What is an Anthropology Degree?

Students of anthropology study the evolutionary history of people, how they interact, how they adapt to various environments, how they communicate and socialize with one another, and how their bodies and cultures have changed over time. Historically, anthropologists have been trained in one of four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics.

The typical anthropology curriculum includes classes in human origins and evolution; archaeological field methods; biological anthropology; forensic anthropology; and language and culture.

The field attempts to answer big questions on many of the fundamentals of human culture, from gender to political systems to violence, religion, race, and economics.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Anthropology - Two Year Duration
An associate degree provides students with basic anthropological skills that lay a foundation for further study at the bachelor’s level. These skills are learned in courses such as cultural anthropology, archaeology, human evolution, and behavioral science. The curriculum also typically includes general education classes in English composition, history, math, and science.

Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology - Four Year Duration
With a bachelor’s degree, graduates qualify for some entry- or mid- level roles as anthropologists, archaeologists, geographers, archivists, or market research analysts. Some may choose to teach high school history or social studies.

Many bachelor’s programs allow students to select a concentration, such as:

  • Cultural Anthropology – examination of cultures and societies, both past and present
  • Forensic Anthropology – use of anthropological knowledge in criminal investigations, in examining dead bodies
  • Biological Anthropology – focuses on the study of human genetics instead of human culture
  • Applied Anthropology – the application of anthropological research to issues and problems in many different sectors, including business, health, education, and the environment

Examples of courses offered in an anthropology bachelor’s program are:

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology – the history and categories of anthropology
  • Method and Evidence in Anthropology – research methods; collecting evidence; forming arguments
  • Introduction to Archaeology – techniques used in archaeology to analyze ancient civilizations
  • Ethics in Anthropology – moral principles that dictate anthropological fieldwork

Master’s Degree in Anthropology - Two Year Duration
This graduate degree prepares students for mid- and senior- level positions in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, geography, archives management, market research, and education. Master’s candidates must write a major research paper under the supervision of an anthropology department committee. The paper must demonstrate in-depth understanding of the selected subject.

The master’s curriculum expands on the topics addressed in a bachelor’s program and is focused on advanced study of the theories and methods of anthropology and archaeology. Students explore the origins of cultures, their ideology, and issues of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, economics, politics, and the environment.

Doctoral Degree in Anthropology - Four to Seven Year Duration
Typically, students who pursue a Doctorate in Anthropology intend to be professors in anthropology. Some schools offer combined programs which award both a master’s degree and a doctorate.

Courses at this level may include:

  • Gender in Contemporary Culture
  • Primate Behavior and Biology
  • Artifact Conservation
  • Ethnographic Analysis – analysis of cultures by examination of people and their relationships to cultural systems like customs, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships
  • Paleoanthropology – this branch of anthropology, also called human paleontology, studies the origins and development of early humans

Degrees Similar to Anthropology

American Indian Studies
This degree field focuses on the history, sociology, politics, culture, and economics of the native peoples of the Americas. Coursework includes American Indian history and literature, contemporary issues in American Indian studies, indigenous worldview perspectives, native North American art, native language studies, and tribal governments.

Archaeology is the scientific study of the material remains of past human life and activities. The typical curriculum includes classes in archaeological theory and methods, Chinese dynastic history, Egyptology, survey of world prehistory, and origins of new world civilizations.

Classical Studies
The study of the languages, literatures, philosophy, history, archaeology, and civilization of ancient Greece and Rome is the focus of a degree in the classics. Courses include ancient philosophy, classic art and archaeology, classical mythology, Greek and Roman civilization, tragedy and comedy, Greek language, and Latin language.

Students of geography study the Earth’s surface; its climate, soil, and water; and the relationship between people and the land. Some typical courses in a geography program are cartography, climatology, geology, political geography, statistics, and spatial analysis.

History degree programs are about the study and interpretation of objects, documents, and events of the past. Classes may include U.S. constitutional history, U.S. economic history, social history of early modern Europe, Ancient Greece, Modern Latin America, Renaissance and Reformation, and East Asian civilization.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language and communication, both within a single language and across language groups. Its primary sub-areas are phonetics – the study of the production, acoustics, and hearing of speech sounds; phonology – the patterning of sounds; morphology – the structure of words; syntax – the structure of sentences; semantics – meaning; and pragmatics – language in context.

Sociology is the wider study of society, social institutions like religion and law, and the ways in which people live and work together. Topics addressed in sociology programs include sociology of the family, gender roles, juvenile delinquency, minority groups, social problems, and criminology.

Zoology is the study of the origins, genetics, diseases, life progression, and behaviors of animals. Sample courses include animal physiology, animal behavior, ecology, evolutionary biology, and genetics.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to providing students with an understanding of diverse cultures and societies, the coursework in anthropology degree programs develops several soft, transferable skills:

  • Oral and Written Communication and Presentation
  • Collaboration / Group Work Dynamics
  • Analytical, Critical Thinking, and Problem-Solving
  • Planning
  • Data Gathering and Interpreting / Decision-Making
  • Statistical and Computing Skills

What Can You Do with an Anthropology Degree?

While it is true that only a small number of anthropology graduates work directly in the field as researchers or academics, holders of degrees in anthropology are sought after by a variety of industries and sectors in which anthropological knowledge can be applied. Consider these options:

Forensic Anthropology
This is the investigation of crimes by examining human remains.

Museum Curation / Archives Management
Working as a curator and managing archival collections calls upon the historical and cultural awareness that is instilled in anthropology graduates.

Anthropology graduates are generally qualified to teach a variety of the social sciences.

Software Development
In the field of software development, anthropologists can help companies understand their audiences and better meet market demands by identifying and fixing interface weaknesses in their products.

Market Research and Analysis / Policy Planning
Anthropology degree holders have developed an understanding of human behavior as well as skills in data research, collection, analysis, and reporting – all of which can be applied in the public, private, and non-profit/NGO sectors to optimize performance and generate revenue and/or donations.

Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotion
With their extensive experience in studying specific populations and cultures and identifying social trends, anthropology graduates can help companies and organizations appeal to certain markets and retain and attract customers.

Healthcare and Social Work
Anthropologists’ knowledge of human biology, behavior, and development can be applied in the health and social work sectors.


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