Update: I wrote this post in 2015 as a response to a high school student pondering post-college anthropology major jobs. While being an anthro major in 2021 can still seem an odd choice, Gillian Tett has published Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life which should help to communicate the unique perspective of anthropology. Also see my Hartwick College colleague Professor Namita Sugandhi’s comments on pandemic job trends.
Undergraduate Majors & Anthropology Jobs
In 2015 I got a message from a high school graduate who desperately wanted to be an anthropology major. But worries about the anthropology major jobs, anthropology jobs, and What Anthropologists Do after graduation:
I’ve recently graduated high school and I know for a fact what I want to study in college is anthropology. I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures, origins, languages, ways of thinking in different societies. However, my only problem is that when people ask me what I’m going to do with my degree, I don’t even know myself. I’ve spent countless nights worrying over this and searching for careers.
While I am aware that anthropology is a major that you can either do “everything and nothing” with, I’m struggling to find careers that actually involve anthropology. For example, I know of people who major in anthropology and go on to medical school, law school, or other graduate programs. In the end though, these people do not actually end up with a career that largely deals with anthropology, but an entirely different field. So my question is, realistically (outside of academia and archaeology) are there any careers for a desperate young adult that are largely anthropology focused?
I get this question because one of the most popular posts ever on this blog was the 2012 Anthropology Major: Worst Major for Corporate Tool, Best Major to Change Your Life. I hope it’s popular because the post succinctly reacted to the “anthropology is the worst major” rhetoric. It staked out an optimistic position. The post also outlined some of anthropology’s practical applications. Indeed, anthropology is preparation for “anything.” Finally, the post was realistic about anthropology’s internal issues as well as prospects in a world marked by extreme inequalities.
Nevertheless, the reader question remains pertinent. The American Anthropological Association has a valuable page on anthropology jobs, The Captivating and Curious Careers of Anthropology. Some of the specific anthropology major jobs listed at the bottom of that page involve quite a lot of anthropological skills. And there’s the book by Veronica Strang, What Anthropologists Do (2009).
Updates on Anthropology Major Jobs
See the Disqus comment stream below for some ideas about anthropology jobs. Also note the blog-posts and resources:
- In 2021 I taught an experimental class called “Anthro-at-Work” using the Handbook of Anthropology in Business. As a result I have many more LinkedIn connections to business anthropology.
- The National Association of Practicing Anthropologists features a weekly posting of professional jobs open to anthropologists. Most of these jobs are for anthropologists with advanced degrees. But some of them will be open to undergraduate majors. And the jobs can also be a source of good ideas for applying anthropology.
- 2019, see Should you major in Cultural Anthropology? at Anthropology As… and this great Twitter thread begun by Angela Jenks.
- May 2018, anthropologist David Graeber shared a warning: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.
- In April 2018, Andi Simon argued that The Time is Right for Businesses to Hire Anthropologists: “We don’t have too many anthropologists. We just have to teach them to be relevant in a world that needs them.”
- March 2018, a YouTube Presentation by Kathleen Fuller on Anthropology Careers.
- Also in March 2018, fascinating article about How anthropology can heal the anxiety of our broken relationship with money and ReD Associates: “The Danish firm is, on the surface, a consultancy, but at its core it believes it’s much more than that: a group of creative problem solvers who use anthropology and the social sciences to help companies truly understand their customers on a human level. (And, ultimately, design more relevant products for them.)
- What can you do with an anthropology degree? is a great 2018 summary.
- Great article February 2018 Advice for an Anthropologist Breaking into Business by Shelly Habecker in the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Community.
- In October 2017, see The power of your story… at [Per]Suit of Anthropology: “I share my story here as a way of pivoting this blog–I hope to add to the information out there for anthropologists, who are looking for new opportunities to use their anthropological skills for organizations of every kind.”
- In the September 2017 What you can REALLY do with an anthropology degree, some great advice:
The bad news is that anthropology does not live to a life of adventure and excitement. In fact, most majors don’t. The world today is not a good place, and the prospects of well-paid, rewarding employment are not that great for most Americans. We owe it to our students to be honest with them about this fact, rather than subtly suggesting to them that declaring a major will somehow teleport them to an alternate economy of Endless Fulfillment. And if, on being told their future will be uncertain no matter what they chose, they get curious and start thinking about social stratification, politics, income and education, then… they might really be anthropology majors after all.
- Business Anthropology got a new website and boost in 2017.
- Great resources page on anthropology major jobs put out by anthro everywhere! See the 2017 Undergrad & MAs career paths. Then see their related post on The Packaging of Anthropological Knowledge and Its Merits According to Market Research Experts. And in July 2017, see Anthropologists everywhere! Alternative Anthro Careers featuring anthropology at Reddit.
- Para hispanohablantes, ver los temas interesantes de La antropología en busca del encuentro laboral y ¿A qué me voy a dedicar cuando sea Antropóloga?
To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2015. “Anthropology Major Jobs: Undergraduate Majors and Anthropology Jobs.” Living Anthropologically website, first posted 1 July 2015. Revised 16 May 2021.