The Road to Becoming a Historical Anthropologist

The Road to Becoming a Historical Anthropologist

Are you fascinated by the study of human societies and cultures throughout history? If so, embarking on the journey to become a historical anthropologist may be the perfect path for you. In this article, we will explore the steps and requirements needed to pursue a career in historical anthropology, as well as the exciting opportunities that await those who choose this field of study. Whether you are a student considering your academic future or a professional looking to switch careers, this guide will provide you with valuable insights into the world of historical anthropology.

Education and Training

Becoming a historical anthropologist requires a combination of academic education and hands-on training in the field. This specialized career path involves studying human cultures and societies throughout history, making it essential for individuals to have a strong educational background and practical experience.

Undergraduate Degree

The first step towards becoming a historical anthropologist is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in anthropology or a related field. This level of education provides students with a solid foundation in the principles of anthropology, including cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Coursework typically covers topics such as research methods, data analysis, and theory development, preparing students for more advanced studies in graduate school.

Graduate Studies

After completing their undergraduate degree, aspiring historical anthropologists often pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in anthropology. Graduate studies allow students to specialize in a particular area of interest, such as historical archaeology or ethnohistory. These programs provide advanced training in research methodologies, critical analysis, and fieldwork techniques, helping students develop the skills needed to conduct independent research and contribute to the field of anthropology.

Fieldwork Experience

Fieldwork experience is a crucial component of training for historical anthropologists. This hands-on learning opportunity allows students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings, conducting research, collecting data, and analyzing cultural artifacts. Fieldwork experiences can take place locally or internationally, providing students with valuable insights into different cultures and historical contexts. By participating in fieldwork projects, aspiring historical anthropologists gain practical skills and knowledge that are essential for a successful career in the field.

Specialization Areas

As a historical anthropologist, you have the opportunity to specialize in various areas that focus on the study of human societies and cultures. Here are some common specialization areas within the field:


Archaeology is a specialization area within historical anthropology that involves the study of past human societies through the analysis of material remains. Archaeologists use a variety of techniques, such as excavation and dating methods, to uncover artifacts and structures that provide insights into ancient cultures and societies. By studying these artifacts, archaeologists can piece together the history and daily lives of past civilizations.


Ethnography is another specialization area within historical anthropology that involves the study of contemporary human cultures and societies. Ethnographers immerse themselves in the daily lives of the people they study, often living among them for extended periods of time. Through participant observation and interviews, ethnographers gather data on social practices, beliefs, and customs of different cultures. This research helps to provide a deeper understanding of the diversity of human societies throughout history.


Linguistics is a specialization area within historical anthropology that focuses on the study of language and its role in shaping human societies. Linguistic anthropologists study the structure, evolution, and diversity of languages, as well as how language influences social interactions and cultural practices. By analyzing language patterns and changes over time, linguistic anthropologists can uncover connections between language, culture, and history.

In conclusion, historical anthropologists have the opportunity to specialize in a variety of areas, including archaeology, ethnography, and linguistics, each offering unique insights into the study of human societies and cultures throughout history.

Career Opportunities

Historical anthropologists have a variety of career opportunities available to them. Here are three common paths that individuals in this field may choose to pursue:

Academic Researcher

One option for historical anthropologists is to work as academic researchers. These individuals typically work in universities or research institutions, conducting studies and writing scholarly articles on various aspects of human history and culture. Academic researchers often have the opportunity to teach classes and mentor students, contributing to the next generation of anthropologists.

Museum Curator

Another career path for historical anthropologists is to become museum curators. Curators are responsible for acquiring, preserving, and displaying artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of human history. They may work in museums, historical societies, or cultural institutions, helping to educate the public about different cultures and time periods through curated collections.

Cultural Resource Manager

Historical anthropologists can also pursue a career as cultural resource managers. These individuals work to protect and preserve cultural heritage sites and resources, ensuring that important historical landmarks are conserved for future generations. Cultural resource managers may work for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or consulting firms, conducting research and implementing strategies to safeguard cultural heritage.


Becoming a historical anthropologist is a challenging yet rewarding journey that requires a deep passion for understanding cultures, societies, and the human experience throughout history. By studying ancient artifacts, analyzing historical texts, and conducting fieldwork, aspiring anthropologists can uncover valuable insights about our past and gain a better understanding of our present. Through dedication, curiosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning, individuals can embark on the road to becoming a historical anthropologist and make meaningful contributions to the field.