On the Job
Anthropologists use scientific research methods to study elements of human cultures and societies.
The Leakey family has made some of the most important anthropological discoveries about human evolution. Together, Mary and Louis, husband and wife, and their second son Richard, found hominid fossils that are millions of years old. In the late seventies, Mary found hominid footprints that are said to be from the same species as the famous fossil "Lucy," the female hominid found in Ethiopia in 1974.Anthropologists are scientists who study people. They examine the details that make up everyday life in a society, such as language, food, politics, and religion. Anthropologists try to determine how these everyday elements get developed and how they change over time. Anthropologists may study artifacts such as tools, pottery, and baskets from ancient cultures. They also study elements of existing cultures.
Physical anthropologists look at human physiology, or the makeup of the human body. They look at physical differences between people in different cultures. They try to determine what factors cause these differences. They may study skeletal remains and human fossils from ancient cultures. They may live among existing cultures to study these differences first hand.
Cultural anthropologists try to come up with general rules about how people create societies and cultures. They apply these rules to modern situations to help solve problems between cultures. For example, they may study how members of a community take care of their health and what medical services are available. Based on this study, they may make recommendations to government agencies and other groups about how to make health care accessible to everyone in a community.
Anthropologists select and design different research methods. They may perform interviews with a group of people or one-on-one. They may participate in local customs in order to learn about them. This is called "participant observation." They often work with field assistants to gather data and store it in databases. This means that they often train assistants in field research and data gathering.
Anthropologists may do their studies in an office setting or they may be out in the field doing hands-on research. Anthropologists write books or reports about their findings. They may also give talks about their findings to other researchers.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Collect information and make judgments about a culture through observation, interviews, and reviewing documents.
- Plan and direct research to study religion, economics, mythology, and traditions of different cultures.
- Apply anthropological techniques and concepts to current problems in human relations, such as access to health care.
- Study the relationship between an individual and society.
- Study the relationship between language and culture.
- Create different research methods, including individual and group interviews, consultations, and participant observation.
- Design data collection methods. Build and use databases to manage field notes and observations.
- Write about and present research findings.
- Gather and analyze artifacts and skeletal remains to find out about ancient cultures.
- Examine bodily traits and physical details of existing human types.
- Study growth patterns and aging in different human groups.
- Examine museum collections of human fossils to see how they fit into evolutionary theory.
- Advise government agencies and private groups about programs, plans, and policies and how they might impact the community.
- Train research assistants and students in research methods.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Analyze data or information.
- Process information.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Document and record information.
- Use computers.
- Teach others.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Think creatively.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Develop goals and strategies.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium level of social interaction. They communicate daily by telephone, e-mail, and in person.
- Give presentations and lectures on a weekly basis. Many anthropologists are also professors.
- Write letters and memos on a weekly basis.
- Often work as part of a team, such as a university department or a field study.
- Are somewhat responsible for the outcomes of work done by others.
- Often work indoors.
- May work outdoors when performing fieldwork. May live among other cultures to study and learn about them.
- Work close to others, such as when sharing office space.
- Must be accurate and thorough in doing a job.
- Make decisions that affect others on a weekly basis. They rarely, if ever, consult a superior before deciding a course of action.
- Rarely consult someone before deciding their daily tasks and goals.
- Must meet strict weekly deadlines. This make may the work atmosphere somewhat competitive.
- In general, work a set schedule. This doesn't apply when doing fieldwork.
- May travel to live among other cultures.
- May work part time or full time. College professors are most likely to work part time.
- Most work over 40 hours a week. This depends on fieldwork and workload associated with teaching at a college or university.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.