University of Wisconsin–Madison

Careers

A major in anthropology can open a multitude of doors for the graduate with a B.A. or B.S. degree. Depending on their focus as undergraduates, anthropology majors can go on to entry-level museum or foundation work as well as work in biotechnology or medical fields. Those with archaeological field experience may go on to work on field crews for cultural resource management firms, although supervisory positions require a graduate degree. For other students who do not go on to graduate work, their training often leads them toward public service, the Peace Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), or similar organizations.

An anthropological perspective can be an asset to those entering the business world, social services, public relations and communications, medicine, and a variety of supervisory positions in various sectors of the economy. Anthropology’s focus on comprehensive breadth is especially valuable to men and women seeking careers in corporate America in realms of strategic planning, decision – making, and program management. Students who have concentrated upon a specific geographical area, its language, and culture may find employment in export – import firms.

Anthropology is now also beginning to be introduced into secondary and elementary school curricula with emphasis on the archaeological, environmental, and cultural dimensions of the discipline. Anthropology’s scope and intellectual roominess can prepare students to make objective, farsighted decisions at the professional level in any career field.

Anthropology majors have been trained to be flexible, quickly learning the “rules of the game” in unfamiliar settings by interviewing and observing as a participant. They know how to find patterns of behavior in a cultural group and have developed social sensitivity to those who are different from the mainstream culture. They have learned to interpret, simplify and contextualize information.

The B.A./B.S. in Anthropology is an ideal stepping-stone to a scholarly career in the social and biological sciences, to professions with a strong international focus, or to careers in law, medicine, and policy.

A Ph.D. in Anthropology is necessary for anyone hoping to teach at the college or university level. In addition, graduate work in biological anthropology can lead to careers in applied anthropometry in the automotive and aerospace industries and with private consulting firms, in museums, in zoos, and in forensic anthropology in the offices of medical examiners or coroners. It can also lead to medical or veterinary school or other work in the field of public health.

Graduate work in archaeology may lead to museum work as well as work for the federal government (e.g. the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management), or in private cultural resource management firms.

Other careers open to individuals with graduate work in anthropology include working for non-profit agencies; researching problems like urban crime, HIV infection and AIDS, refugee resettlement, and domestic violence; and working for agencies that fund anthropological research (e.g. Wenner-Gren, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation), or working as private consultants to business and government.

Resources

Students unsure of which careers to follow are encouraged to talk with faculty in the department and visit the Career Exploration Center, where they will work with advisors to explore their values and interests and connect them with possible career paths.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the career development resources offered through SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science, from help learning how to write a great resume and cover letter to tips on applying for public and private sector jobs to opportunities to practice for interviews. SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science also has advisors available to meet with students, help them explore how an anthropology major opens doors to a wide variety of professional fields, get tips on job, internship, and graduate school searches, and connect with alumni and employers. SuccessWorks is located on the 3rd floor of the University Book Store, 711 State Street.

Additionally, students are encouraged to take Inter-LS 210: Career Development, Taking Initiative, a one-credit course that seeks to connect the benefits of a liberal arts education with career development.