Study Anthropology: Master's, PhD & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in anthropology? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and anthropology master's and Ph.D. degrees.
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Study Anthropology: Master's and Ph.D. Degrees at a Glance

Anthropology is the study of human life and behavior, and anthropologists work to figure out why humans act the way they do. The scope of this social science includes analyzing religious beliefs of an indigenous culture to figuring out how a company can effectively market a product to a target audience. If you are fascinated with history and culture, a master's or Ph.D. degree in this field could be a good fit for you.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job prospects for anthropologists to grow 21% from 2010-2020. In 2011, according to the BLS, the median annual salary for anthropologists was $56,000. The majority of anthropologists, the BLS states, were employed in the field of scientific research.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in working in the U.S. as anthropologists People who want to work in academia as professors or researchers; individuals interested in working abroad as anthropologists
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Anthropologist ($56,000)* - University professor ($75,000)*
Time to Completion 2-3 years full-time 3-5 years after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 36 credit hours in graduate level anthropology courses
- Master's thesis
- Comprehensive exams
- Foreign language requirement
- Roughly 4-6 courses
- Comprehensive exams
- Dissertation
- Fieldwork
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in anthropology or related field Bachelor's or master's degree in anthropology or related field
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degrees in Anthropology

The curriculum of a master's program in anthropology provides you with a strong foundation in a general anthropology subject as well as in a chosen sub-field of that subject. Cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archeology and physical anthropology are the four main anthropology subjects. When applying to schools, you typically choose one of these subjects to concentrate your studies upon as well as a more specific area of specialization within that field, such as Cuban culture or the evolution of language in Japan.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Work is available in a variety of settings, including government agencies, museums, corporations and non-profit organizations
  • Programs give you a moderate amount of control over what you study; you can choose both a sub-field and an area of specialization/culture in which to specialize
  • Degrees are available in multiple formats, including in online/distance learning formats that accommodate your schedule

Cons

  • This is a fairly limiting degree, and you will likely only be able to work as an anthropologist after graduation
  • Anthropology programs can be highly competitive, with some schools accepting only 15 applicants annually
  • A master's degree will not qualify you for teaching, research or overseas jobs in this field

Courses and Requirements

The coursework you complete in a master's-level anthropology program depend on your area of specialization. Coursework for a student studying cultural anthropology, for example, differs from coursework completed by an archaeology student. Some general courses you might take include:

  • Exploring non-western culture
  • Quantitative methods in anthropology
  • Anthropology of tourism
  • Anthropological thought and praxis
  • Ethnographic and qualitative methods of anthropology

In addition to coursework, you participate in fieldwork opportunities or complete an internship. You also write a thesis.

Online Availability

Online master's degree programs in anthropology are not as common as campus-based programs, but are available. The coursework you complete in an online program is similar to coursework in an on-campus program.

Stand Out With This Degree

According to the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology (NAPA), technology is closing the boundaries and distance that exist between people and cultures. Technology also expedites the process of researching and documenting information. Because technology is becoming an essential part of the field, familiarizing yourself with computer processors and software programs could give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs and provide you with useful skills to apply to your work. To gain this familiarity, consider completing courses in using software programs that relate to anthropology or which are commonly used in the field.

Ph.D. Degrees in Anthropology

Ph.D. programs in anthropology are designed to teach you how to take research methods and concepts of anthropology and use them to contribute new information to your area of expertise or specialization. In these programs you conduct research, complete fieldwork and take advanced courses to prepare you to serve as an innovator in the field in a career in fieldwork, education or research. A Ph.D. is often necessary to work outside of the United States, so earning this degree could open up opportunities to work abroad after graduation.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Work is available in diverse settings
  • Earning a Ph.D. in anthropology enables you to work abroad in the field
  • The advanced nature of doctoral programs gives you the opportunity to learn as much as possible about your chosen specialization

Cons

  • According to the BLS, you could spend between 12-30 months working solely on field research, making this a time consuming degree program
  • You could spend 10-12 years in school to complete your degree
  • Online options are unavailable, requiring that you complete all courses on campus

Courses and Requirements

Though the bulk of your time in a Ph.D. program consists of conducting fieldwork, researching and writing a dissertation. However, you also take a variety of courses and educational seminars. As with master's-level programs, the coursework you complete will depend on your area of study and specialization. Some general courses you may take include:

  • History of anthropological theory
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Human ecology
  • Race, gender and social justice
  • Issues in anthropology

Online Availability

At this time, there are no Ph.D. programs in anthropology available online. As technology continue to develop and more schools expand their distance learning program options, however, this may change. Attending an on-campus program allows you to conduct research at your school's library and interact with professors.

Stand Out With This Degree

Funding for anthropological studies, expeditions and other endeavors typically comes from government or private grants. To receive a grant to fund your work, you will need to possess excellent writing and organizational skills so that you can write professional grant proposals. Taking elective or extracurricular courses in writing or communications can help improve these skills.

You might also consider completing advanced statistics courses or including statistics analysis in your research and dissertation. Being able to gather and analyze statistical information, particularly using computer programs, is a skill that could serve you well, particularly given the increasing use of computers in the field.

Popular Schools

  • Syracuse, NY

    Syracuse University

  • Evanston, IL

    Northwestern University

  • New Haven, CT

    Yale University

  • Saint Louis, MO

    Washington University in St Louis

  • Chapel Hill, NC

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Champaign, IL

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Chicago, IL

    University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Honolulu, HI

    University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Boulder, CO

    University of Colorado Boulder

  • Chicago, IL

    University of Chicago

Featured Schools

Yale University

Washington University in St Louis

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Hawaii at Manoa