What is an anthropologist?
An anthropologist is a scientist who investigates and studies socio-historical, archaeological, linguistic and biological aspects of humanity, especially when applied to the development of modern man. By deciphering and analyzing artifacts, ancient languages, and past cultures, anthropologists gain a better understanding of how modern civilizations and behaviors came to be. The theories surrounding anthropological studies are then applied to social policies, public issues, and even government and military protocol.
What does an anthropologist do?
Anthropology as a science is divided into four distinct sub-fields: cultural anthropology (social anthropology), archeology, linguistic anthropology, and biological (physical) anthropology. Depending on the subfield, the responsibilities of anthropologists vary widely.
Social anthropologists, for example, investigate and study only social and cultural behaviors. They can be employed as social scientists for government or research laboratories, conducting surveys and analyzing data to develop new and more effective social policies. Census studies, for example, are often conducted by social anthropologists. These scientists also work on disease prevention and help develop new crowd control techniques. In many respects, social scientists are sociologists working to implement their theories in a variety of practical applications.
In the field of archeology, anthropologists uncover the hidden history of humanity through the discovery of artifacts and structures left behind by previous civilizations. They contribute supporting evidence to historical documents, or even uncover stories from the past that have not yet been told. What is learned from the discoveries of archaeologists can help improve many aspects of modern culture, or avoid difficulties encountered in the past.
While archaeologists generally work in the field, excavating artifacts and studying historical structures, some also find employment as university professors or museum curators. Both curators and archivists organize and analyze large collections of evidence brought from the field. They help interpret the information in these collections and bring it to the attention of the public and the community. In addition, they oversee the technical aspects of preservation and display within the museum.
Linguistic anthropologists investigate the development of language and how it applies to modern cultures. The results of these studies are used to understand the main concerns specific to each culture and to develop more effective intercultural relationships.
Those employed in the science of biological anthropology study the development of the human species, especially the theories that homo sapiens may have evolved from other primates. Biological anthropologists use fossil evidence to develop extensive data on human ancestry and how certain physical structures, such as the jaw or the opposite thumb, may have developed. They also use this evidence to study how some behaviors may have evolved and, in the case of new fossil evidence, propose new species. To obtain non-fossil evidence, biological anthropologists study primates in their natural environment in hopes of discovering data relevant to humanity.
What is the workplace of an anthropologist like?
Most anthropologists are employed by governments or universities, where they do most of their research or teach anthropology to university students. Researchers and teachers work indoors throughout the year. They traditionally enjoy a regular schedule of working hours, although sometimes more than 40 hours are required.
Much of your time is spent writing reports based on research data and critical thinking related to your field. In addition to teaching and creating curricula, professors can also contribute to research teams at leading universities.
Social scientists and other anthropologists employed by the government and large companies also benefit from regular work hours and light physical demands. They spend most of the day in an office, researching relevant information and preparing reports for their employers. Some social scientists also enter the field to collect data for their research in a given assignment.
Field work is necessary for some types of anthropologists. Archaeologists can travel around the world to discover artifacts to aid in their research. Physical anthropologists will also travel far and wide, studying primates in their natural environments. Scientists in these positions must have strong physical stamina and be used to working in a variety of climatic conditions and climates.