The Guide to Pursuing a Career in Applied Anthropology

The Guide to Pursuing a Career in Applied Anthropology

Are you passionate about understanding different cultures and societies? Do you have a keen interest in studying human behavior and its impact on society? If so, pursuing a career in applied anthropology may be the perfect choice for you. This comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights and resources to help you navigate the path towards a successful career in applied anthropology. From educational requirements to job opportunities, this guide covers everything you need to know to kickstart your career in this fascinating field.

What is Applied Anthropology?

Definition of Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropology is a subfield of anthropology that focuses on the practical application of anthropological theories, methods, and findings to real-world issues and problems. It involves using anthropological knowledge and research to address social, cultural, and economic challenges in various settings, such as communities, organizations, and governments.

Key Concepts in Applied Anthropology

  1. Participant Observation: Applied anthropologists often engage in participant observation, immersing themselves in the communities they study to gain a deeper understanding of their social dynamics, cultural practices, and challenges.

  2. Collaborative Research: Applied anthropologists work closely with community members, stakeholders, and partners to co-create research projects and solutions that are culturally sensitive and sustainable.

  3. Cultural Competence: An essential concept in applied anthropology, cultural competence refers to the ability to understand and navigate cultural differences, effectively communicate with diverse populations, and respect local customs and traditions.

Importance of Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropology plays a crucial role in addressing pressing social issues, promoting social justice, and fostering cross-cultural understanding. By applying anthropological insights and methodologies to real-world problems, applied anthropologists can help improve community well-being, promote cultural preservation, and facilitate sustainable development initiatives. Overall, the field of applied anthropology serves as a bridge between academic research and practical action, making it a valuable tool for creating positive social change.

Educational Requirements

When pursuing a career in applied anthropology, there are several educational paths you can take to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. Here are some of the common educational requirements:

Undergraduate Degree in Anthropology

One of the first steps towards a career in applied anthropology is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. This foundational education will provide you with a broad understanding of the field, including its history, theories, and methodologies. Many universities offer undergraduate programs in anthropology, which can help you develop critical thinking skills, research abilities, and cultural awareness.

Graduate Studies in Applied Anthropology

After completing your undergraduate degree, you may choose to pursue graduate studies in applied anthropology. A master’s degree or Ph.D. in applied anthropology can provide you with specialized training in areas such as community development, public health, or environmental conservation. These advanced degrees can also open up opportunities for research, teaching, and consulting roles in various industries.

Specialized Certifications

In addition to formal education, obtaining specialized certifications can also enhance your career prospects in applied anthropology. These certifications can demonstrate your expertise in specific areas, such as cultural resource management, forensic anthropology, or organizational anthropology. By earning these certifications, you can stand out to potential employers and clients as a qualified and skilled professional in the field.

Career Paths in Applied Anthropology

Government Agencies

Government agencies offer a variety of career opportunities for applied anthropologists. These positions often involve working on public policy development, program evaluation, cultural resource management, and community development projects. Some common agencies that employ applied anthropologists include the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations also provide numerous career paths for individuals with a background in applied anthropology. These organizations often focus on social justice, environmental conservation, human rights, and international development. Applied anthropologists working in nonprofit organizations may conduct research, develop programs, and implement interventions to address social issues and promote positive change in communities around the world.

Private Sector

In the private sector, applied anthropologists can find opportunities in a wide range of industries, including market research, consumer behavior analysis, and organizational development. Companies often hire applied anthropologists to help them better understand their target audience, improve their products and services, and create more inclusive and equitable workplace environments. Applied anthropologists in the private sector may work for corporations, consulting firms, or research organizations.

Skills and Qualities Needed

When pursuing a career in applied anthropology, there are several key skills and qualities that are essential for success in this field.

Research Skills

One of the most important skills needed for a career in applied anthropology is strong research skills. This includes the ability to design and conduct research projects, analyze data, and draw meaningful conclusions. Applied anthropologists often work in diverse settings and with various populations, so the ability to gather and interpret information accurately is crucial.

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is another essential skill for applied anthropologists. This involves understanding and respecting the beliefs, values, and practices of different cultures. Applied anthropologists must be able to navigate cultural differences and work effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Developing cultural competence requires empathy, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn from others.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is key for applied anthropologists, as they often work with communities, organizations, and policymakers to address social issues. This includes the ability to clearly articulate ideas, write reports, and present findings in a way that is accessible to a wide audience. Strong communication skills also involve active listening, collaboration, and the ability to build relationships with stakeholders.

Overall, a successful career in applied anthropology requires a combination of research skills, cultural competence, and communication skills. By developing these key qualities, aspiring anthropologists can make a positive impact in their field and contribute to meaningful social change.

Job Outlook and Salary

Job Growth in Applied Anthropology

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for applied anthropologists is projected to grow at a rate of 5% from 2020 to 2030, which is on par with the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by the increasing need for anthropologists to work in fields such as market research, public health, and social services.

Average Salary Range

The average salary for applied anthropologists varies depending on factors such as education, experience, and geographic location. On average, applied anthropologists can expect to earn between $50,000 and $80,000 per year. However, those with advanced degrees or specialized skills may earn significantly more.

Factors Affecting Salary

Several factors can affect the salary of an applied anthropologist. These include the level of education and experience, the industry in which they work, and the geographic location of their job. Additionally, specialized skills such as qualitative research methods, data analysis, and project management can also impact salary potential. Employers may also offer bonuses, benefits, and opportunities for advancement that can influence overall compensation.


In conclusion, pursuing a career in applied anthropology offers a unique opportunity to make a real impact on society by using anthropological principles to address contemporary social issues. By following the steps outlined in this guide, individuals can embark on a fulfilling career path that allows them to work in a variety of fields, from healthcare to education to environmental conservation. With a strong educational background, relevant experience, and a passion for making a difference, anyone can succeed in the field of applied anthropology. So, if you are considering a career in this field, don’t hesitate to take the first step towards a rewarding and impactful career in applied anthropology.