Careers in Anthropology

Academic Positions

There are many academic careers for appropriately trained biological anthropologists. The most common and traditional job openings are found in anthropology departments in colleges and universities. University departments of genetics, zoology, and biology also offer potential employment. So do community colleges and professional schools. Many schools of medicine rely on biological anthropologists to teach the gross anatomy of the human body to medical and paramedical students. Currently, around one in eight American biological anthropologists has some professional affiliation with a medical school, usually in a department of anatomy.

A detailed appreciation of the range of jobs held by biological anthropologists can be gained by studying the membership directory of the AABA, published every December in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. To obtain an AABA pamphlet providing additional details on careers in biological anthropology, contact the Chair of the AABA Career Development Committee.

Non-Academic Positions


Wherever people need information about the size, shape, anatomy, and growth of the human body, there are job opportunities for biological anthropologists. In the private sector, such jobs can be found in the automotive and aerospace industries and with private consulting firms. In the public sector, job openings in applied anthropometry are concentrated in the military. Appropriate preparation for these jobs involves graduate training in such disciplines as anatomy, genetics, nutrition, biomechanics, kinesiology, and biostatistics.


Museums of natural history, anthropology, archaeology, and science and technology offer employment opportunities for biological anthropologists. There are over 700 such institutions in the United States alone. Curatorships at large research museums are much like professorships at major universities, and competition for such posts is correspondingly stiff. Museums are also involved with education at primary and secondary school and adult levels through on-site, outreach, traveling exhibit, and publication programs. Biological anthropologists may serve in such programs as education officers and coordinators, or find positions in exhibit development, collection management, publications, and museum administration. Appropriate graduate training in such disciplines as anthropology, anatomy, biology, geology, and paleontology is an invaluable asset in seeking a museum post.


To biological anthropologists trained in primate biology, zoological parks and gardens offer career opportunities under two main headings: collection management, and captive breeding programs for endangered species. Training in the study of primate behavior is a useful preparation for both sorts of jobs. Geneticists skilled in the application of such new technologies as DNA barcoding to the genetic management of small populations also find employment opportunities in zoos. Applicants for zoo positions need to have a broad zoological background, extending beyond the primates to encompass other mammalian and vertebrate groups. Graduate research experience with zoo populations is probably the best entry into the world of zoo research.


Forensic anthropologists use their knowledge of osteology and anatomy to make forensic estimations and identifications involving human remains. They find employment in the offices of medical examiners and coroners across the United States. They are also in demand as expert witnesses in the courtroom. Preparation for a career in forensic anthropology typically involves graduate training in anatomy, skeletal biology, archaeological field methods, legal evidence, pathology, and forensic science. Supervised casework and participatory membership in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences are important for professional advancement.

Related links