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Do people interest you? Are you fascinated by human development, language, biology, and culture? Anthropology, the study of man, is a field that focuses on people—who they’ve been, who they are today, and who they might be tomorrow.

If you pursue a graduate program in Anthropology, you’ll study ancient cultures—the languages and symbols, the art and literature, the health and ecology of the people from that time. You’ll learn how ancient peoples treated their elders and their children. You’ll learn how race, gender, and religion played out in ancient societies, and how ideas from the past have changed, endured, or disappeared.

Anthropology concerns the entire world, and your studies will take you around the globe—figuratively, at first, and perhaps, eventually, literally. From culture to culture and country to country you’ll study social interaction, language, health, and evolution. You’ll become skilled in unlocking vast amounts of information from the very little that remains from the past, through means such as symbols, artifacts, documents, and oral history. But Anthropology doesn’t concern only the past. Anthropology focuses on modern society as well: our customs and rituals, our problems and our successes.

In a graduate Anthropology program, you may be asked to specialize in a field such as archaeology, linguistics, cultural anthropology, or physical anthropology—various programs offer different concentrations. Your Master’s work will most often lead to a thesis (your Ph.D. definitely will), which will allow you to choose an area of particular interest and do hands-on, in-depth research on your topic.

Degree Information

An M.A. in Anthropology is one option for students. The program takes about one to two years to complete, and is often, though not always, part of a Ph.D. track program. Keep in mind that graduate schools sometimes do not offer financial aid to students seeking only an M.A. Students who choose to pursue the Ph.D. nearly always have their eye on becoming part of academia, while M.A. students may have a more wide-ranging set of career goals.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What kind of financial aid is available to M.A. students? What sort of financial package is offered to Ph.D.s?
  • Will grad students be required to act as teaching assistants?
  • Do the faculty or graduate students publish regularly? What is the subject of their research?
  • Is there a faculty member whose field of expertise is related to your own field of interest?
  • What is the foreign language requirement?

Career Overview

Students pursue graduate work in Anthropology for many reasons. Many Ph.D.’s go on to become teachers of Anthropology, as well as researchers and writers. But Anthropology also plays many roles outside of academia, and many graduates of Master’s programs go on to pursue careers in social work, health, or the social sciences. Those who choose to “apply” their Anthropology education find vast opportunities to do so in government, industry, and museums.

Though very few careers (outside of academia or museums) actually require a M.A. or Ph.D. in Anthropology, the interdisciplinary nature of the degree prepares students for careers in a variety of workplaces. These “practicing anthropologists” build careers in fields such as medicine, public health, archaeology, business, and social science. They contribute their knowledge and skills to technology, marketing, and education. No matter where graduates choose to begin their careers, they bring a unique perspective and valuable knowledge about people and their role in the world.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no specific licensing requirements for a career in Anthropology.

Salary Information

The starting salary for M.A. and Ph.D. graduates can range from $25,000-$30,000 a year, but this figure depends heavily on work experience, type of employment, and location.

Related Links

American Anthropological Association
The American Anthropological Association has offered anthropology professionals support, information, and services since 1902.

Society for Applied Anthropology
The Society for Applied Anthropology aims to integrate the study and practice of Anthropology with actual social problems. It encourages the interdisciplinary nature of Anthropology and its applications to the wider world.