Cultural Anthropologist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for cultural anthropologists. Get the facts about salary, job duties, degree requirements and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Social Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Cultural Anthropologist Do?

Cultural anthropologists are social scientists who do fieldwork to learn about a particular aspect of a culture. They may travel to various parts of the world to perform detailed research projects to learn new information about a culture, how one culture interacts with another or how a culture interacts with its environment. Data collection may include interviews, documents, lab samples and other observations. Cultural anthropologists analyze this information and then prepare detailed reports of their findings. Some of their findings may be used to advise policy makers or businesses of the cultural impact of their actions. Find out more about education programs for entering this field and the employment outlook for anthropologists in the table below.

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Anthropology, cultural anthropology
Key Responsibilities Organize and plan research projects; determine methods of collecting materials; collect, analyze and organize samples
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* (all anthropologists and archeologists)
Median Salary (2015) $61,220* (all anthropologists and archeologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Cultural Anthropologist?

Cultural anthropologists are social scientists. As a cultural or sociocultural anthropologist, you will study human behavior within an existing social or cultural context. You'll conduct research in urban, rural or indigenous communities to understand, compare and contrast how people act within their societies. You could also study social behavior in subcultures, such as those that exist in corporations, correctional facilities or religious organizations.

What Type of Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you'll generally need a graduate degree to work as a social scientist ( You may be able to enter the field with a master's degree in cultural anthropology if you have field experience, but many employers prefer candidates with doctoral degrees. Entry requirements for a Ph.D. program vary between universities. Some require a bachelor's degree in anthropology or a related major, such as humanities. If you pursue a bachelor's degree in cultural anthropology, you can expect to take courses in the culture of gender, religion, language, society and religion.

Some universities require a master's degree for admission to a Ph.D. program. A master's degree in cultural anthropology typically includes courses in biological anthropology and archaeology and a thesis project. In some cases, you need to be proficient in a foreign language in order to enter the Ph.D. program. However, some programs allow you to pursue foreign language competency while enrolled.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

The BLS reports that employment opportunities for all anthropologists and archaeologists were expected to increase 4% from 2014-2024. According to the BLS, most anthropologists and archeologists are employed in scientific research and development, followed by consulting services and then the government. According to May 2015 information from the BLS, anthropologists and archeologists earned a median salary of $61,220. The salary you earn will depend on your location and years of experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers that require at least a master's degree, including economists, sociologists and historians. Economists look at data on resources and services to study trends and help solve economic problems. Sociologists may study cultures like a cultural anthropologist, but they focus on the social behavior aspect. They may also look at social institutions, groups and more. Historians examine historical resources, such as documents, to study the past and apply the knowledge to current issues and trends.

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