If you’re interested in the study of humans, then a job in the field of anthropology could be right up your alley. Whether you want to understand past cultures, modern societies, or how history, biology, and other influences have impacted the course of humanity, majoring in anthropology can provide you with the knowledge, tools, and inspiration to craft a career you love. But before you follow in the footsteps of Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Claude Levi-Strauss, just to name a few well-known anthropologists, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. Here are some pros and cons of entering this diverse and alluring field of study.
- High pay. The salary you earn as an anthropologist will depend largely on the type of work you do and who is funding it. You can not only work for private parties, corporate interests, colleges, or government agencies, but you may also be able to pursue your own research projects thanks to funding from grants or donations. According to the 2010 report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, top earners in the field brought in nearly $90,000 per year while median earnings came in around $55,000 annually. In addition, job growth for the field of anthropology is predicted to increase by 21% by the year 2020.
- Opportunity to travel. Whether you’re researching civilizations that have long since disappeared or you’re studying current cultures, there’s a good chance you’ll be called upon to travel in the course of your profession. In fact, you could end up spending months or even years in one locale, becoming immersed in the local community. If you’ve got an itch to travel, a degree in anthropology could help you to see the world.
- Fulfilling work. Whether your main goal is to understand different peoples and cultures or you’re interested in discovering ways to solve the problems facing modern man, anthropology is a field where you can explore your burning questions about humanity and find ways to fit the pieces together. It’s a profession where your willingness to try new things and combine the elements of a variety of disciplines will serve you well.
- Education. The level of education you need may depend on the field of anthropology you go into, but you’re going to get more job opportunities and a better salary the more schooling you complete, and in many cases you’ll be expected to obtain a Ph.D. as a way to prove that you’re an expert in your field. So if you’re not interested in spending the next several years in school, not to mention pursuing continuing education, a career in anthropology might not be what you’re looking for.
- Long assignments. If you embark upon a complex research project, you could spend several months or even several years working on it. Of course, you might also work as a consultant, taking on jobs that have a more definitive date of conclusion. But if your interest lies in research you should prepare for the long haul.
- Dedication. There’s more to majoring in Anthropology than learning new languages and collecting arrowheads. You really have to commit yourself to your profession if you want to advance the conversation and make a relevant contribution to your field. In short, you need to have a passion for your chosen profession if you want to be successful.