Anthropology vs Archaeology: Career ROI

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

Anthropology vs Archaeology - featured image

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One of the most debated topics is Anthropology vs Archaeology. While both fields are involved in studying humans, they have different approaches. Anthropology focuses more on human cultures’ social and cultural facets.

Applying some of the theories and principles that art historians utilize, Archaeology is interested in the physical remnants of the human past.

Anthropology vs Archaeology - fact

This article presents a brief overview of the differences between these fields, including job descriptions, salaries, and education required. We hope that, at the end of this article, you’ll determine whether Anthropology or Archaeology aligns with your interests and career objectives and learn to choose your specialization in either field.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Key Differences: Anthropology vs Archaeology

FieldBest Fit ForJob ResponsibilitiesStarting SalariesAverage SalariesEducation Required
Anthropology Individuals who want to study the cultural, social, and biological diversity of human groups in the present, historic, and prehistoric past.Examine human characteristics such as development and relationships with other animals, particularly primates.Museum Worker:  $53,420$63,940For most jobs, a master’s or PhD is required. 
Archaeology Individuals who aim to explore past cultures by recovering and reconstructing material remains.Committed to the study, exploration, and comprehension of human remnants.Field Technician:  $48,222$63,940Typically a master’s degree is required.

What is Anthropology?

What is Anthropology - Image

Have you ever wondered about culture throughout history and the aspects of the human experience? If so, anthropology could be for you.

Anthropology studies human behavior. Students enrolled at the undergraduate level of anthropology will study the fundamental aspect of Anthropology, which explores the customs, beliefs, and social structures that define different societies.

Graduate-level Anthropology programs offer a more in-depth and specialized exploration of the discipline, where students can hone their research skills, delve into advanced theoretical frameworks, and contribute to the field.

As students advance in their anthropology studies, they often have the chance to specialize in specific areas that align with their interests and career goals. There are four major fields included: 

Specialization in one or more global regions is common among anthropologists. These professionals can focus on the customs and cultures, including West Africa, Latin America, the British Isles, Eastern Europe, North America, and Oceania.

Some anthropologists research cultural traditions that must be adjusted to match the prevailing Spanish or French legal frameworks, such as the Basques of the Pyrenees’ use of cooperatives in their economic system. 

Anthropologists typically work indoors, such as in an office or laboratory, to analyze the evidence collected by them or anthropologists and perform high volumes of research. Anthropologists spend most of their days traveling as well. Graduates can often find roles in consulting firms, museums, and research and government organizations. 

Popular Career Paths 


Median Annual Salary: $63,940

Anthropologists can find employment in research and higher education institutions, government organizations, or private firms. A graduate-level degree is often needed to apply for higher-level positions to ensure you have a deeper context and understanding of current societal issues. As an anthropologist, you’ll be tasked to navigate the intricate layers of human societies. Your tasks will include:

This Career Is For You If: 

 This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Median Annual Salary: $53,420

Although the primary educational requirement is only a bachelor’s degree, most employers prefer those with a master’s degree. They have varying responsibilities. For instance:

This Career Is For You If: 

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Forensic Science Technician

Median Annual Salary: $63,740

The skills and knowledge gained with a bachelor’s in anthropology can qualify you for forensic science technician roles. These professionals collect, analyze, and preserve physical evidence from crime scenes. However, you might often need to enroll in short courses that study the criminal justice system. Your two primary job duties include:

This Career Is For You If: 

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Medical anthropologist

Median Annual Salary: $77,408

A medical anthropologist uses social, cultural, biological, and linguistic approaches to understand health, illness experiences, treatment, healing processes, and the cultural importance of medical systems. It examines how interrelationships between humans, cultural norms, micro and macro politics, and globalization affect individuals, social formations, and the environment.

Upon completion of a bachelor’s in anthropology, you must earn a master’s or doctorate that covers topics like alternative medicine, health and life cycles, gender, and sexuality. Common graduate-level studies in this field are public health, geriatrics, medical ethics, and public health. 

This Career Is For You If: 

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

What is Archaeology?

What is Archaeology - Image

While Archaeology is a subfield of anthropology, it’s often a stand-alone program of study. Anthropology degree programs focus on studying items left behind by humans instead of human biology, linguistics, or cultures. Students will learn how to use environmental data, artifacts, architecture, and remains of past humans to analyze various cultures. 

Archaeology graduates are equipped with valuable abilities for various professional contexts, including excavation, surveying, and laboratory study. Primarily, Archaeology analyzes prehistoric societies, including in the biblical context, as well as human lifestyles, social dynamics, and evolutionary processes. 

Other job duties include:

Most positions in this field require students to obtain a Ph.D. 

Archaeologists primarily work on dig sites set up in historical locations because they spend much time recovering and researching artifacts. They can also work in offices or laboratories where they can safely store samples and conduct testing while examining the objects they recover.

Some archaeologists find employment at historical sites or museums where they can conduct tours or deliver talks about the past of a specific location or civilization. In addition to often working full-time hours, archaeologists frequently put in extra time when traveling or conducting excavations.

Popular Career Paths


Median Annual Salary: $63,940

Archaeologists study human history by examining artifacts found at historical sites, focusing on specific periods and specializing in prehistoric tools, buildings, animal bones, and organisms. There are several types of archaeologists, such as: 

This Career Is For You If:

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Field Technician

Median Annual Salary: $48,222

You could work as a field technician in archaeology after earning your bachelor’s degree. Field technicians can be tasked to work in various archeological areas, conducting surveys, excavations, and data assembly. This profession mainly only offers part-time positions. 

This Career Is For You If: 

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Archaeology Director

Median Annual Salary: $83,846

Archaeology directors find employment in various settings and may have varying responsibilities depending on the work environment. But in general, these professionals manage more administrative and educational tasks. They can oversee operations at dig sites or the head of a college department. To get money for their studies, archeologist directors also submit grant bids.

This Career Is For You If:

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Museum Director

Median Annual Salary: $112,479

This position is among the highest-paid positions for graduate-level Archaeology graduates. While not technically an archaeologist, many professionals in the field can apply their training and expertise to become museum directors. Museum directors manage all aspects of a museum’s successful operation, including:

This Career Is For You If: 

This Career Is Not A Great Fit if:

Similarities Between Anthropologists and Archaeologists

Similarities Between Anthropologists and Archaeologists - Image

Anthropology and Archaeology often overlap. The academic coursework is research-intensive, resulting in skills or expertise and career prospects that are very similar. 

Both fields are also strongly anchored in art history, material cultures, and the study of civilizations. As a result, they work with similar populations and conduct similar historical investigations.

Other similarities they share include:

Additional Resources:

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