Career Profile:...

Career Profile: Anthropologist/Archaeologist

by Meghan Brown
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

When you look around your house, or walk through your city, do you ever wonder about the people who lived there before you? Are you fascinated with how humans lived hundreds or thousands of years ago? Do you want to learn the ancient history of human civilization?

It’s possible to find the answers to these questions if you become and archaeologist or anthropologist. These are the people whose job is to research and search for the ancient remnants of both nature and humanity, or study current human civilization and interaction.

Archaeologists study historical artifacts in order to learn how people lived in the past, such as their economy, social structures, politics, and intellectual experiences.  These artifacts include things as small as a shard of pottery, coins, ancient jewelry, or old papers, and as large as human skeletal remains, statues or buildings.  Archaeologists are also responsible for surveying sites of historic interest, oversee excavation projects, and fundraise to support their research projects.  Many archaeologists also learn ancient languages, in order to read and interpret writing and symbols found on ancient artifacts.

Anthropologists study living people in order to learn about recent and current human civilization.  They aim to discover the origins, development, customs, and religions of cultures and societies.  They also examine human evolution and how human characteristics, both physical and intellectual, have changed over the course of history.  Anthropologists will often also learn to read and speak multiple languages, and will study both long-term modern societies and newly discovered or isolated human groups.  Certain branches of anthropology can include studying primates as well as humans, to examine similarities and differences in behaviour and evolution.

Both anthropology and archaeology are fields which offer exciting opportunities for travel to locations around the globe, where you could participate in excavation of ancient sites, live in unique cultures, studying isolated human societies, and collaborate with other researchers in the social science, history, and scientific fields.  There are many areas of specialization possible in both anthropology and archaeology, such as specific time periods or geographic regions, linguistics, medicine, religion, warfare or funeral practices, to name only a few options.

Working entry-level jobs in either of these fields requires a minimum of a 4-year college or university bachelor’s degree in anthropology, archaeology or a related social science, such as history.  These positions include jobs such as research assistant or lab technician.  However, to move up to more experienced positions, and depending on the requirements of your employer, you are likely to need a Master’s degree in either archaeology or anthropology.  If you wish to be a professor or researcher at a university, a Ph.D. will be required.

In terms of salary, it is important to note that much of the work in archeology and anthropology is project-based, with these projects depending on being funded. This can mean earnings are not always regular, and when a project finishes, goes on seasonal hiatus, or fails to receive funding will affect when and how much you are paid.  Most professionals in this field earn around $20 per hour for entry-level and low-funded projects, while experienced workers and those attached to a university or college faculty can earn up to around $50 per hour on average.





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