Positives & Negatives About Becoming an Anthropologist

Some anthropologists, like Jane Goodall, study primates as well as humans.
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Anthropologists study human history and culture. This alone may make it a good job for you if you are a curious person who wants to understand society. But there are tangible advantages and disadvantages of a career as an anthropologist. Before becoming an anthropologist, consider these factors and decide if it's right for you.


    If you want to enter the work force quickly, then anthropology is not the career for you. It's a career that requires several years of education, which poses a real disadvantage if you are eager to begin working. At the minimum you will need a master's degree, which will take two years to complete after your bachelor's degree. For jobs in a leadership position and for most foreign jobs, you will need a doctoral degree, which can require 12 to 30 months of field work for your dissertation.

Choice of Study

    A career in anthropology has a real advantage if you are looking for choices in your area of study. There are three basic types of anthropologists: biological, cultural and linguistic. Biological anthropologists study the evolution of humans and close human relatives, such as chimpanzees and orangutans. Cultural anthropologists study society and customs. Linguistic anthropologists research communication and the structure of languages.

Job Opportunities

    A big disadvantage to choosing a career in anthropology is that there are relatively few jobs for anthropologists and the market for those jobs is very competitive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics combines its statistics for anthropologists with those of archaeologists as they often work closely together and they both study the development of society. While the number of jobs for anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to increase by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, this will only result in an additional 1,300 jobs. According to the BLS, anthropologists with a Ph.D. will have the best job opportunities.


    There are advantages and disadvantages to an anthropology career when it comes to pay. The median annual salary for all American workers in all fields in 2010 was $33,840 as of 2010. Compared to this, anthropologists and archaeologists -- who earned a median salary of $54,230 at the same point in time -- are well compensated. But compared to others in the social sciences -- such as historians or sociologists -- this may seem like a disadvantage, as social scientists and those doing related work took home a median annual salary of $67,090 as of 2010.

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