A Career with an Anthropology Degree

Getting a Job

Many anthropology students struggle to understand what kinds of jobs they can get after graduating and how to get them. This document is meant to help. Students graduating with a B.A. in anthropology have access to most of the same jobs that students who have B.A. degrees in other social sciences such as sociology, psychology, or political sciences can get – at the undergraduate level most B.A. degrees in the social sciences are comparable and in order to get jobs specific to those professions, students usually need graduate degrees. Therefore, it should not be more difficult to get a job with your B.A. in anthropology than it is for someone with a B.A. in other social science disciplines.  

While pursuing your B.A. or graduate degree in anthropology, you should work to acquire training in skills that are valued in the workplace, like Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistical analysis, qualitative data collection and analysis, archeological field and lab experience, ability in a foreign language, and facility with commonly used software such as Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and NVivo. You may be able to pursue a minor in another area of study while you get your B.A. degree to enhance your employability; for example, in marketing, forensic science, public health, social media, labor studies, or public administration. You should also develop your public speaking and writing skills, which are highly prized by most employers. These skill sets are often just as important in getting the job you want as a college degree. Post-graduate certificates can help you gain skills after graduating in things like GIS, paralegal training, or court interpreting.  

Students graduating with a B.A. in anthropology can get jobs in human and social services, business and marketing, the nonprofit sector, unions, contract archeology, research, and administrative positions, especially if they have some work experience in those fields. Students wishing to teach children or in high school should pursue a teaching credential after graduating. Students wishing to teach in a community college or university should get an M.A. or Ph.D. after graduating. An M.A. in anthropology can help qualify you for more advanced positions in research, museums, education, community development, cultural resources management, human resources, and business. In addition, a graduate degree may qualify you for higher pay in whatever field you pursue.  

The key to getting a job is not simply getting the degree, but having hustle! You need to be able to articulate to potential employers what skills you have from your studies (for example, understanding people from different cultural backgrounds, mediating conflict between people from different cultures, working closely with particular subcultures, critical thinking and writing skills, qualitative or quantitative research skills, etc.). Because most people do not have a clear idea of what anthropologists do, you need to be able to explain this to them in a direct and clear way. Practice talking about anthropology and your skill sets with friends, professors, advisors, and family members to be sure that you are confident and easy to understand. 

Your resume should indicate your skill set and academic preparation. Jobs, internships, and volunteer positions that align with your career goals will help you get the job you want. Invest in finding those internships and volunteer positions even if they do not pay. You can often volunteer a few hours a week and get great experience in the workplace, references, and more to put on your resume. Get feedback on your resume or c.v. (an academic resume) from professors.  

Professional associations like the American Anthropological Association, the Society for American Archeology, the Society for Applied Anthropology, or the American Association of Physical Anthropologists will have resources on their website for getting a job and may even have job listings there. Some of these associations have mentoring programs for recent graduates to make the transition from being a student to being a working professional. Most have membership options for students and you should consider joining.  

Another great way to develop your professional career path is to search for your ideal jobs and see what kinds of degrees, training, and experience they require. Then you can work your way backward towards obtaining the degrees and training and experience you need to get the job. Ask your professors what kinds of jobs students in their subfields usually obtain and how they get them. Reach out to professional anthropologists doing the kind of work that you want to do and get their advice, too.  

Building Professional Networks

Professional networks are key to hearing about job openings, getting some name recognition, and getting a job. When you meet a graduate student, professor, or professional in your field or area of interest, you should provide them with your contact information and ask for theirs. You can follow up later with an email or other form of communication letting them know that it was nice to meet them. If they go to the same events or conferences as you, try to connect more than once. Keep a list of important contacts for future use. Introduce yourself to new people whenever you are in professional settings.  

Think about creating LinkedIn and Academia.edu accounts. Both apps are professional networking sites. Make sure that you maintain the privacy of your personal social media and present a professional face on the accounts that can be identified with you.  

Resources at Cal State LA

The anthropology department maintains a bulletin board on the wall near the department office door that has listings of job openings, field schools, and internships. Be sure the check the board regularly for updates. The campus alumni association has a mentoring program that will match students with alum in their fields of interest. Contact the Career Center which offers job listings, help with your resume and cover letter, online sites to post your resume, and training sessions.