If you’re considering anthropology as your major, you’ve probably started to ask questions like “Which courses should you I take?”, “How many credits are required”, and “Is it true that there’s a professor whose class enacts shamanistic rituals?”
But there’s one question that perhaps looms biggest on your mind, and maybe on the minds of your friends and family, too: What are you going to do with that degree?
Let’s consider the obvious answer first. Many people who study anthropology as undergraduates go on to pursue a PhD in anthropology or a related field, and work as professors teaching in a University and conducting their own research.
But if academia simply isn’t for you, or if you aren’t ready to commit to a PhD, the possible applications of your BA or MA in anthropology are virtually endless.
Most positions you may qualify for won't necessarily list "anthropologist" in the job title- unlike, say, someone pursuing a nursing or engineering degree. But graduates with an anthropology degree are well-suited for a career in any number of fields, including: education, health care, museum curation, social work, international development, government, organizational psychology, non-profit management, marketing, publishing, and forensics.
Some careers require a graduate degree, and the critical reading, writing and thinking skills emphasized in your anthropology classes are great preparation for graduate programs in law, public policy, medicine, counseling, education, liberal arts and beyond. Practicing and applied anthropologists might pursue either an MA or a PhD, and often take on roles outside of academia, in public health, ecology, and cultural resource management.
When interviewing for a job, make sure you emphasize how your training in Anthropology applies to the position at hand. Employers may know less about anthropology than other liberal arts, but use this to your advantage and point out how your training makes you a unique contribution to your desired field. For example, if you want to work in foreign relations, emphasize how the international range of anthropological ethnography makes you well-prepared for cross-cultural partnerships. Those pursuing careers in medicine might highlight the fact that they will make better doctors or public health officials because they understand the role that culture plays in someone’s access to and understanding of health care.
Of course, if you are interested in both anthropology and a specific career path, you might consider a double-major or a minor in either subject, or taking Anthropology courses related to your desired career field. For example, if you are interested in working in public health, you might pursue a double major in anthropology and biology, and take classes in medical anthropology. However, always consult a counselor or a program coordinator in your program when deciding which classes you take.
For more information on the careers of practicing and applied anthropologists, please reference the Anthropology News series, “Profiles in Practice.”
For additional career information, please visit:
National Association of Practicing Anthropologists promotes the practice of anthropology both within the discipline and among private and public organizations. Site offers student resources, such as mentoring match.
The National Association of Student Anthropologists addresses graduate and undergraduate student concerns and to promote the interests and involvement of students as anthropologists-in-training.
The University of North Carolina, Wilmington Career Center offers information on anthropology careers, internships and jobs.
The Society for Applied Anthropology job site contains job openings in government, academia and the private sector for anthropologists and related social scientists.
Anthropology at Berkeley undergraduate program has information on the uses of an anthropology degree as well as a survey of the initial postgraduate activities of undergraduates in anthropology.
Career Services Center at the University of Delaware has great information on job opportunities for individuals with bachelor's degrees in anthropology.
Following are a few of the titles held by those in the field:
High School Teacher
Peace Corps Staffer