How to Major in Anthropology
Anthropology majors study humans, humanity, and the human experience both throughout history and in the present day. This includes the study of early civilizations as well as a diverse range of modern cultures.
As an anthropology major, besides anthropology, you’ll also touch on subjects such as history, biology and linguistics as you expand your understanding of human evolution, communication, social organization and more. This degree can qualify you to work directly in the field of anthropology as an archaeologist, historian, or museum curator. But the critical-thinking, problem-solving and research skills you’ll build as an anthropology major will also be valuable in a wide range of professional settings in both the public and private sectors.
If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Anthropology.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as an anthropology major.
5 Reasons to Major in Anthropology
1.Anthropology majors have a strong appreciation for human diversity.
Majoring in anthropology gives you a chance to learn about the wide range of cultural, linguistic, and geographic differences that shape experience and identity for groups, communities, and entire nations. This understanding lends to a far better and more informed recognition of the diversity of human experiences, and how this diversity shapes us individually and collectively.
2.Anthropology majors see the connection between history and the present day.
An oft-repeated aphorism says that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Anthropology majors present an antidote to this danger, conducting research and sharing findings that ensure we understand those who came before us. By providing us with a sense of our shared background, as well as the unique features that distinguish us, anthropology majors help provide the connective tissue between past and present.
3.Anthropology majors receive a balanced education in both life sciences and humanities.
Anthropology is one of the great interdisciplinary majors. It goes without saying that “the humanities” play an important part in shaping your education—from history and linguistics to studies on world religion and race. But anthropology also naturally incorporates topics such as evolutionary biology, archaeology, and forensics. As an anthropology major, you’ll get the chance to flex both your scientific muscles and sharpen your skills of critical analysis.
4.Anthropology majors can study to work in a wide range of professional settings.
Anthropology is a highly specialized profession. Those who go directly into the anthropology field often earn advanced degrees in this or a related subject area. However, the interdisciplinary nature of anthropology also lends to a wide range of other professional opportunities. The research, critical thinking, and communication skills learned in this major can apply in a wide range of educational, scientific, and social services work settings.
5.Anthropology majors are influential.
Anthropologists illuminate the human experience, past and present. Those working in the field today have the potential to do nothing less than expand the way we understand our own history as communities, nations, and even as a species. Today, top influencers in anthropology are bringing new light to topics like military uses of anthropology, cultural influences on economies, human organ trafficking, and much more.
Find out who the Most Influential People are in Anthropology today!
What Kinds of Anthropology Degrees Are There?
Anthropology majors will develop highly transferable skills in research, communication, and critical thinking. This means that students with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in anthropology will have the opportunity to channel their knowledge into a wide range of professional settings. However, if you wish to practice fieldwork or research as an anthropologist, archaeologist, paleontologist or in another specialized role, you will need to earn an advanced degree.
- Associate in Anthropology: Typically a two-year degree, the associate’s degree in anthropology is a great way to break into the field with an entry-level position. With an associate’s degree in anthropology, you’ll take introductory courses in linguistics, ancient civilizations, and evolutionary biology. This degree will qualify you to work as an assistant museum curator, an anthropology research assistant, or in the field of public health services. Earning your associate’s degree in anthropology can also provide an affordable head start on your way to a four-year degree in this or a related field.
- Bachelor of Anthropology: This undergraduate degree, which can be earned in a minimum of 4 years, will qualify you to work in a wide range of professional settings. With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, you’ll build a wide base of knowledge in human history, biology, world cultures, and demographic patterns. Increasingly, business organizations, social services, marketing firms, and government agencies are recognizing the role that anthropology can play in resource distribution, marketing analysis, improved cultural sensitivity, and more.
- Master of Anthropology: This two-year degree is generally required for those who plan to build a career directly in anthropology or a related field. Your master’s degree will typically focus on a specific area of anthropology directly connected to your career goals. Students who wish to become anthropologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, or museum administrators will likely need to earn a master’s degree in this or a related field.
- PhD in Anthropology: This three to five year degree is particularly valuable in the research-intensive field of anthropology. Those who conduct research at the professional level, or who wish to instruct anthropology in a post-secondary setting must have earned this highly regarded terminal degree.
Thinking of a graduate degree in anthropology? Check out What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Anthropology? for more information on obtaining a graduate degree in this field.
*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.
What Are Some Popular Anthropology Concentrations?
Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, which places anthropology under the umbrella of the social sciences, the following are among the most popular anthropology concentrations:
- Anthropology, General
- Physical Anthropology
- Medical Anthropology
- Cultural Anthropology
- Anthropology, Other
What Courses Will I Take as a Anthropology Major?
Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as an anthropology major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Anthropological Theory and Social Theory. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. Students who do not go on to earn an advanced degree may choose to combine anthropology courses with an array of complementary life sciences, history or teaching courses.
Common Anthropology courses include:
- Gender, Sexuality and Society
- Race and Science
- Conducting Ethnographies
- Identity and Difference
- Anthropology of Biology
- Documenting Culture
- Environmental Conflict
- The Anthropology of Politics in the U.S.
- Social Theory and Analysis
What Can I Do With a Major in Anthropology?
Anthropology is a highly specialized field. Those who will ultimately practice anthropology or archaeology will typically have earned a master’s degree. This will qualify you for a wide range of opportunities doing fieldwork, consultation, or education as an anthropologist, archeologist, or historian. But anthropology is also a versatile degree program that can afford undergraduate students a wide range of opportunities in forensics, education, biology, and much more. If you do choose to pursue anthropology as a career, your major can lead to these top jobs:
- Anthropologists and Archaeologists
- Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary
- Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers
- Forensic Science Technicians
Curious how far you could go with a major in anthropology? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!
Thinking of a graduate degree in anthropology? Check out What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Anthropology? for more information on obtaining a graduate degree in this field.***
Now that you know how to major in anthropology, check out The Most Influential Schools in Anthropology and get started on your path to an anthropology degree.