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Careers in Anthropology

Sep 30, 2010

When it comes to academic studies, few students can guarantee their course of study will continue indefinitely into the future like those who major in anthropology. Why is this? Well, anthropology is the study of everything human. That means, as long as humans are around, there will always be something to study for those interested in anthropology.

People often get the broad term anthropology mixed up with the study of human history, or even of human evolution, when in fact those are just to sub-disciplines of anthropology itself. A person defined as an anthropologist may be found studying the impact the first drums created by cave people made, or the impact of Miley Cyrus on the music scene today. They may take a look at how tribal caste customs influence the gross domestic product of India, or how the various peoples of the United Kingdom came together to form one of the most formidable empires ever known.

Even the term human may not always limit what an anthropologist studies. One of the most famous anthropologists of all, Louis Leakey, was an evolutionary anthropologist. He studied how humans came into being as a species, and is perhaps best known for sending a team of scientists into the wilder places of the world to study human's closest living relatives, the great apes. Out of Leakey's anthropological focus came the seminal works of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas, each of whom studied the great apes.

To put it simply, then, anthropology is the study of anything to do with humans in the broad sense. Their social systems, biology, history, culture, music, dwelling places, and language. Anthropologists may include historical and evolutionary aspect in their work, or they may concentrate on the here and now and current trends in human behavior.

What you can tell from the above is that anthropology is a vast field. Don't be alarmed, though; as with ever large topic there are ways to break anthropology down so that it is easier to focus on an area that may interest you.

One way is through the different sub-fields recognized by many institutions of upper education. There are usually five of these, and they are biological, cultural, linguistic, social anthropology, and archaeology. These fields can be further broken down. A cultural anthropologist, for example, may look at any one or a combination of a living group of people's culture, beliefs, practices, music, and so on.

The final break down of an anthropologist will occur in the specific group of people she or he studies. Most commonly, anthropologists will take a look at a region of the world, and the people who live there. In general, they will focus on one specific group, and how that group fits into the larger social structure of their region.

Obviously, studying anthropology makes for a diverse array of choices and can fit the tastes and intellectual curiosity of almost everyone, but what good will pursuing a degree in anthropology do you? We'll get to career options in a second, but first it might be worth it to take a look at what studying in this field will yield for all participants, whether they choose an anthropology based career or not.

Intangible Benefits of Anthropological Study

As with all post-secondary educational pursuits, gaining a degree in anthropology will help a person gain a better focus on long term planning, goal orientation, and original thought. Students who have earned a degree are more likely to think critically about their surroundings at all times, applying the skills imparted through education to their everyday environment.

Beyond the skills common to the post secondary graduate, earning an anthropology imparts specific skills to the graduate. These include an adaptability to situations which are out of the ordinary, empathetic and sympathetic skills, an ability to see things beyond the box, and a habit of careful attention to detail and record keeping.

Professions in Anthropology

One of the most obvious tracks for a person with an anthropological background to take is taking the field of intelligentsia themselves. A person committed to further study in this field may choose to pursue a career as a professor or researcher in a post secondary institution, a researcher in the field as an archeologist, and may even apply their skills as a basis for international law practice.

As the world becomes more and more intertwined, anthropologists are finding their skill set has increasingly relevant applications in many important fields. The expertise of cultural anthropologists is increasingly sought after in a world where the economies of separate countries are blending, and international businesses becoming more common. Many of these positions prove to be highly lucrative, as the anthropologist applies her skills at the corporate level.

There are also opportunities for anthropologists in the non-profit and public sectors. They have proven useful advisors within the military, for international benefit organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF. They may also find positions within museums and other cultural preservation societies.

To sum up, the field of anthropology is vast, to say the least. As long as there are or have been humans, the study of them will prove a worthwhile pursuit. The application of the skills developed in pursuit of a degree in the field of anthropology has a wide range of possibilities, from corporate to non-profit, academic to forensic.

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