Although anthropology dates back to Aristotle (384-322 BC), it became an established science during the era of colonial exploration and expansion, because of increased contact with different peoples of the world. Anthropology developed during the Industrial Revolution, along with the study of geography, and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. With developments in technology and fieldwork and increased support of governments, these fields have expanded to cover a broad range of social sciences.
There are about 15,000 professional anthropologists working today. Anthropology includes four broad fields- cultural anthropology, linguistics, physical anthropology and archaeology. Each of the four fields teaches distinctive skills, such as applying theories, employing research methodologies, formulating and testing hypotheses, and developing extensive sets of data. Anthropologists often specialize in one or more geographic areas of the world. In addition, anthropology studies focus on particular populations in a locale or region. Many anthropologists work for the federal and state governments, teach in colleges and universities, and work in museums.
Anthropologists work about 40 hours a week, and the hours may be irregular. Physical strength and stamina is necessary for fieldwork of all types. Those engaged in teaching may spend many hours in laboratory research or in preparing lessons to be taught. The work is interesting, however, and those employed in the field are usually highly motivated and unconcerned about long, irregular hours or primitive living conditions.
High school students planning to enter anthropology should study English composition and literature, mathematics, history, geography, natural science, computer science, and foreign languages. Typing, sketching, simple surveying, and photography also may be helpful. The high school graduate should be prepared for a long training period beyond high school. Most of the better positions in anthropology will require a doctorate, which entails about four to six years of work beyond the bachelor's degree. Mainly students planning to become physical anthropologists should concentrate on the biological sciences. In starting graduate training, students should select an institution that has a good program in the area in which they hope to specialize. Assistantships and temporary positions may be available to holders of bachelor's or master's degrees but are usually available only to those working toward a doctorate.
College professors have average annual incomes of between $45,000 and $62,000, depending on the type of institution. For those working outside of academia, the salaries vary widely. For anthropologists who have a bachelor's degree will start at about $16,000, with five years experience they can make $20,000 a year. Those with doctorates will start at about $25,000, working up to $30,000 with five years experience. Midcareer anthropologists have annual salaries of between $35,000 and $75,000. As faculty members, anthropologists benefit from standard academic vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans.
The most promising way to gain entry into these occupations is through graduate school. Students may have an opportunity to work as a research assistant or a teaching fellow while in graduate school, and frequently this experience is of tremendous help in qualifying for a job in another institution.
Because of the relatively small size of this field, advancement is not likely to be fast, and the opportunities for advancement may be somewhat limited.
Anthropology is a career that embraces people of all kinds. It is a discipline that thrives with heterogeneity- in people, ideas, and research methods. The American Anthropological Association is committed to increasing the diversity of the profession. The following career illustrates the range of choices that an anthropology student might explore after graduation. Social facility, critical thinking, and skills in oral and written expression are cultivated by anthropological training. The range of occupations reflects the emphasis on extent, range, and independence of thought.
Anthropologists are careful observers of humans and their behavior, maintaining an intense curiosity: What does it mean to be human? Why do people behave in particular ways? What are the historical and environmental pressures that helped shape the experience and behavior of a specific group of people? What are universal facts of human life? These are questions that anthropologists must answer in their search to understand human behavior.