What is cultural anthropology?

Cultural anthropology is concerned with the study of contemporary human culture - the learned, shared ways of life of people in different societies. In spite of popular stereotypes, cultural anthropologists do not exclusively study exotic tribes in remote areas of the world. As the American Anthropological Association notes, anthropology provides global information and thinking skills critical to succeeding in the 21st century. Contemporary cultural anthropologists are interested in people everywhere! We can and do study people in all cultures - western and non-western, urban and rural, industrialized and non-industrialized. This research even extends into critical aspects of our own society. A few recent examples include: 

Why should you consider cultural anthropology? People are noticing us!

The broad, holistic perspective of anthropology can actually give you an edge over people trained in other fields that look at elements of culture (e.g., economics, politics, health) separately. Flexibility is the key. Cultural anthropologists are trained to view cultures as integrated systems and that helps tremendously in seeing possible interconnections between different elements. A quick review of recent news stories show that non-anthropologists, especially in the business world, have finally begun to recognize this potential. 

What can you expect to do with an anthropology degree?

That's a very natural thing to ask. The Department of Anthropology at the University of Northern Kentucky, the American Anthropological Association, and Mayfield Publishing Company have constructed detailed websites to deal with this and related questions. Many students choose to go on for graduate training in anthropology. Those who do may ultimately teach at the community college level, with a Master's degree, or college/university level, with a Ph.D. degree. Students who go through applied anthropology M.A. and Ph.D. programs, such as those at the University of South Florida , Northern Arizona University, or the University of Maryland, will likely have success (as high as 75%) finding employment in areas closely related to their training. Some students may go on to pursue graduate degrees in other fields, such as international relations or business administration. The Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley notes that "students in anthropology acquire functional or transferable abilities rather than specific work-content skills. They acquire skills useful in many careers rather than just skills applicable to one job." The Cal Berkeley website also has a list of fields in which recent anthropology graduates have found employment. You might be very surprised when you consider the range of options. 

What can you do to increase your chances while still a student?

Consider the possibility of a double major or at least a minor in a complementary field. Of course, what you select will depend heavily upon your area(s) of interest. Consult your advisor. Possibilities at Minnesota State University Moorhead  might include: international business, economics, political science, community health, biology, computer science, and social studies. You should also think about acquiring foreign language and/or computer proficiency. Take courses in technical writing and speech communication to hone your writing and speaking skills - they will serve you well when it comes time to market yourself for a job. Present a paper at some regional professional meetings or MSUM's annual Student Academic Conference. Consider doing an internship and/or a study abroad program. Taking classes alone cannot give you the same experience as getting out there in the real world.  Sooner or later you're going to have to do it anyway! And finally, talk and work with your professors. Stop by and ask questions or just chat. We are here to help but can only do so if you initiate things first.

Interested in knowing more about Cultural Anthropology? Then check out these websites:

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Last updated 09/23/03
by Bruce Roberts