Medical Anthropologist

Learn how ancient people dealt with diseases.
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Quick Stats


Salary Range
$31,000 – $89,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Medical Anthropologists do?

As a Medical Anthropologist, you study the illnesses and diseases of the past to learn more about the future. Evaluating an epidemic that previously affected large populations may provide vital information that can prevent a recurrence.

Using scientific research and experiments, along with existing data, as the Medical Anthropologist you study the relationship between illness, medicine, and a cultural group. For example, you know that 92 percent of the population of Timbuktu died of a particular infection. You work to identify what caused the infection (was it bacterial or viral?) and how they attempted to treat it.

Based on that information, Medical Anthropologists look at possible ways the infection could be treated today. In some cases, an existing medication could be enough, but in others, you’d have to do some research to create a new cure.

Working in an office or laboratory setting, you’re expected to sit, stand, twist, bend, operate a computer, and lift up to 30 pounds repeatedly throughout your workday. Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, are essential since you have to convey your findings through written reports and journal articles, and often present them at conventions and lectures.

The ability to work both independently and as part of a team is critical as well, since you’ll likely spend much of your time in libraries, laboratories, and in front of a computer. It’s a job that’s challenging, exciting, and rewarding all at once, as you dig up details of the past to save lives in the future.

Should I be a Medical Anthropologist?

You should have a master's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.

  • Also known as: Anthropological Linguist

    How to become a Medical Anthropologist

    We recommend at least a Master's degree. Start by getting your Bachelor's. Check out these schools offering Medical Anthropologist-related education!
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