Career Information

Jobs and Careers

Anthropology Career and Graduate School handout ( pdf)

"Anthropologist Wanted"

   The most difficult and frustrating moment for a student adviser comes when the graduating senior appears at the office door in a state of panic because it has finally sunk in that s/he will soon need a job. Yet you probably have never opened a newspaper and seen an "Anthropologist Wanted" section in it.  Like any career, putting your skills to use in anthropology needs to be researched and planned! 

Skills Gained

   Students in anthropology acquire functional or transferable abilities as well as specific work-content skills. They acquire skills useful in many careers rather than just skills applicable to one job. Anthropology graduates acquire oral and written communication skills, research skills, "people" or "social/cultural" skills and other transferable skills which are important in many jobs in federal, state and local government agencies, in private organizations, educational institutions, business and industries, and in international agencies and services. Social facility, critical thinking, and skills in oral and written expression are cultivated by anthropological training. The kaleidoscope of careers reflects the emphasis on breadth, diversity, and independence of thought suited to the job of the future. 

Careers in Anthropology and Archaeology, from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011)

Options for GVSU Graduates

GVSU graduates can select from several options. 

   First, as liberal arts majors, students can take advantage of employment opportunities for which they must have a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of sciences degree and skills in international, multicultural or cross-cultural contexts.

   Second, a B.A. or B.S. in anthropology prepares students to enter graduate programs leading to a Master's Degree or a Ph.D.  For example, a biomedical anthropologist can work in both the public and private sectors in such areas as applied anthropometry, biomedicine, epidemiology, nutrition, zoological gardens, and museums. 

   Third, the area of contract and survey archaeology offers opportunities for anthropology graduates to work for a private agency of professional archaeologists.

   Finally, some students use their anthropology major as the core of a degree in another field or for teacher certification.

Career Questions - What to Think About

   1. How did you get interested in anthropology?
   2. How do you explain anthropology to other people? 3. What skills have you acquired through anthropology? 4. What aspects of anthropology are you interested in? 5. What fields outside of anthropology share these same interests? 6. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? 7. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? 8. Is there an organization or newsletter for people interested in these things? 9. Who has graduated from this department and is interested in the same things I am? 10. What internships/field experience can I get that will help me get the job I want?

   Links to professional associations and other university departments and what they say about jobs in anthropology:

   Careers: The American Anthropology Association (AAA)
   Anthropology for the 21st Century (AAA)
   What Can you Do With a Degree in Anthropology? (AAA)
   What Can you Do With This Degree: Anthropology/Archaeology? 
   (Career Counseling Services, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, 2007)

Applied Anthropology



Workplaces: Academia
   The majority of America's estimated 15,000 professional anthropologists work in higher education, but there are many other career options for trained anthropologists. A growing number of academic anthropologists find careers in other University departments or programs, such as medicine, epidemiology, public health, ethnic, community or area studies, linguistics, cognitive psychology, and neural science.

Workplaces: Applied Jobs in the Public and Private Sectors

   Off the campus, applied anthropology offers nearly as many lucrative applications of anthropological knowledge. The nonacademic employment of cultural anthropologists is expanding, as the demand for research on humans and their behavior increases. The American Anthropological Association (AAA) has found that, since 1985, half of all new PhDs in anthropology have taken nonacademic positions--for example, in research institutes, nonprofit associations, government agencies, world organizations and private corporations. An applied anthropologist may be asked to study the eating habits of humans in American fast-food restaurants or to compare mother-reported prenatal practices in different countries.

   Advanced degrees can lead to professional work in and outside of academia. Anthropology graduates are often regarded as having excellent preparation for professional training in Law, Medicine, Public Health, School Administration, and Urban Planning, among others. Anyone considering continuing their education in Anthropology or any related field should do some early research on the kinds of background, skills, training, course work, etc. that various graduate and professional programs or employers look for. For example, contract archaeologists are ex-students who came out of school with specific skills; they attend field schools, they specialize, they acquire lab skills. Calculus and statistics are not required by the major, however the student who finds him/herself later working in business or public administration will find that MBA and MPA programs require them as prerequisites.

   Anthropology graduates continue to be employed in government services as well as in private organizations with programs in developing nations. Graduates may also find jobs in such international agencies and service organizations as: Agency for International Development, the Department of State, and the Office for Refugee Affairs. Business and industry employ Anthropology graduates in positions requiring the transferable skills for dealing with labor unions, government, community groups, minority and women's groups, health and policy issues, consumer and environmental groups, international agencies, foreign countries, and the media. Some contact groups include the American Anthropological Association, the Peace Corps, UNESCO, United Way, Institute for Food Policy Studies (Food First), Grass Roots International, Cultural Survival, and Bureau of Land Management. These addresses may help:

   Food First has two publications which can be very useful: Alternatives to the Peace Corps which includes a good section on the types of skills sought by social service organizations (i.e. how to prepare as an undergraduate), also there is a reference section in the back; and Education For Action which details Graduate Schools that focus on social change. Plan Ahead!

Job Positions

Recent anthropology graduates are employed as:

Agricultural extension work  Archaeologist  Community development officer  Corporate communications consultant  Director of county Planned Parenthood  Drug abuse counselor  Education officer (overseas)  Employee relations specialist  Family service counselor  Government research analyst  Insurance claims adjuster  Intake caseworker for the Red Cross  International visitors escort/consultant  Market researcher/analyst  Media specialist (film, radio, TV)  Multicultural education  Museum curator/technician  Parent training consultant  Park service supervisor/director  Peace Corps area director  Personnel management specialist  Probation officer  Rural development officer  Social service agency planner  Social insurance representative  Social service agency director  Staff training specialist  Teacher  Travel consultant  Youth Authority staff service 

Books on Careers in Anthropology

  • Briller, S. H., & Goldmacher, A. (2009) Designing an Anthropology Career: Professional Development Exercises. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. (ordered but not yet available)
  • Camenson, Blythe (2005) Great Jobs for Anthropology Majors, 2nd ed. (GVSU e-book) McGraw-Hill Professional.
  • Guerron-Montero, C. M. (2008). Careers in Applied Anthropology in the 21st Century: Perspectives from Academics and Practitioners. (GVSU e-book) Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
  • Gwynne, Margaret A. (2002) Anthropology Career Resources Handbook. Allyn and Bacon. (Zumberge GN 397.5 .G993)
  • Institute for Career Research. (2007) Careers in anthropology, archaeology. (GVSU e-book) Chicago: Institute for Career Research.
  • Nolan, Riall W. (2003) Anthropology in Practice: Building a Career Outside the Academy (Directions in Applied Anthropology). Lynne Riener. (Zumberge GN397.5 .N63)
  • Omohundro, John (2001) Careers in Anthropology. McGraw-Hill. (Zumberge GN41.8 .O56)
  • Sabloff, Paula L. (2009) Careers in Anthropology :Profiles of Practitioner Anthropologists (GVSU e-book). Ebooks Corporation
  • Stephens, W. Richard (2002) Careers in Anthropology: What an Anthropology Degree Can Do for You.  Allyn and Bacon. (Zumberge GN 41.8 .C37)

Contact: Deana Weibel,

Page last modified November 16, 2016