How Many People Have US Anthropology Degrees? – The number might surprise you, or not.

Posted on July 17, 2014


We have just passed an important milestone in the life of an Anthropologist, graduation season. Starting in May and running through June universities in America will harvest a new crop of Anthropology graduates (Archaeology is a part of Anthropology in the US). Some of these new graduates will be apprehensive about getting a job, some may even be looking for a job in Anthropology. They will wonder how many other people have been given similar skills as them- their competition.

Anthropology gives you such a diverse range of skills that the jobs you can do are endless. Just look at this amazing infographic of people that have Anthropology degrees and what they do. Great for careers but it means I cannot tell you how many jobs there are for people with Anthropology degrees. I can tell you how many people have an Anthropology degree in the US. I did something similar just Archaeology degrees that you can see in this post.

 367,185  Anthropology Degrees, Probably 400,000

367,185  is the number I estimate for all degrees, about  19,543 PhDs,  48,654 MA/MSc,  284,909 BA/BSc, and 13,776 other degrees/certficates. At a minimum there is roughly 299,000 people with an Anthropology degree. The minimum assumes everyone with an undergrad/other degrees also got all of the Anthro. postgrad degrees. Plenty, of people with postgraduate degrees in Anthropology got their undergrad degree in another subject so the actual number is probably much larger. Also, as I explain below, the data for second majors is only from 2001 – 2012 and if we were to extrapolate that back it would add an additional 20,000 people. These numbers are from 1920-2012 for PhDs and only from 1948 for BAs and MAs. While the numbers are not significant there are probably several thousand other people with degrees that have been missed over the years. We are actually looking at closer to 400,000 total degrees and a minimum of 320,000.

Anthropologists are Generation X and Y

Half of all degrees have been given out since about 1992. The majority of Anthropologists, well people with anthropology degrees, have got their degrees in the last 25 years. The graphs below really capture this trend. It makes you wonder if that is reflected in the current make up of people working as Anthropologists?

How Did I Get Those Numbers?

My data comes from several sources. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) both keep track of degrees awarded. The data can be accessed from this great web portal, WebCASPAR. The NSF data only looks at PhDs and is from 1920-2012, but only 1966 onwards is online. I got the pre-1966 from this report, U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century, but it states, ‘For the years 1920–57, public sources, such as commencement programs and institution lists, provided limited information’. So take these numbers with a bit of skepticism.


There is also NCES data, which also runs from 1966 but includes BAs, MAs, etc. This source also gives other course awards like associate degrees, certificates, etc. and those degrees that list Anthropology as a 2nd major. This data is not complete. Before 1983 there is no data for other degrees, like associate, and before 2001 there is no data for 2nd major degrees. We don’t actually know how many of these degrees were given out before that date. At the moment 2nd majors are about 10% the number of single majors. That percentage can be used to extrapolate the data back.


The AAA has been tracking numbers of degrees given through their AnthroGuide lists of departments. The AAAs sent the data to me awhile ago so it only goes up till 2009. You will notice it looks like the AAA data lists more degrees than the other sources till recently then drops off. I believe that is because the AnthroGuide includes universities outside of the US (increase) and with the recession fewer departments are submitting data to the AnthroGuide, as demonstrated in this presentation.

They Came from a Strange Land

We don’t know the number of people with Anthropology degrees who have left the country or who obtained their degree from another country (cough, Canadians). I am assuming this is wash, equal leaving vs. equal coming in, but I don’t know.

A Picture is Worth a 10,000 Anthropologists

Number of Anthropology BA/BS degrees

Number of Anthropology BA/BS degrees

Number of Anthropology MA/MS degrees

Number of Anthropology MA/MSc degrees

Number of Anthropology PhD degrees

Number of Anthropology PhD degrees

Estimating Degrees

To get the estimations I talked about earlier I took the high and lowest possible numbers from the data sources and averaged them.

Degrees                      Highest Possible                          Lowest Possible                               Mid Point
All Degrees                 395,587                                         338,784                                             367,185
Other Degrees           4,848                                             4,848                                                  4,848
2nd Major                  8,928                                             8,928                                                  8,928
PhD                            20,326                                            18,760                                                19,543
MA/MSc                   52,561                                             44,746                                                48,654
BA/BS                       308,924                                          260,894                                            284,909



If you want the data I used. Here it is –Number of Anth Degrees Data

Free use – I put this data into public domain – I wave whatever legal IP rights I might have for the data which should be none because it is in public domain to begin with and you can’t copyright data. But in case of EU database laws I wave those rights too. Though if you want to let me know you used the data I would appreciate a quick email. Would love to know if someone uses it.

This was originally posted on October 11th, 2011. As part of a series,Throwback Thursdays, I am revisiting old posts and revising them. This one I pretty much gutted but I still kept some of the original content.


Thurgood, Lori Golladay, Mary J. and Hill, Susan T. 2006. U.S. Doctorates
in the 20th Century. National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA