Science, Technology & Environment
Anthropologist or Archaeologist
Anthropologists and archaeologists study the origin, development, and behaviour of humans.
What does an Anthropologist or Archaeologist do?
Anthropologists and archaeologists study the origin, development, and behaviour of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archaeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.
As an anthropologist you may perform the following tasks:
- work in different communities to gather and analyse information on the social and cultural behaviour, artefacts, language and biology of groups and societies that they are studying
- collect, identify, date, protect and preserve indigenous artefacts, material possessions and other objects of anthropological interest.
As an archaeologist, your work would depend on your specialist area. On a day-to-day basis you could:
- identify possible sites to study using methods such as aerial photography, field-walking and surveying
- take part in excavations or digs, usually as part of a team
- record finds and sites using photography, detailed notes and drawings
- identify and classify finds
- clean and preserve finds in a laboratory
- use laboratory analysis, for example carbon dating
- use computers to produce simulations of the way a site or artefact would have looked
- preserve industrial artefacts and buildings
- check planning applications and identify the impact of development on archaeological sites
- make sure that important sites, buildings and monuments are protected
- classify, display and look after artefacts in a museum.
You may also carry out research, write about your work for publication in books and journals, or teach at universities, colleges or schools.
You could specialise in a particular geographical area such as Egypt, a period of history like Roman or a type of artefact, for example pottery.
Key skills and interests
To become an anthropologist or archeologist, you would need:
- a keen interest in history
- an enquiring mind and an enthusiasm for research
- a patient and methodical approach
- accuracy and attention to detail
- good planning and organisational skills
- the ability to work to deadlines
- sensitivity to other people and cultures.
Working hours and conditions
You will usually work a standard number of hours each week, although this could vary if you are working on a dig. Temporary contracts are common.
Your workplace and working conditions will vary, depending on the job. You could work outdoors doing excavation work, or indoors at a museum, laboratory or office.
Archaeologists are increasingly using technologies such as geophysical survey devices, geographic information systems (GIS), web-based communication platforms and global positioning system (GPS) devices in their work.
How to become an Anthropologist or Archaeologist?
Entry Level Education
To become an anthropologist you usually have to complete a degree in science, arts, social science or international studies at university with a major in anthropology (preferably at honours level), followed by a postgraduate qualification in anthropology.
To become an archaeologist you usually have to complete a degree at university with a major in archaeology, followed by a postgraduate qualification in archaeology or cultural heritage.
To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent with English.
Undertaking voluntary work during your degree may increase the possibility of gaining a job in this field. Many universities offer field schools and volunteer or work placement opportunities to help students gain such experience.
Employment of anthropologists and archaeologists is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. However, because these are small occupations, the fast growth will still only result in a small number of actual jobs.
Anthropologists and archaeologists will be needed to study human life, history, and culture, and to apply that knowledge to current issues. Archaeologists will also be needed to monitor construction projects, ensuring that builders comply with federal regulations on the preservation and handling of archaeological and historical artefacts.
In addition, corporations will increasingly use anthropological research to gain a better understanding of consumer demand within specific cultures or social groups.
Anthropologists and archaeologists will also be needed to analyse markets, allowing businesses to serve their clients better or to target new customers or demographic groups. Demand for archaeologists will also come from cultural heritage firms.
Because anthropological and archaeological research is highly dependent on the amount of research funding, federal budgetary decisions will affect the rate of employment growth in research.