Anthropology Major Guide

Anthropology Major Guide

Anthropology is the perfect degree program if you’re curious about who we are as a species, where we came from, and even where we’re going in the future. Find out why you should major in anthropology and what you can do with your anthropology degree.

Key Takeaways

  • The anthropology major is a highly respected undergraduate degree that can lead to a wide variety of excellent career opportunities in linguistics, biology, archaeology, and more.

  • Anthropology degrees are widely available through both brick-and-mortar and online colleges and universities at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels.

  • Anthropology students who are interested in becoming anthropologists or working in research roles will typically be required to earn a master’s degree in anthropology.

The anthropology major can lead to a wide range of careers in areas like human biology, linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology and much more. As an anthropology major, you’ll study subjects like human origins, historical archaeology, evolutionary anthropology and more.

Undergraduate anthropology degrees are available at both associate degree and bachelor degree levels.

This anthropology major guide provides students with a full overview of the anthropology discipline. The anthropology major guide is also designed to introduce students to important anthropology subfields like cultural anthropology, biological anthropology and more. As one of the key social sciences, anthropology overlaps with an array of other disciplines including biology, history, linguistics, and more.

This guide is designed to help undergraduate students navigate this interdisciplinary field. While the anthropology major guide is focused on the undergraduate anthropology degree, we’ll also provide pathways for anthropology degrees at the master’s level as well as data on career opportunities for anthropology students.

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Quick Overview of the Anthropology Major

What is the anthropology degree?

The anthropology degree is a social sciences degree that concerns the development of human societies, languages, physiological characteristics, and cultures. Students can take anthropology courses at the associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and PhD levels.

What will you study as an anthropology major?

As an anthropology major, your major requirements may include courses in overlapping social sciences and may include research or independent study in areas like human evolution, communication, social organization and more.

What can you do with an anthropology major?

Students who earn an anthropology degree can qualify to work directly in the field of anthropology as archaeologists, historians, or museum curators. But the critical thinking, problem-solving and research skills students build as anthropology majors will also be valuable in a wide range of professional settings in both the public and private sectors.

How can you get a degree in anthropology?

If you’re ready to earn your anthropology degree at top school in the world, get started with a look at the The Best Colleges and Universities for Anthropology Degrees.

Or read the anthropology major guide below for a deeper look at:

  • Top reasons to major in anthropology
  • Types of anthropology degrees
  • Anthropology degree major requirements
  • Careers in anthropology, and more...

5 Reasons to Major in Anthropology

1.Anthropology majors have a strong appreciation for human diversity.

Majoring in anthropology gives students a chance to take a wide range of courses in subjects like culture, language, and geography. These courses offer insight into the forces that shape the shared human experience, and the circumstances that create unique identities for groups, communities, and entire civilizations. Students who major in areas like cultural anthropology or sociocultural anthropology gain a greater appreciation for the diversity of human experiences and the unique challenges faced by some groups. This makes anthropology students well-suited to work in fields like social services, community health, and public policy.

2.Anthropology majors see the connection between history and the present day.

Anthropology students will gain a true appreciation for the ways that historical events shape present realities. This means that anthropology students will learn how to draw connections between the history of great civilizations and today’s political landscape; between human evolution and our current biological makeup; between patterns of immigration and today’s global linguistic hierarchy. Understand today’s realities with greater nuance and insight by studying the human experience through this historical lens.

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. If you’re interested in areas like human genetics and human biology, you may consider a career in biological anthropology or medical anthropology.

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 oral communication skills learned in this major can apply in a wide range of settings including education, social services, public policy and even marketing.

5.Anthropology majors are influential.

Anthropologists illuminate the human experience, past and present. Those working today in fields like evolutionary anthropology and cultural anthropology have the potential to improve our shared understanding of serious issues facing communities and nations such as poverty, ethnic conflict, border sovereignty, and even environmental justice.

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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- or bachelor’s degree in anthropology will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in 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 anthropology degree.

Associate Degree 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 prerequisite 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 as an anthropology major. As long as your associate degree is granted by an accredited school, you will have satisfied a number of important prerequisite courses upon completing this two-year anthropology degree. This should give you an affordable jump-start on your way to an anthropology degree through a four-year undergraduate college or university.

Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology

The bachelor’s degree in anthropology, which can be earned in a minimum of 4 years, will qualify you to work in a wide range of professional settings. Your anthropology major requirements will usually include subjects like human biology, human societies, environmental archaeology, and more. You may also be able to fully your anthropology electives requirement by taking introductory courses in an array of anthropology subdisciplines such as cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and medical anthropology.

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. As an anthropology major, you could channel your critical thinking, research, and communication skills into work in a variety of settings. The bachelor’s degree in anthropology is seen increasingly as a valuable credential for new entrants into the labor market.

Master’s Degree in Anthropology

This two-year degree is generally required for students or working professionals 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. Your master’s in anthropology degree may also allow you to focus on a specialized subdiscipline such as cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, medical anthropology, and more.

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.

What’s the difference between a Bachelor of art and Bachelor of science degree?

Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts (BAAN) and Bachelor of Science (BSAS) degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts (MAAN), and Master of Science (MSAS) degrees. In most cases, the primary difference between the bachelor of arts and the bachelor of science is the diversity of course offerings.

Courses for a bachelor of science degree will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience.

Courses for a bachelor of arts degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The bachelor of arts is generally the more popular anthropology degree among undergraduate students.

Whether you choose a bachelor of science degree or a bachelor of arts degree 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 bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degree identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

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What Are Some Popular Anthropology Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. Concentration specific courses are often upper division courses, which means students must typically complete an array of prerequisite courses within the Department of Anthropology.

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
  • Studies the broader scope of humanity, including human behavior, biology, culture, language, and society

  • Biological Anthropology
  • Studies the intersect between the social and biological sciences while focusing on the evolution of humans and their adaptations

  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Studies social sciences and the cultural variations among humans such as practices, symbols, beliefs, and rules

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Studies how health and illness are understood and experienced in the cultural, historical, and political context

  • Social Anthropology
  • Studies patterns of human behavior across various societies and cultures, focusing on how people live together and find meaning

  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Studies archaeology and the ways humans interacted with and were affected by their environments

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What Courses Will I Take as an Anthropology Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the anthropology courses you’ll take as an anthropology major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses intended to provide foundational knowledge on topics such as Anthropological Theory and Social Theory.

However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of social sciences and humanities 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. You may also have an anthropology electives requirement that mandates the completion of several subdiscipline anthropology courses. You can also expect to complete one or several research projects as an anthropology major.

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
  • Macro/Microeconomics
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What Can I Do With a Major in Anthropology?

Though our anthropology major guide is addressed to undergraduate students, the reality is that this bachelor’s degree will only be the first step for many students. Anthropology is a highly specialized field. Students who will ultimately practice anthropology or archaeology will typically have earned a master’s degree.

The master’s degree in anthropology will typically give students a chance to delve more deeply into specific areas of anthropology, as well as to engage research opportunities and advanced course work. Most students who pursue the advanced degree in anthropology will be expected to produce an independent study based on original research. These research projects often help prepare anthropology masters to pursue a wide range of career goals.

Indeed, students who earn a master’s degree in anthropology will qualify for a wide range of career 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 after completing an undergraduate anthropology major, you may be able to pursue these top jobs in the field:


Career Outlook for Students with Anthropology Degree

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Degree Level: Bachelor's

  • Location: The U.S. (Private Schools)
  • Avg. Cost of Degree*: $10,982
  • Avg. Expenses*: $17,491
  • Avg. Starting Salary*: $25,829
  • Avg. Salary after 4 Years*: $37,660
  • Avg. Cost Recoup Time**: 14 years
  • Job Growth: 3.35%
  • Number of Jobs: 1,242,500
  • * denotes ‘annually’
  • ** denotes ‘at 15% of annual salary’

Career Salaries

CareerJob GrowthAvg. Salary
Managers, All Other3.35%$106,040
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists9.83%$91,024
Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary3.23%$89,474
Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary4.20%$81,038
Anthropologists and Archeologists3.75%$63,023

Average Career Salaries

Bottom 10%MedianTop 10%

Promising Job Markets

StateCost of LivingAvg. Salary
#2 Delaware2% higher than average$149,458
#3 Kansas9% higher than average$105,127
#4 West Virginia11% higher than average$98,903
#5 New Jersey13% higher than average$122,862
#6 Michigan15% higher than average$90,043

Top Industries

IndustryAvg. Salary
Managers, All Other$106,040
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists$91,024
Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary$89,474

Now that you’ve had a chance to review our anthropology major guide, check out The Best Anthropology Colleges and Universities.

You might also be interested in exploring your options at one of the The Best Liberal Arts Colleges for Anthropology Degrees

Interested, but not really sure what you want to study in college? Don’t miss our look at college majors and programs.

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Student Submitted Questions on Anthropology Majors

Monica asks, “How flexible is the curriculum in allowing students to explore cross-disciplinary interests within the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: This will vary based on the institution you choose and the concentration you specialize in. However, many anthropology courses are designed with flexibility in mind and the understanding that most students want a broad scope of knowledge. Check out your school’s electives, concentrations, and what sort of research opportunities they provide.

Jackson asks, “What kind of fieldwork opportunities are available for undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology?”

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: For an anthropology major, fieldwork and internships are essential. While the nature of these experiences will differ based on institution, students should learn about research methods and data collection in depth, while also being culturally immersed. Some schools might have study abroad programs, field schools, or university-sponsored digs so that students can truly grasp whatever area of anthropology they are studying. Colleges and universities will also most likely have community-based research and ethnographic studies opportunities.

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