Or, maybe you’re an Anthropology major and have been asked by friends/parents/love interest/in-laws, etc. that dreadful question: “What can you do with an Anthropology degree”?
If these questions have bothered you, then you’ve come to the right place.
The short answer to “What can I do with an Anthropology degree?” is “just about anything.”
No, seriously. An Anthropology degree will open as many or maybe even more doors than most undergraduate majors. But this will only be true if you understand the following three things:
The purpose of this web page is to help you better understand these three things.
(Athough it is not the purpose of this site, you CAN, of course, go into academia with an Anthropology degree and go on to a PhD in Anthropology. If you are interested in this path, please talk directly to a faculty member. We love to reproduce our kind so we’d be more than happy to talk to you in person and help mentor you through that process.)
Right about now, you’re probably saying “no way, what about all those surveys that list Anthropology at the top of the list of ‘worst majors ever’ or at the bottom of the list of ‘most useful majors’?”. Well, it is true that when you look at self-reported surveys, you will find that recently graduated Anthropology majors don’t seem to think very highly of their degree.
But if you take a closer look at these surveys (as any good social scientist should!), you will find that these are self-report surveys. That is, these aren’t surveys of employers who have hired Anthropology majors but instead are simply the reports of the graduates themselves. Considering that Anthropology majors tend to be highly self-critical (and I have much anecdotal evidence to back up this claim!), it is likely that these surveys are capturing this self-criticism and actually tell us very little about the relevance of Anthropology majors for actual employers.
Rather than looking at what self-loathing anthropology majors are saying about their job upon graduation, it would be worthwile to take a look at what employers are saying and doing. You don’t have to search far to find articles like this one this one from businessinsider.com describing why companies are desperate (their words, not mine!) to hire anthropologists, or about consulting firms like Red (described in this Atlantic Monthly article) who are using ethnographic and anthropological methods to help their clients better understand the world, or about cultural anthropologists like Genevieve Bell (described in this The New Yorker article) who are finding awesome jobs in business and industry.
And it doesn’t take much searching to find quotes from leaders in a number of different fields:
Well, I started out in anthropology, so to me how society works, how people put themselves together and make things work, has always been a big interest. Which is where mythology comes from, where religion comes from, where social structure comes from.(George Lucas, at http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/lucas_interview/)
We can quickly see why this is if we look at the skills that you will receive an an Anthro grad and compare them to the skills that employers are looking for.