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Careers in Anthropology

Because the discipline approaches the complexity of social life from so many angles, the paths leading from an undergraduate experience in anthropology branch out in all directions. Anthropology majors seem to be singularly adventurous and follow many different trajectories during and after their undergraduate years. As undergraduates, anthropology majors must work to consolidate specific skills they will need to approach different areas of anthropological learning. The skills you acquire in the course of a degree will be decisive in qualifying you for employment or entrance to professional schools.

Compared to some of the other social sciences, there are probably comparatively fewer internship and employment opportunities targeted specifically at anthropology undergraduates. In cases where there are positions available in social sciences and the humanities, however, anthropology graduates are eligible and compete successfully for a wide range of opportunities. To see the myriad of careers our Anthropology majors have entered, use the "Student Outcomes Data" collected by the William & Mary Alumni Association (select ANTH from the appropriate dropdowns).

Because the field of anthropology is not as well known as some other liberal arts majors, job-seekers must be pro-active in identifying and describing the sorts of skills they acquire as an anthropology student. Although, as would be expected, anthropologists develop writing and organizational skills of a liberal arts graduate, they also have other skills as well. The ability to conduct interviews, describe significant social relationships, document communication style along with other ethnographic methods is part of the observational toolkit required by many types of socio-cultural and linguistic anthropology. You may become skilled at working with an archaeological research team to identify, describe, and interpret material patterns linked to histories that are invisible in written accounts of the past. Perhaps, through biological anthropology, you have identified ways to convey to the public not only an accurate view of evolutionary theory but also the enhanced understanding an evolutionary perspective may bring to complex issues of gender, hierarchy and power, and human population variation.

Most anthropologists working in the US today are employed outside of traditional academic establishments. They may work in sectors associated with culture, such as museums, programs targeted toward specific groups, or as part of efforts to assess how the public uses or perceives products and programs. Corporations seeking to develop new products or the National Park Service interested in understanding how the public makes use of facilities hire anthropologists. Anthropologists work in the arena of international development, education and tourism along with many other areas. Primate conservation initiatives often include anthropologists. The majority of professional archaeologists work in the applied "cultural resource management" or "public archaeology" sectors which entails identifying, evaluating, and preserving historic and prehistoric sites.

Most of these kinds of jobs require at least a master's degree. With an anthropology degree and the required courses in the sciences or business, one can pursue a medical, dental, veterinary, or business degree. Some anthropology majors go into law school as well.

Whatever path you may pursue, anthropological study will leave you with an appreciation of the processes underlying cultural diversity as well as the observed similarities across human populations. Your recognition of the way life's private dilemmas are connected to social issues will be heightened. And the myriad forms of human associations and relations and approaches to rearing and educating children will expand your own sense of human possibilities. The flexibility needed to study other cultures - and closely related species - may also be reflected in an increased ability to change and learn throughout your lifetime. In common with other humanities, anthropological study holds the promise of deeper insight and discernment that can transform the commonplace experience of living. More than a technique and body of social observation, it can also be a tool for "composing a life."