Biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, combines biology and culture to study the evolution of humans. Anthropologists who specialize in this area analyze skeletal remains and study how biological and cultural factors influence each other. Most biological anthropologists work as college and university faculty members, though others work for consulting firms, museums and government agencies. Salaries for biological anthropologists depend greatly on such factors as employer, education and experience.
College and University Salaries
Anthropology instructors and professors in colleges and universities earned an average of $75,530 a year in 2009, the most recent year for which salary information was available, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries for anthropology faculty, including biological anthropologists, ranged from $41,270 to more than $119,000 a year, the bureau reported. Biological anthropologists, like their peers in other specialties in anthropology, often divide their time among teaching courses, conducting field research, and writing reports and journal articles.
Earning the salary of a college or university faculty member in biological anthropology requires a graduate-level degree. Most faculty members hold a doctoral degree, though a master's degree is sufficient for some community college faculty positions. A master's degree requires about two years of study beyond the four-year bachelor's degree. A doctoral degree, meanwhile, can take five years or longer, depending on the nature of the field research a student conducts to complete a dissertation, according to the American Anthropological Association.
Some biological anthropologists work in nonacademic settings, including museums, government agencies and consulting firms. The BLS reported that anthropologists in the federal government earned an average of $71,400 a year in 2009, while their counterparts in state and local agencies earned between $50,000 and $55,000 a year. Biological anthropologists working as curators or in other capacities for museums earned an average of $55,150 a year, while anthropologists employed by consulting firms earned between $49,470 and $51,620 a year.
Biological anthropologists may supplement their regular salaries through consulting work. For example, some may specialize in forensic work, applying anthropological knowledge to the law. These anthropologists may work, for example, as college or university faculty members, applying their forensic knowledge as relevant cases arise that require their expertise. Some biological anthropologists helped human rights investigators identify the remains of bodies found in mass graves in Bosnia in the 1990s.