internship in this area may be beneficial.

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