Anthropology Department

Why Study Anthropology?

Anthropology is one of the few areas of study to combine fascinating course work with practical career training. The study of “who we are and how we came to be that way” not only provides a well-rounded Liberal Arts education but also gives students an edge on many careers and jobs in today’s globally competitive world. In these times of narrow specialization, anthropological study is refreshingly broad.

Another tangible benefit of taking anthropology courses is the training you will receive in a distinctive data collecting method known as participant-observation. You will learn to observe, record and describe complex social behavior as it happens. Many anthropology courses, and especially the anthropology field terms in Tasmania and Fiji, incorporate hands-on research, involving active participation in the community. Such cross-cultural experience is increasingly attractive to many employers, from social service organizations to multinational corporations.

Union’s anthropology faculty have conducted research in and have first-hand knowledge of a broad range of societies including Papua New Guinea, Barbados, England, Ireland, Corsica, Fiji, Japan, Mexico, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the United States. Within these societies we have studied tribal peoples, Native Americans, university faculty, the urban poor, the elderly, peasants, fishers, migrants, entrepreneurs, itinerants and Gypsies, sumo wrestlers, and professional baseball players, to name a few.

A bachelors degree in anthropology signifies that you have a solid liberal arts background with a special awareness and understanding of ethnic and cultural differences–skills which qualify you for work in many fields of business and for further professional training whether it be in anthropology, international relations, sustainable development, or a variety of other fields.

Most professional anthropologists with advanced degrees are employed in research and teaching positions at colleges and universities, and some in museums. In recent years, more anthropologists have begun to use their training in nonacademic occupations. Anthropologists now work in federal and state government, with international agencies (AID, Oxfam, World Bank), in school systems and businesses, for research firms, and in administrative jobs as social analysts, managers or program officers.

Listed below are some of the careers of former Union anthropology students. As you can see from the variety of careers on this list, majoring in anthropology does not bind you to becoming a social scientist. In fact, the department does not see itself as imparting a set of professional skills so much as educating our majors to see the world through the eyes of a social scientist. In large measure, this involves teaching students to see events and situations in a variety of contexts, ranging from culture’s effect on personal experience to the comparative historical view of world events. Through anthropology, students learn to view human events from a number of perspectives and to develop the analytical and problem solving skills necessary for any of the careers listed below and many more.

Selected occupations of former anthropology students:

  • Anthropology professor
  • Teacher
  • Attorney
  • Applied anthropologist
  • Peace Corps
  • Vista
  • Journalist
  • Researcher for an Alaskan native corporation
  • Editor of an alumni magazine
  • Environmental law
  • Documentary film maker