Skip to Main Content

What is Anthropology? Can I Make A Living At It?

Anthropology is the scientific study of the human species, both past and present. Anthropologists seek to answer the fundamental questions about human nature, such as: how did our kind evolve, and what are the resulting cognitive and physiological structures and behaviors shaping our lives as creative and social animals? Such questions raise more specific questions about dynamic relationships between humans and the world in which we live, including our development, our social relationships, and the ways we plan for the future

The purpose of the undergraduate degree in anthropology at Boise State University is to provide a broad understanding of cultural diversity, human nature and human prehistory. A student with a degree in anthropology has acquired critical analysis skills, oral and written communication skills, “people” skills, and a great understanding of many different cultures that have many applications in public service, political activism, and the private sector. Awareness of the enormous variety of ways in which contemporary and ancient peoples have lived their lives provides insights into the strengths and weaknesses of our own civilization. In this sense anthropology is the most direct approach to a liberal arts education, offering a humanistic as well as a scientific perspective on humankind. In the words of a well-known anthropologist: “Anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the sciences.” Regardless of the career you choose to pursue, anthropology can enrich your understanding of yourself and of the society around you.

Nonetheless, students often ask, “But can I make a living at it?” Because of the exotic nature of some of the more well-known kinds of anthropological research, many students fail to realize that anthropology is a vigorous, accepted social science and a “marketable” liberal arts degree. The primary goal of the undergraduate program in anthropology at Boise State University is to provide a broad liberal arts education which enables the graduate to compete with anyone in the open job market. The skill of “seeing the world as others see it” is applicable in any situation dealing with people – especially people from diverse cultures. Thus, anthropology is an extremely appropriate degree for those interested in international business, diplomatic service, city planning, international or community development, social work, many kinds of medical work, and any other field dealing with culture change, social problems, or other societies. Past graduates from Boise State have used their background in anthropology in careers in medicine, law, special education, social work, community development and business, as well as, of course, anthropology. Students in archaeology have been very successful in finding positions with state and federal governments and private consulting firms.


  • Most professional anthropological jobs require a graduate degree.
  • Those interested in anthropology may specialize in one of its four branches: archaeology, social-cultural anthropology, linguistics, or biological anthropology. Many subfields exist within the larger specialties such as forensic anthropology (a subfield of biological anthropology). Typically students take a general curriculum as an undergraduate and specialize through graduate studies.
  • As the demand for university/college faculty positions decreases, most openings will exist in consulting firms and government agencies.
  • To increase your employment opportunities with a bachelors degree, consider minoring or double majoring in another field such as sociology, biology, business, urban planning, or public administration.
  • Anthropology provides a solid background for a variety of graduate programs including law, medicine, forensics, or genetic counseling. Research admissions requirements and take prerequisite courses.
  • Anthropology is good preparation for jobs that involve people skills and require an understanding of cultural differences.
  • Spend a summer in field school or travel and study other cultures.
  • Volunteer to help with a professor’s research.
  • Gaining relevant work experience through internships, practicums, part-time jobs, or volunteer positions is critical.

Average Starting Salary for Anthropology Degree
American Anthropological Association
Society for American Archaeology
American Association of Physical Anthropologists





Cultural Resource Management
Field Work
♦Environmental/engineering companies
♦Firms specializing in archaeological investigation
♦Federal, state and local government
and city planning offices
♦Historic preservation
♦Field positions require a B.S./B.A. and previous
field experience. Get involved with faculty research or other research
♦Obtain a graduate degree to direct
field crews.
♦May need a willingness to
travel and endure adverse living/working conditions during field studies
or excavations. ♦Working conditions and hours vary with the type of work/research
Cultural Resource Management
Site Management
Compliance Review
Managemnt and Evaluation
Impact Assessment–Social, Environmental
Policy Analysis
Urban Planning
agencies including:
♦Bureau of Indian Affairs
♦Bureau of Land Management
Intelligence Agency
♦Department of Conservation
♦Health and Human Services
and Urban Development
♦Federal Bureau of Investigation
♦National Institutes of Health
Park Service
♦Smithsonian Institute
♦U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
Bureau of Reclamation
♦U.S. Forest Service
♦Historic Preservation Offices
♦Highway Departments
♦Learn federal
or state application procedures.
♦Graduate degree generally required
for higher level positions.
♦Gain related experience through
internships in areas of interest.
♦Develop statistical, analytical
and computer skills and learn various research methodologies.♦Get involved in campus organizations to develop leadership abilities and
interpersonal skills. Consider earning a minor or double major to qualify
for particular areas of interest, e.g. learn a foreign language for translating/interpreting
Program Management/Development
Policy Analysis
Fund Raising/Development
Grant Writing
♦Nonprofit organizations♦Social service agencies
♦Hospitals and medical centers♦Private foundations, e.g. The Ford Foundation
organizations, e.g. The World Health ♦Organization, The International Red
Cross, and the United Nations
♦Seek volunteer and internship positions to gain
♦Hone skills in public speaking, writing, and programming.♦Obtain a degree in counseling for therapy positions.
♦Learn to
work well with people from varying backgrounds.
♦Natural history or history museums:
UniversitiesState, federal or local
♦Archives♦Historical Societies
♦Plan to earn a graduate degree in Anthropology,
Museum Studies, Library Science (with an emphasis on archives) or other
related discipline depending upon specific interests.
♦Gain relevant
experience through internships or volunteering positions in museums.♦Develop a strong attention to detail.
♦Be prepared to relocate
to access the most employment opportunities.
Sales/MarketingHuman Resources
Public Relations
corporations in various industries such as: ♦Banking, retailing, insurance,
financial services, travel and tourism
♦Cultural resource firms♦International companies
♦Consulting firms: management, scientific,
♦Many businesses hire students of “any major” if they have
relevant experience and have developed the skills employers seek.♦Minor in business or another relevant field.
♦Obtain related
experience through internships, summer and part-time jobs.
strong analytical and computer skill.
♦Learn to work well on
a team.
♦Get involved in campus organizations and seek leadership
Student Affairs
Non-classroom Education
♦University research institutes or laboratories♦Campus museums
♦Nature centers
♦Earn a
Ph.D. in Anthropology for university and college faculty positions or an
M.A./M.S. for community college ♦positions
♦Earn a graduate degree
in College Student Affairs, Library/Information Science or related field
for work in student affairs, administration, or libraries.
research experience by assisting professors or participating in independent
♦Maintain a high GPA and develop strong personal recommendations.♦Develop excellent communication and presentation skills.
involved in campus leadership positions such as Resident Assistant, Peer
Advisor, Admissions Tour Guides, Anthropology Club, Archaeology Students

© 1996 The University of Tennessee