What Can An Anthropology Degree Do For You?
Have you considered a degree in Anthropology? Discover what to expect from your education and what type of job you will be about to persue.
"What's your major?" It is one of the most common queries heard on college campuses. What we study in college can determine the direction of our career for the rest of our lives. The purpose of this article is to introduce students to, or aid students already considering, a major in anthropology.
What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is "the study of people." There are several different types of anthropology that you can explore. The four major subcategories of anthropology are archaeology, cultural anthropology, physical (or biological) anthropology, and linguistics. Archaeologists are perhaps one of the more popular types of anthropologists in the eye of the media. If you select a major in anthropology, 2 out of 3 people will immediately envision Indiana Jones when you tell them what you study. Archaeologists are interested in painting a picture of our past by examining what was left behind. By studying artifacts, such as pottery shards, arrowheads, buried walls, and human remains, archaeologists tell us what life was like at a particular time in prehistory. They also attempt to explain how cultures and people change over time and the causes for this change.
Where archaeologists study our past, cultural anthropologists study living cultures. They often do this by the widely practiced method of "participant-observation". This means the anthropologist studies the culture he or she is interested in first-hand. The anthropologist lives with the culture being studied and participates in their daily activities. It is believed that this is one of the best ways understand a culture that is foreign to ourselves. Typically, cultural anthropologists study non-Western cultures.
Physical anthropologists, also known as biological anthropologists, study what it means to be human from the biological point of view. This includes studies in evolution, human biology, and primatology (the study of primates). Physical anthropologists can be found doing a variety of things from excavating fossilized remains in Africa, to studying lemurs in South American, to analyzing human blood types in a laboratory.
Linguistics is one of the less popular fields in anthropology. It involves the study of languages cross-culturally (comparing different cultures) and across time. One thing that linguists do is break words down into smaller parts to look for similarities and differences. By comparing the details of languages, the history of a language can be discovered. Once we understand this evolution, we can understand how cultures in the past interacted.
What can I expect from a Anthropology program?
Each university or college is different, however there are certain things that you can expect. Most programs will require you to take basic 'core' courses in archaeology, cultural anthropology, and physical anthropology. You will probably also be required to take a few classes outside of the anthropology department. These nearly always include a statistics course, and sometimes include a sociology and biology class. The exact requirements of your program will depend greatly on the type of anthropologists that teach at your university.
Most anthropology programs have limited required classes so that students can focus on a non-anthropology subdiscipline if they desire. Many universities only require a total of 30-40 hours of core courses for an anthropology degree. Your advisors can tell you how to best use your other hours. If you focus on archaeology, you may benefit from pursuing a geology or earth science minor. Cultural anthropologists often take extra courses in sociology and psychology. It is recommended that students interested in physical anthropology should take many courses in biology. Students who choose to focus on linguistics often benefit most by studying languages in the foreign languages department.
What sort of job can I get with an Anthropology degree?
Anthropologists can find jobs in many places, from the obvious to the not so obvious. Cultural anthropologists are equipped to work in a variety of fields. In the business world, they can be found in public relations and advertising positions. In the academic world, cultural anthropologists can work as museum educators. Cultural anthropologists with an emphasis on medical anthropology also find jobs in community health.
Archaeologists with a BA in anthropology can do work called 'contract archaeology'. This means that they are called upon to investigate sites that are usually about to undergo some construction work. Contract archaeologists quickly go in and make sure the construction of a new building will not destroy an archaeological site that may be hidden under the surface. Archaeologists also may use the education in geology and earth science to work for government natural resource and ecology departments. Archaeologists sometimes work with museums, both pubic and private. The majority of their time is not typically spent on museum-sponsored excavations. Instead, the archaeologist works at sorting, cataloging, and storing huge collections of artifacts.
Physical anthropologists can also find work in museums in the same capacity that cultural anthropologists and archaeologists may. Those specializing in primatology can work in zoos as educators and zookeepers. Physical anthropologists that specialize in human biology and anatomy may pursue work in forensics. Forensic anthropologists work with law enforcement, usually to help interpret evidence found in human remains. Physical anthropologists who dedicated much of their education to laboratory-oriented classes can work as lab assistants and researchers for both public and private biological research facilities.
Linguists are often bilingual and find work as interpreters. They may work in sales, public service, law enforcement, or any of the several fields that are experiencing a growing need for bilingual employees.
No matter which emphasis you choose, you may find work teaching if you earn your teaching certificate during the course of your education. It should be noted, however, that very few high schools offer courses in anthropology. If you wish to teach anthropology, you will find more opportunities at the community college and university level. In order to teach at a community college you will need your Masters degree. It is wise to gear your education so you will be qualified to teach more than just anthropology. Be prepared to also teach biology or sociology or some other discipline. A few universities take people with Masters degrees as teachers, but most require a PhD to teach at this level.
What are my further educational possibilities after I receive a Bachelors degree in anthropology?
If you wish to continue your education after your Bachelors degree, you will find several options available to you. There are many schools that offer advanced degrees in anthropology. Before you pursue a Masters degree or PhD in anthropology, be prepared to focus your studies. In the very least, you will need to specify one of the four major subdisciplines discussed above. More ideally, you will need an even more specific field (i.e. medial anthropology, paleoanthropology etc.). As you complete your bachelor’s degree, the various subfields to study will become clearer to you.
Many students continue their education in areas that are not directly related to anthropology. One of the more popular alternative graduate educations is Law School. Anthropology offers a solid liberal arts background for this pursuit. Other students enroll in medial school. These students typically come from a physical anthropology background and took many extra courses in biology and chemistry. Another rather popular alternative graduate education is in public health. Students pursing public health usually have a background in either cultural or physical anthropology with an emphasis in medical anthropology. There are many other alternatives to anthropology in a graduate education. The key to being successful in your alternative program is to determine your goal as early as possible so that you can take the necessary coursework to qualify for admittance to a non-anthropology graduate program.