How to become an Anthropologist

Anthropologists study the origin, development and functioning of human societies and cultures, as they exist now or have existed throughout history. Anthropologists are concerned with the complexities of social and cultural life, including religion, rituals, family and kinship systems, languages, art, music, symbolism and economic and political systems.

Personal requirements of a Anthropologist

  • Capacity for detailed observation and accurate practical work
  • Able to work independently
  • Enthusiasm for research
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Sensitive to other people and cultures.

Education & Training for a Anthropologist

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 get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree with honours. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Additional Information

In collecting information about a society, anthropologists may have to learn another language. Ordinary membership of the Australian Anthropological Society is open to people who have completed an honours degree in anthropology.

Duties & Tasks of a Anthropologist

An anthropologist:

  • works 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
  • collects, identifies, dates, protects and preserves indigenous artefacts,material possessions and other objects of anthropological interest.

Working conditions for a Anthropologist

An anthropologist's main research method is long-term fieldwork, which involves living with the people being studied and learning through participation in activities, often under difficult conditions. There is considerable overlap in the areas of specialisation in anthropology. For this reason, specialist anthropologists sometimes conduct joint research.

Employment Opportunities for a Anthropologist

The major employers of anthropologists are universities, museums and government departments concerned with Aboriginal welfare and Native Title, immigration and ethnic affairs, multiculturalism and social services. They are also employed by development and conservation organisations, including United Nations agencies and other non-government organisations. Some graduates become secondary teachers, and a smaller number of graduates are employed by universities as part-time tutors while they gain postgraduate qualifications. A growing number of positions are available at Aboriginal Land Council offices or in research relating to Native Title claims and heritage clearance. Positions are advertised in government gazettes, newspapers, professional journals and on various websites. In recent times, there has been an increase in anthropological consultancy work funded by both government and private industry, leading to the formation of a number of anthropological and archaeological companies.


Applied Anthropologist

An applied anthropologist may work in areas such as social policy and planning, social impact assessment, conservation, advocacy, community development, women and development, cultural resource management, land claims and social justice.

Biological/Physical Anthropologist

A biological/physical anthropologist concerned with the biological evolution and variations of the human species and other primates (past and present), and with the interactions between biology, ecology and culture over the life spans of individuals. Some biological anthropologists study the bones of people who lived in the distant past, working closely with archaeologists.

Linguistic Anthropologist

A linguistic anthropologist studies the evolution, structure, history and function of languages, and how they influence, or are influenced by, other aspects of social life.

Social/Cultural Anthropologist

A social/cultural anthropologist studies patterns of social and cultural practices and beliefs in societies and sub-cultures, often linking these with broader regional, national and/or international processes. Social/cultural anthropologists typically focus on contemporary cultures (those existing now) but may place these in historical context.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT 3.3%

NSW 31.5%

NT 1.8%

QLD 15.6%

SA 6.9%

TAS 1.7%

VIC 30.1%

WA 9%

Hours worked:



Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 36%

Female 64%

Education level:

Highest qualification is secondary school: 9.5%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 4.5%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 13.8%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 32.4%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 35.6%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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