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    Anthropology Major Overview

    By Lisa Freedland

    Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 11th, 2024
    Anthropology Major Overview

    Whether you’re interested in the 1920s or the 2020s, majoring in anthropology will give you a better understanding of the human experience, and how culture, linguistics, and even biology impacts people. Being such a broad subject makes it difficult to know what exactly anthropology covers or what you could do with a degree in it.

    Luckily for you, we will be going over all that today! Keep on reading for the ultimate overview of the major. We cover what it is, common coursework, possible career options, and more.

    Related: Scholarships360 college major guides

    What is an anthropology major?

    Simply put, anthropologists study people throughout time. That includes how language, culture, biology, history, and a variety of other factors have impacted human diversity. 

    Besides just giving students a better understanding of humanity, studying for an anthropology degree also equips students with useful skills. This includes problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which allows them to understand and discuss new ideas with ease. 

    Related: Sociology major overview

    Coursework to expect

    In addition to the typical general education classes (that you’ll probably have to take regardless of major), you should also expect to take an introductory anthropology class as well as an archaeology class. The intro anthropology class will introduce you to all the major concepts and foundations of studying humanity and individual societies. The archaeology will teach you how experienced archaeologists use their tools to physically “unearth the past.”

    Below are some potential courses you may encounter:

    • Introduction to cultural anthropology
    • Introduction to archeology
    • Ethics in anthropology
    • Method and evidence in anthropology
    • Anthropology of religion
    • Anthropology of food
    • Human skeletal analysis
    • Ethnicity in Central America
    • History of anthropological thought

    Opportunities after graduation

    So, what are the options for those with an anthropology degree? The number of positions is limited when looking only at fields directly related to the major, but there’s more than you think if you look beyond! For now, here’s just a few career options related to the field:

    • Anthropologist 
    • Anthropology professor 
    • Paleontologist
    • Ethnologist
    • Primatologist
    • Archaeologist
    • And more!

    While all of these require advanced degrees, they only represent a very small sliver of the jobs you can get with an anthropology degree. As it turns out, most of those who study anthropology go on to jobs within academia, the government, business, or something else entirely. Critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving skills  learned while studying anthropology makes you attractive to employers – even if you didn’t study the exact field you’re expected to be working in.

    For more information on what you can do after graduating, the University of California, Davis has compiled this helpful list of the many career options you have with an anthropology degree.

    Jobs you can get with an anthropology degree

    Considering all the various career paths mentioned above, it’s understandable that there’s no average clear-cut “salary” for anthropology majors. Instead, what salary you make will depend largely on the specific job you go into. However, we can give you a few average salaries of  jobs that are commonly held by majors to give you an idea.

    1. Anthropologist or archaeologist

    Anthropologists research the progression of human society. This is as broad an idea as it sounds. Anthropologists may research for an NGO or an academic organization. This research could involve fieldwork, or looking into archives or academic texts. Archaeologists focus mostly on fieldwork, discovering, analyzing, and preserving artifacts.

    2022 Median Pay: $63,940 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 4% (As fast as average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    2. Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

    Archivists and curators help select and organize the collections on display in museums, and in their archives. Museum workers, such as technicians, help store these items, restore them, preserve them, and install them.

    2022 Median Pay: $53,420 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 10% (Much faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    3. Geographers

    Geographers study the physical layout of the Earth. They analyze its topography, demography, and area. This analysis can take the form of maps, papers, and more.

    2022 Median Pay: $88,900 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 1% (Little or no change)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    4. Postsecondary teachers

    Postsecondary teachers teach students at a level beyond high school. This can include college professors, instructors for certificate programs, and more.

    2022 Median Pay: $80,840 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 8% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    5. Survey researchers

    Survey researchers help to design surveys and analyze their results. This can involve looking at previous similar surveys and coming up with a goal for the new information you hope to collect. It’s a very delicate art to write a good survey that does not skew results.

    2022 Median Pay: $60,410
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): -4% (Decline)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    Also see: What is the average starting salary out of college?

    How to know if anthropology is the right major for you

    If you’re considering a major in anthropology, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Are you interested in studying people and humans throughout time?
    • Do you find the progression of society fascinating?
    • Are you interested in collecting information from many sources and synthesizing them to make a case?
    • Do you find languages fascinating?
    • Are you comfortable working individually and in group settings?

    If you answered yes to most of these questions, then an anthropology major could be right for you!

    For help deciding what to study, read How to choose a major.

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    Related: What are the humanities?

    Frequently asked questions about majoring in anthropology

    Who hires anthropologists/anthropology majors?

    Former anthropology majors have a wide range of skills helpful in both anthropology itself and unrelated fields. Therefore, they are often hired to a wide range of places. Some of these include government agencies, nonprofits, museums, laboratories, or even corporations (usually in a consultant position). There are many careers available to anthropologists, and we hope you find the right one for you!

    What are the benefits of an anthropology degree?

    Anthropology is a unique field that can use interdisciplinary tools to create a unique academic experience. Most anthropology majors use skills from social sciences, humanities, hard sciences, and even other fields. As a result, you’ll graduate with a versatile degree that can be used in many different professions or new academic pursuits.

    Is anthropology a competitive major?

    Since anthropology is a quite small field, there are fewer careers or positions available than other majors. Therefore, interviewers  choose the most qualified or experienced applicants. To help yourself stand out amongst those applicants, we highly recommend that you seek out practical, relevant experiences in anthropology during your time at college (or even after you graduate!). Whether this is an internship, part-time job, research experience, or something else entirely, this will help you gain knowledge about working in the field and will look impressive to employers. 

    Alternatively, due to the competitiveness of the field, many of those who majored in anthropology as undergraduates go on to pursue advanced degrees. This is not surprising, as to become an anthropologist, you must obtain your Ph.D

    However, it’s important to keep in mind that you do not have to become an anthropologist just because you have an anthropology degree – there’s a number of other options you have as well.

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