What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Anthropology?

Anthropology is a competitive field where advanced degrees are held in high regard. Earning a master’s degree in anthropology can significantly improve your career prospects within the field, and can give you the opportunity to pursue a distinct specialization within this highly interdisciplinary subject area. Anthropology masters study humans and human history from both a biological and cultural perspective. The anthropology discipline also incorporates the studies of linguistics, archeology, and human development, among many other correlated topics.

What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Anthropology?

As an anthropology graduate student, you may have the chance to focus largely on your chosen area of specialization such as social anthropology, biological anthropology, or sociocultural anthropology. You may alternately choose to study anthropology from a more general perspective, which could allow you to take a multidisciplinary approach to the subject. Your focus will largely be a matter of preference and interest, as most master’s in anthropology programs will qualify you to work directly in the field of anthropology as an archaeologist, historian, museum curator, or educator.

Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the anthropology major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in anthropology.

If you’re ready to earn your graduate 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.

What is a Master of Anthropology Degree?

The master’s degree in anthropology is an advanced degree program that typically requires a minimum of two years, or the completion of 30 credit hours. The master’s degree in anthropology is generally required for those who plan to build a career directly in anthropology, archeology, or in 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 to either qualify, or advance within, a wide range of professional roles. Because anthropology is a research-intensive field, the advanced degree is widely seen as an important threshold for meaningful career development. Indeed, a major component of your degree experience will be the design and pursuit of your own research undertaking, with support from an advisor or mentor.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Anthropology?

Thomas Hylland Eriksen, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and a top-ranking influencer in the field of anthropology tells us:

I was seduced by anthropology as a young undergraduate. I tried philosophy, sociology, but with anthropology I could sort of tick all the boxes, and that appealed to me. It was an extremely exciting discipline for me because it's global. It gets you into the lives of other people. As we sometimes say, you only live one life, but you are born with the possibility of living thousands of different lives. And through anthropology, and I suppose literature and some other methods, you can actually get a glimpse into some of those other lives and you can live them vicariously.Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Check out our interview with Dr. Eriksen as he talks more about the evolving field of anthropology.

Dr. Eriksen’s experience highlights the intellectual curiosity that serves as the best rationale for pursuing a graduate degree in anthropology. As an undergraduate, you’ll learn a wide range of highly-transferrable research, critical thinking, and communication skills. These can be applied in a wide range of professional, educational, and business settings. However, a graduate degree in anthropology is likely to be far more beneficial to students who truly wish to channel their knowledge and skills into the overlapping fields of anthropology, archeology, and paleontology, as well as the research, education, and curation endeavors that surround these professions.

Learn more about Thomas Hylland Eriksen and other top experts in anthropology today!

How Can I Qualify to Get a Master’s Degree in Anthropology?

There is no specific entrance exam for gaining admission into an anthropology master’s program. The primary requirement for gaining eligibility into an anthropology master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally accredited college or university.

Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!

For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.

If you’re still working on building your qualifications for grad school eligibility, check out our look at the anthropology major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in anthropology.

What Kinds of Anthropology Graduate Degrees Are There?

  • Master of Arts in Anthropology (MA): The MA in anthropology is a two-year, 30-credit degree that balances an emphasis on anthropology with more general humanities courses. This degree is advisable for students who wish to take a multidisciplinary approach to the subject matter.
  • Master of Science in Anthropology (MS): The MS in anthropology is also a two-year, 30-credit degree, but one that is more research-driven than the MA. The MS will typically provide a more narrowly focused course of study, likely in a specific area of scientific concentration such as biology or medicine.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD): A terminal degree in the field, the PhD in anthropology is a five to seven year engagement that will largely center around the design of an original research question as well as the production and defense of a disssertation. PhD candidates will qualify to conduct field research and teach anthropology at the post-secondary level.

What are Some Popular Anthropology Specializations?

The specialization you choose within the field will be a matter of preference and interest, but can also help you narrow your career focus:

  • Anthropology, General
  • Anthropology and Social Change
  • Social Anthropology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Sociocultural Anthropology

What Courses Will I Take as a Anthropology Major?

Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take in your anthropology masters program. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such linguistics and religion. However, you may also choose to take a general and interdisciplinary approach to the subject. In either case, you will likely be required to supplement your coursework with a research project based on an original topic of your own design. You’ll typically work closely with the support of an advisor or mentor, and you may need to defend your completed research project before a committee in order to complete your program. Beyond this thesis or capstone project, common anthropology courses include:

  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Linguistics
  • Anthropology of Science
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Ethnicity and Collective Identity
  • Colonialism

Is a master’s degree in anthropology worth it?

Earning your master’s degree in anthropology is a great way to improve your earning power. While bachelors working as museum curators and archivists earned a median salary of $49,850 in 2019, those who earned advanced degrees and ultimately became archaeologists and anthropologists earned a median pay of $63,670. Those who continued on to become archaeology and anthropology educators at the post-secondary level earned $83,940. This denotes that the level of your degree in this field is directly connected to your salary potential.

What are the top jobs with a master’s degree 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. Earning a master’s degree in anthropology will likely be a necessary step on your way to these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in anthropology? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

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