Anthropology Degree: No Bones About It

Please forgive us while we reenact the opening sequence to the Fox show, Bones. We may or may not fancy ourselves to be a potential stand in for forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan. Ok, ok since we will never become a rad forensic anthropologist with a super hot FBI agent husband, we might as well tell you all about earning an anthropology degree! If that sounds good to you, keep on reading! If it doesn’t sound good to you, keep on reading anyway!

Anthropology Degree

Anthropology is the fascinating study of humans and their behavior. This is a field that allows you to go back in time to explore humans from cultural, societal, biological, evolutionary and linguistic perspectives. If you have ever questioned how behavior of humans has changed over time, how people and different societies has functioned and moved across the world along with many other things, then anthropology just may be the right degree for you.

Today we are going to tell you all about the fascinating anthropology degree options. We have thrown in some other interesting information as well, so keep your eyes peeled for some fun facts. We have packed a lot of information into this piece, so without further ado – here is all that you need to know about earning an anthropology degree!

Different Types of Anthropology

One of the really cool things about earning a degree in anthropology is that you don’t have just once avenue of study to travel down. There are actually a lot of different anthropological studies to tackle and specific degree types that you are able to earn as a result. There are four main areas of study that you will be able to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in, plus countless areas to specialize in. Let’s see what they are now!


anthropology2Did you know that archaeology is under the anthropological umbrella? Yep, it’s probably one of the most popular sub fields, but most people don’t realize they are in the same family. The study of archaeology is one that delves into the physical remnants of past civilizations and people. If you would like to work in the field, this is the degree path for you! You will have the opportunity to explore dig sites and unearth buried artifacts that were long since forgotten. Archaeology will allow you to use excavation techniques that are integral to preserving the integrity of the environment and the pieces that you find. You will spend a good amount of time in laboratories studying the interesting and ancient artifacts that you unearth.


Physical anthropology is often referred to as biological anthropology, which is another popular field of study. Physical anthropology actually encompasses a lot of different types of work. You may decide that forensic anthropology is of interest to you and set out to analyze the remains of humans and aid law enforcement in determining the cause of death. Other physical anthropologists work with wildlife organizations to determine how animals died and if there is any evidence of poaching. For the most part though, physical anthropologists work on archaeological sites in the hopes of digging up clues about ancient remains. You may have seen the work of physical anthropologists without even realizing it as they are the main guys and gals that perform facial reconstruction on the skulls of victims. These reconstructions often help find the identity of once missing persons.


Cultural anthropology is very interesting and is focused more on the modern world and how societies function within it. This is a field that requires a lot of research and not just the easy kind that you can write down on a piece of paper. Most cultural anthropologists spend a lot of time conducting research in the field while you are submersed in the culture that you are studying. It’s totally common to even live among the culture you are studying for weeks, months or if you are really dedicated to your field of study, years. There is a fine balance that has to be struck by the anthropologist and this can be rather difficult. The balance between studying the society or culture as objectively as possible while living with the people can be super hard. The data that is collected from this research has proven time and time again to be invaluable though.


The study of the languages of the world and most importantly, those that are considered “dead” is handed over to anthropologists that specialize in linguistic studies. These are the scientists that have been able to decipher and translate many ancient pictograms, codices, scrolls and books that came from long lost civilizations. Linguists are also able to help us to better understand how ancient and current societies use language to communicate.

Where Can I Work With My Degree?

forensic_update_01It’s pretty common for those with anthropology degrees to work in the public and even the not for profit sectors. In fact, many branches of Civil Service, local government, charities, central government bodies, universities, international organizations, museums and various other organizations employ anthropologists. Let’s take a more in depth look at some of the potential careers options for you once you have completed your degree.

International Aid and Development Worker

Working as an international aid and development worker will require you to try various way of meeting the needs of people and their communities around the world. There will be tasks in this position that range from administration, research, fundraising, consultancy, advocacy work, training, relief aid and analyst work. It is also common for those in this area of work to fulfill professional positions in health care, medicine, engineering and planning.

University Professor

You can definitely become a university professor with an anthropology degree. You will need to have a Ph.D. as well as some teaching experience in order to get a position. You can always start out teaching at a high school level which allows teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification as proof of capability.

Social Researcher

If you are interested in research then conducting it on a social level may be right up your alley! In this position you will plan, design and manage different social projects with the hopes of gaining some insight into the social interaction of groups of people. You will use a variety of tools to help you conduct this research efficiently. Many social researchers use computer software to aid them in logging all of their data and for further analysis.

Local Government Officer

A lot of state and local government offices employ anthropologists in profession positions. You may be able to earn a position that allow you to work in depth in the community and aid citizens with various needs such as housing, finance, human resources, education, planning, transport, tourism, library studies, regeneration, social work and health care needs.

Charity Officer

As a charity officer you will work as a trustee for a charity and will assist in many different areas You will likely be able to show your skills as a project manager, in business development, in the finance department, marketing, public relations, fund raising and even helping to monitor and manage volunteers.

Museum Work

Working in a museum is a wonderful and ideal place to show off your anthropological skills. You may be able to snag a curator position with ease and even act as an exhibition organizer, education officer and conservator. You will likely need a post graduate degree to work in this setting, so keep that in mind when you are debating over whether to continue plugging along in school for a bit longer.

Community Development Worker

Working in community development will allow you to establish a link between communities and various other organizations within the community. In this position you will work to address inequality and create projects that will target these trouble areas to find a solution. It is common to work with sections of the community that are culturally, economically or geographically disadvantaged when compared to the majority of other citizens.

Anthropology Degree Options

Today we want to deviate from our normal format and tell you about some of the degree options in anthropology and what they entail rather than about degree levels. We hope you like this interesting new spin we are putting on this section today. Ready? Here we go!

Cultural Anthropology Degree

Ashford University offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology degree and from the comfort of your own home at that! This online degree is designed to help students accomplish some of the most important skills that anthropologists can have. Here is what you will learn while working towards you cultural anthropology degree at Ashford University:

  • Understand the scope of the essential topics of cultural anthropology such as gender and conflict
  • Effectively explain how the many different cultural systems are constructed differently in the many human groups around the world
  • Examine the role that anthropology plays in our world and how we can use it to examine contemporary cultures both in the United States and globally
  • Examine, evaluate and explain the important ethical principles and guidelines that are essential to successful working in the anthropology field
  • You will finish you degree with the ability to incorporate all that you have learned thus far into you research and data collecting

Now that we know what you will walk away with after you slave over your textbooks and laptop for four years, how about we take a look at some of the cool classes that you can take? Here are a few course options:

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: In this course, you will learn all about the basics of cultural anthropology and how you can learn about human behavior, social order, belief systems and socio/political strategies.
  • Anthropology of War: This is a pretty interesting class too! You will study the nature of war in pre-industrial and postmodern societies. This course will allow you to examine war from an anthropological perspective
  • Anthropology of Gender: This course will examine gender roles and how the vary from society to society. There is an in depth look of how different cultures view “femaleness” and “maleness”

Forensic Anthropology Degree

The Boston University of Medicine offers a Master of Science in Forensic Anthropology degree. This is a graduate degree program that trains future forensic anthropologists in methods of biological anthropology theory, taphonomy, human anatomy, crime scene investigation and of course, methods of human identification.

There is a heavy emphasis placed upon students training in osteology (the study of bones), excavation methods and criminal case work is covered as well. For most students, it takes 42 credit hours to complete this Masters of Science degree, but your time in school won’t be spent solely in a classroom. You will have ample opportunities to apply your skills in real settings and in the field. This hands-on experience in laboratories or outdoor research facilities will totally prepare you for your future.

You won’t be able to escape taking some classes in this degree program, but as we are sure you can imagine, the classes are super interesting.  Take a look at some of the classes offered at the Boston University Medical Center:

  • Taphonomy: This taphonomy course will teach students all about decomposition and the different processes of it. You will also learn about how to estimate the postmortem interval, forensic entomology and the effects that scavengers and weather have on tissue and bone
  • Bioarchaeology: This is a pretty intense course that will educate students about human osteology and the study of anatomy over great lengths of time. A lot of students like to pair this course with their zooarchaelogy class to get as much knowledge out of it as possible. There is great emphasis places on hard tissue biology and the function and anatomy of the musculoskeletal anatomy

Awesome Anthologists

To add a little bit of fuel to your fire and drive to go to school for an anthropology degree, we figured it is the perfect time to tell you about some pretty awesome anthropologists. All of the people that we have included on our little list here were incredibly important to bringing this interesting field to the great place it is in today. You will probably recognize some of the names on this list and for those that you don’t recognize, consider it something cool and new to learn.

Franz Boas (1858 to 1942)

German born anthropologist, Franz Boas, is known in the field as the “father of modern cultural anthropology”. He is responsible for helping Columbia University’s anthropology department get off the ground. Boas also had a hand in teaching some of the other amazing anthropologists on our list like Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. He was able to bring outdated beliefs current and aid integral theories of the field into action. He essentially helped to develop new and exciting ways to observe and analyze the human race.

Eric Wolf (1926-1999)

Eric Wolf moved to the United States with his family from Vienna, Austria in an attempt to escape the violence that was rampant anti-Semite populated Europe. He took up studying anthropology and later used his love of history as part of his cultural research. He was a fan of Karl Marx and many of his research projects where influenced by his ideals. He traveled a great deal throughout Puerto Rico, Mexico and Europe where he studied peasant communities and the connection to the larger societal system. He wrote a book entitled, “Europe and the People without History”.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891 to 1960)

Zora Neale Hurston is a favorite on our list and we’re not afraid to say it! Long before she became a celebrated writer and a pioneer for African American female authors, she was an anthropologist. She was highly respected as a cultural anthropologist and soon was considered to be one of the most preeminent minds in the field. She studied anthropology at Barnard College and graduated from Columbia University. Her work largely focused on the culture and folklore from her home state of Florida as well as that of the American South, Haiti and the Caribbean.

Paul Farmer (1959 to ?)

Paul Farmer is not only a very well respected anthropologist, but also an avid human rights activist and physician. He is actively to this day working to provide health care for some of the poorest people in the world. Farmer is best known for being a medical anthropologist. He spent a lot of time conducting research in Haiti, which is undoubtedly once of the poorest and more poverty stricken countries in the world. He is also the co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH), an organization that helps to provide medical care based upon the socioeconomic situation of the community.

Ruth Benedict (1887 – 1948)

Ruth Benedict was one of the first women to ever earn international recognition for her anthropological work and her studies on culture and personality. She studied literature and poetry initially as an undergraduate student. She took a short sabbatical from school and returned to pursue a doctorate degree in anthropology. She was lucky enough to have Franz Boas serve as her mentor and teacher. He also played a large part in her professional success at Columbia University. Benedict studied tribe in the American Southwest and used much of her findings to writer her super popular book, “Patterns of Culture”. She also spent time working in the U.S. Office of War during World War II, which provided her with a wealth of information for her final book, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”.

Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 to 2009)

Possibly one of the most famous anthropologists ever is Claude Levi-Strauss. He is often referred to as the “founder of structuralism” and has no difficulties in making a name for himself well beyond the confines of anthropology. He originally studied law, philosophy and sociology at the University of Paris. He later went on to a teaching job in Sao Paolo, Brazil that proved to be life changing. While in Sao Paolo he spent years studying and collecting data on the native groups in that area and those surrounding it. This is where his theory on structuralism was formed and flourished. His also made his mark on the anthropological world by dropping his monster four volume work, “Mythologiques” in which he examined the structure and duality of primitive tribes.

Margaret Mead (1901 to 1978)

Easily thought of as America’s own rebel anthropologist, we have Margaret Mead. She is known for her go with the flow writing style, eyebrow raising research on sex and her brassy personality have made Mead the anthropologist for little girls to look up too (sorry our inner feminist jumped out there).  Mead worked closely with Ruth Benedict and Franz Boas, whom both served as her mentors at Columbia University. She was able to do a lot of research in the South Pacific and spent a lot of time in Samao. She felt that there was a far greater impact on adolescent behavior than just biology. She later traveled to Papau New Guinea and Bali where she gathered a ton of research that helped her to write more than 30 books and hundreds upon hundreds of other publications.

One More Thing Before You Go…

Break out the popcorn, Homies because it is time to kick back and watch a movie! We went for a cruise on the old YouTube and we found a really awesome video for you guys today!  It’s short and sweet, but packed with information. Take a few minutes to watch it!

Sources and Recommended Reading

We are sharing our sources with you for the greater good of humanity! No, not really, but it sounded good when we typed it out. We are just feeling generous and learned to play well with others in preschool. Happy reading, future anthropologists!

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