Education has long been viewed as a pathway to monetary success. Both parents and young students traditionally aspired for admission to top medical, engineering, or business colleges, as the best guarantors of high income. Degrees like Archaeology and Anthropology were seen as stepping stones to government jobs or other lucrative fields where one’s Bachelor’s degree didn’t matter as much.
Things are different now. Archaeology and Anthropology are increasingly being valued as fields of study and career advancement in their own right. Both fields offer gateways to exciting career options around the world. Research and academia are the obvious paths and indeed worthy options to advance the frontiers of human knowledge. Those, however, are just the beginning.
Study of humankind
An archaeologist studies the human past through material remains, such as architectural sites, weaponry, items of daily use, or documents. Many archaeology students go on to hold key positions in government agencies or as independent field specialists who discover, analyse, and preserve historical finds. Archaeology is also a strong inroad into one of the most lucrative industries in the world: tourism.
Those with a passion for heritage and cultural preservation can work with governments and private institutions to ensure that monuments and artefacts remain unspoiled. This involves critical decision-making about how to preserve tourist hotspots, what rules tourists need to follow, and so on. In the process, they can also play a role in opening hitherto forgotten sites to travellers, thus bringing in much-needed revenue for the upkeep of those sites. Rapa Nui, for instance, used to be a poor and isolated island commune. Today, it draws over 100,000 tourists each year largely because archaeologists and anthropologists studied the area, its history, and cultural practices before laying down guidelines that would respect and benefit the locals while allowing travellers to experience one of the world’s wonders.
Anthropology, on the other hand, is the only modern academic field that approaches the study of the human race from biological, linguistic, and cultural angles all at once. Anthropology majors are increasingly in demand at corporate houses such as Google and Adidas to help brands understand buyer psychology in more intimate detail. These qualities also make them excellent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) specialists, potentially leading entire teams and programmes at companies or educational institutions. Other rewarding paths include Human Resource Management, Cognitive Research, Forensic Science and International Relations.
Even if one chooses to switch career paths later on, the skills picked up while studying these subjects will stand the individual in good stead. Both Archaeology and Anthropology teach one how to apply theoretical concepts to a multitude of real-life situations, a prerequisite for any role that involves data analysis and problem-solving. Another career option is the legal field; dealing with government authorities (a part and parcel of both Archaeology and Anthropology) requires a high degree of professionalism and familiarity with legal practices. Both subjects, in addition, teach students to cultivate a respect for culture and tradition, which is invaluable in cross-cultural communications or delicate business conversations where high emotional intelligence is required. Many students, therefore, go on to find success in marketing or communications roles, either with a company or as independent contractors.
Today, a degree no longer limits the range of career paths one can pick. Educational diversity is increasingly valued, and it is the ability to apply one’s learnings across a spectrum of contexts that will ultimately make a difference. From UNESCO site stewardship to tourism boards to leadership positions at big corporations, the possibilities are truly endless for archaeologists and anthropologists. Those with a keen interest in history, society, culture, and their interplay, or even those who just want to do more for their fellow humans, will find either subject a rewarding field of study to invest in.
The writer is Professor of Anthropology, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, the U.S.