How To Become An Ethnologist

An ethnologist is a professional who studies groups of people based on their culture. Ethnologists are interested in the ethnic groups, religions, and races of the world. Often, an ethnologist has a specialty or a particular group of people that they study.

Ethnologists will take their research and compare it to different ethnic groups, then write research on these comparisons and contrasts. For example, an ethnologist might be interested in how two aboriginal groups in South America have different forms of finding food. This differs from the closely related career field of ethnography. An ethnographer actively joins into a culture in order to understand it and research it. Ethnologists do their research from a distance.

This is a career in which much of the time is spent doing research. An ethnologist will think of a research topic they would like to take on. They will prepare a research proposal and apply for grants. An ethnologist may spend several years doing research on their topic and publishing their results. They want to help promote the world of ethnology and help society better understand the world’s cultures.

Why Become An Ethnologist

We live in a diverse world, made up of people of all kinds of religions, races, and cultures, and ethnologists help us to make sense of the world that we live in. They help us understand what makes us different, and more importantly, what makes us the same. Ethnologists are interested in sharing their research to help advance the knowledge of humanity.

Whether it is studying the marriage practices of tribes in the Pacific Islands, or the hunting skills of the Inuit in Canada, becoming an ethnologist is a rewarding career for those who love research and studying other cultures. In this field you have the chance for your work to be published and to help bring cultural understanding to the public.

An Ethnologist should possess the following qualities and skills:

Ethnologist Work Environment

There are a variety of different places that ethnologists work. Many work for museums, where they are responsible for advancing research. Many ethnologists also work for research institutes. Others work for colleges and universities as professors. Some ethnologists work for consulting firms.

A significant part of time spent as an ethnologist is doing research work. An ethnologist will spend several hours of their week completing research, and the research will go on for years. An ethnologist may work for 40 hours a week or more when doing research. However, those who work for businesses such as museums will likely work a standard 40 hour schedule.

Ethnologist Salary

The median wage for ethnologists, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, was approximately $57,000. Salary is dependent on a number of factors, including education, experience, location, setting in which a person works, amongst others.

Ethnologists who work for branches of the federal government earn significantly higher salaries, with the average salary of ethnologists in this industry being $73,000 annually. Ethnologists who work for consulting firms or research and development earn less, at around $51,000 annually.

Ethnologists have to apply for grants for their research. The salaries of ethnologists may also be supported by grants. Whether or not a museum or research institute receives a grant could affect an ethnologist’s salary.

Ethnologist Career Outlook

According to the United States Bureau Labor of Statistics, there were 7,200 people employed as ethnologists in 2012. By the year 2022, it is estimated that 8,600 people will be employed as ethnologists. This is a 19 percent increase in this field, which is significantly higher than most other career fields.

The majority of jobs for ethnologists will be available in businesses, consulting firms, museums, and other non-traditional settings. Ethnology is a small field and applicants will face strong competition as they apply for the same positions.

Ethnologist Degree

An ethnologist is a highly specialized profession. An individual who wants to go into this career field must have both several years of education and experience.

Step One: Undergraduate Education Many people who want to become ethnologists choose an undergraduate program which focuses on the study of people and societies: anthropology, sociology, psychology and other majors. Of course, if your college or university offers classes in ethnology, those would be great classes to take as well.

Step Two: Graduate School While some people may be able to find a job in a related field with only a bachelor’s degree, the majority of jobs in ethnology are only available to those who have a PhD in ethnology. After graduating from your undergraduate program, apply to a graduate school of your choice. There are PhD programs as well as combined PhD and master’s degree programs. When applying for programs, be sure that the program you choose is specifically geared towards the study of ethnology, and not another branch of anthropology.
During your time as a graduate student, you will have the opportunity to conduct research, teach, participate in studies, and publish your work. Research and publications will help you stand out to employers. It takes four to seven years to receive a PhD in ethnology. Upon graduation, you can apply for jobs that interest you.

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