Any anthropologists here?

Hi any and all. I’m seriously considering majoring in Cultural Anthropology, and there are some things I’m not clear on. Things like what, exactly, I am getting myself into. :wink: So, I’m turning to the SDMB, which always has all the answers.


What do you, personally, do every day? The program I’m going through is hard-core pure cultural research, but I hear there are a lot of other things you can do with an anthro degree.

What do you like most about your job? Least? In spite of the bad parts, do you still love it? Do you feel that what you do makes a difference? Do you think it necessarily needs to?

How much schooling is needed? My cousin, who’s in grad school at Berkeley right now (although I’m not sure what his concentration is) says you need a PhD to get a job or a grant.

Possibly stupid question - If I’m naturally very shy and tend to cling to the familiar, is this going to affect my ability to do whatever job I get?

Thanks muchly.

My two cents as someone who almost became an anthropologist. Yes, you need a PhD to work as an anthropologist. If you cling to the familiar, I can’t imagine why you would be attracted to anthropology.

One of my undergraduate degrees was in cultural anthropology (not wanting to be poor forever, I’m following my other degree at the graduate level). Surprisingly, many companies are hiring anth majors – the draw apparently being that they are supposed to have a keener understanding of group dynamics and diversity. Law schools allegedly like anth degrees, over say Poli Sci.

If you’re interested in research, then a Master’s or PhD will be very helpful if not mandatory. If you’re stopping at a B.A., and the business world doesn’t appeal to you, there are many non-profits that would surely appeal to you.

Here’s the AAA (American Anthropological Assoc.) website on careers for would-be anthropologists. It’ll give you an idea of what’s out there for pure anthropologists, and has links to FAQs on jobs in the field.

I’m not an anthropologist, but my best friend is. She works as an archaeologist for a state government, has a masters in Anthropology, and makes a pretty good living doing it. She also lovesher work, including the way it takes her outdoors. Oh, and Daojawan, she’s also on the shy side, although less so than when we were in high school and college, but it’s what she’s wanted to do as long as I’ve known her, and I don’t think she’s found shyness to be handicap.

It’s a neat field! If you can afford the graduate work, I’d say go for it.


Undergrad and masters degrees in–yep–cultural anthropology, specialization in cultural change.
It was (is) my consuming love that morphed into…librarianship.
(Teaches one fear, hmmm?)
Actually, the essence is very similar: a bent toward rigorously informed synthesis, i.e. natural havens for generalists with attitude.
Obviously YMMV but my path was determined by several factors. The only direct application is academia, i.e. a Ph.D. Which is just the first step. And (sorry, nerd here) the easiest. It’s just another degree. That’s just the entrance hurdle.
Make no mistake, the academic infighting and assassination would horrify mob bosses. The academy is a bell jar ecosytem of its own: too many hungry, intelligent predators (egos) in search of too few resources.
I don’t want to steer you away…just warn you. Loving the field and immense ability isn’t enough. Surviving takes applied–and subtle–instincts to just pursue the knowledge that interests you.

That’s the direct route.

Would I do it again, pour two (self-funded) degrees into anthropology? (snicker, snicker)
Betchyer ASS I would. In a red-hot second. It isn’t the easiest route but by damned if isn’t fine–for life.

No matter the route your river flows, knowledge isn’t wasted. I didn’t fit the academy–but what anthro taught me rocketed me through pursuits ranging from law enforcement, insurance, retailing, librarianship…and everyday life.

Follow your heart. It’ll work out in the end. Knowledge and zest are never wasted on anyone seeking them. The most careful, deliberate plans can fall to pieces. (NOBODY can predict gonzo happenstance.) But human passion, grit and flexiblility…miracles can happen.

So…a direct route to stability, respect, etc? Nah. But as an investment for potential? Nothing finer.


I have a BA in Anthropology (focus in Religion). I elected not to continue with it to grad school because, frankly, I was irritated with the way it is treated at the upper levels. My senior seminar, which was supposed to be at a grad level, was entitled Space, Place, Culture & Power. We discussed modernism and postmodernism and read Michel Foucault and all sorts of cultural theory. A bit of research revealed that this is pretty much a common trend in graduate programs - let’s talk about extremely esoteric theories, rather than actually going out and learning about how people live, which was what attracted me to the subject in the first place. Not that it wasn’t intellectually stimulating, but I had no desire to spend the rest of my life doing this. It was pure mental masturbation.

FTR, I am planning to go to grad school for Near/Middle Eastern Studies. I am sure my anthropology degree will prove to be extremely useful.

Many anth students feel the same way, and don’t want to just go on to study theory for years and years. If that’s the case, I recommend looking into school’s that give M.A.A. degrees (Master’s in Applied Anthropology). This has an intense focus on using anth in the real world even during your studies (anywhere from your hometown, to New Guinea), and is more useful for those who want to get out and do fieldwork. Check around, since there are only a handful of universities that offer the degree.