Overview of Anthropology Degrees
Anthropologists study people, culture, and changes in human behavior; so earning a bachelor's degree in the field benefits those fascinated by the process of trying to understand human behavior and differences/similarities within various cultures. Numerous specializations exist within anthropology, including archaeology, forensic anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, and biological anthropology.
Anthropology students learn communication, analytical, and interpersonal skills, all of which employers highly value. An undergraduate online anthropology degree prepares graduates for work as a research assistant, lab technician, library assistant, or high school teacher.
Bachelor's in anthropology programs also prepare students for advanced study, both in anthropology and other fields. Those who want to work as professional anthropologists -- within government, corporations, nonprofit groups, and academia -- generally pursue a graduate degree. Most schools that offer affordable online anthropology degrees do not require students to complete in-person requirements.
For online anthropology degrees, prospective students typically must submit transcripts from previously attended schools. Some programs require applicants to respond to essay questions or write a statement of purpose. Individuals entering college directly from high school usually need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Depending on the program, students may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement.
Most programs that offer online anthropology degrees do not require applicants to complete an interview or submit letters of recommendation. Prospective learners complete their applications online and usually submit an application fee. Some schools waive application fees for students that would otherwise be unable to apply.
What Will I Learn?
Anthropology majors study major anthropological theories, research practices, and the history of the field. They explore different cultures, languages, and theories of human development and origins. Some undergraduate anthropology programs offer students the option to choose a specialization in areas like archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistics, or cultural anthropology. Since they stress critical thinking, attention to detail, and written and verbal communication, anthropology programs offer practical skills useful in other fields and industries.
The top anthropology undergraduate programs require students to complete about 120 credits, which usually consists of 50-60 general education, 30-40 major, and 20-30 elective credits. We provide a sample anthropology curriculum below. Specific course offerings and titles may vary by program and school, but prospective students can get a general idea of what to expect.
- Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Students receive an introduction to cultural anthropology, including its history, major theories, practices, and contemporary issues. They explore how and why cultures differ throughout the world and examine processes of change. Students develop skills in critical thinking and writing.
- Human Biology, Behavior, and Evolution
This course shows students how to use anthropology to understand human biology, behavior, and evolution. An introduction to the principles and practices of biological anthropology, the class looks at theories of human origins, evolution, genetics, human fossils, and primates. Students gain hands-on experience with biological anthropology techniques through a lab portion of the class.
Cultural anthropologists use ethnography as a way to understand human cultures. They learn how to ask questions from an anthropological perspective. In this course, students gain the research, critical thinking, and analytical skills useful in many social science fields, as well as in teaching and research careers.
- The Anthropology of Gender
This class looks at gender and sex from a cross-cultural perspective. Students explore the roles of men and women in different cultures and societies across the world. They also look at power and privilege inequalities between men and women across cultures.
- Medical Anthropology
An introduction to the specialization of medical anthropology, this course explores healing systems across cultures. It focuses on the ways people explain and deal with illness, disease, and injury, and includes a critical look at biomedicine. Using anthropological theories, students also learn to interrogate their own assumptions about health.
- Food, Culture, and Society
Students look at foodways through an anthropological perspective. They explore culinary histories, cultural identity, and taste, looking not only at how people eat, but also at what that action says about a culture's identity, diversity, and history. Students gain skills in analytical thinking, research, and communication, which are all useful in numerous careers or advanced study.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology?
Students who earn an anthropology degree may work for nonprofits as well as in education, business, law, and healthcare. Consider the below potential careers and salaries for anthropology graduates, in addition to core skills most programs incorporate into their curricula.
Online anthropology bachelor's programs give students a broad understanding of subfields of anthropology, including archaeology, cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Some programs spend more time focusing on one subfield or give students the option to specialize in one area. Anthropology programs combine knowledge from the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.
Students learn to look at issues from an anthropological perspective and consider how culture influences ways of life, such as religious beliefs, architecture, and family systems. They learn to identify cultural differences and similarities and think about why biological, social, and linguistic changes happen over time. They gain analytical thinking, research, and communication skills through substantial amounts of reading, discussion, and essay-writing. They also learn how to make sense of data and why paying attention to detail and maintaining accurate records are crucial.
These skills prepare students to enter graduate anthropology programs at the master's or Ph.D. level. In graduate programs, learners usually specialize in a subfield of anthropology and conduct fieldwork. Some bachelor's programs also give students the chance to participate in archaeological fieldwork or to complete other anthropological fieldwork.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Anthropology majors stand out because of their nuanced understandings of cultural differences. As the world becomes more globalized, anthropology graduates will likely be more in demand for their ability to make sense of different cultures.
Working as a professional anthropologist typically requires a master's degree in the field. Individuals with a bachelor's in anthropology can sometimes work as research assistants or laboratory technicians. Anthropology graduates find career opportunities in education, museums, libraries, research, government, nonprofits, and business. Below, we describe some possible career paths and salaries for anthropology majors. Typical annual median salaries range from $27,000-$60,000.
- Lab Technician
Annual Median Salary: $39,000
Lab technicians participate in research projects by completing laboratory duties. Some of their tasks may include organizing files, conducting routine tests, ordering supplies, helping to create schedules, writing reports, and logging findings. They must follow laboratory procedures and safety protocols.
- Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker
Annual Median Salary: $47,360
Archivists, curators, and museum workers maintain, document, appraise, and preserve records and documents. They work in museums, libraries, archives, government offices, corporations, universities, and at historic sites. They need analytical, computer, organizational, technical, and customer service skills.
- High School Teacher
Annual Median Salary: $59,170
High school teachers teach lessons to students to help them prepare for life after graduation. They assess students, grade assignments, plan lessons, communicate with parents, and enforce classroom rules. High school teachers need teaching licenses to work in every state. Their most important qualities include patience, resourcefulness, and communication skills.
- Library Technician or Assistant
Annual Median Salary: $29,050
Library technicians provide customer service, organize library materials, and do administrative and clerical work. They need communication, interpersonal, and technology skills. It also helps to be detail-oriented.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Anthropology?
A bachelor's degree in anthropology can prepare students for entry-level careers in education, museums, libraries, business, government, and nonprofits. For individuals who want to pursue mid-level, leadership, or specialized roles in anthropology, a bachelor's degree alone typically does not suffice. To work as a professional anthropologist, one typically needs a master's degree or a Ph.D. Individuals who want to advance in anthropology but only hold a bachelor's degree, and who do not plan to go to graduate school, can try getting experience and making connections through internships and professional networking.
Accreditation for Anthropology Bachelor's Programs
Accreditation ensures an institution meets minimum standards of quality that the larger educational community agrees to be important. It means you can trust you will receive a good education from your school.
Attending a regionally accredited college improves your chances of transferring credits or pursuing graduate-level education. Most schools only accept transfer credit or undergraduate degrees from regionally accredited colleges. Some academic disciplines also receive separate programmatic accreditation from special field-specific accrediting agencies. Anthropology programs do not hold separate programmatic accreditation.
Make sure that any college or university you consider attending holds accreditation from an accrediting agency such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Anthropology Professional Organizations
Students and recent graduates benefit from networking opportunities that arise with professional organization membership. Members can network at annual conferences while attending workshops, webinars, listservs, and section meetings. Other benefits of membership often include access to career advice, exclusive job boards, publications, and professional development opportunities. Finally, many professional groups offer discounts to students and recent graduates to make the cost of membership more attainable.
American Anthropological Association
The premier anthropological professional organization, the AAA represents more than 10,000 professional anthropologists around the world. Members can join 40 sections that reflect specialized knowledge. Benefits for members include access to a career center, conference discounts, professional development opportunities, publications, webinars, and section meetings.
Society for Applied Anthropology
Founded in 1941, the SfAA -- whose mission includes promoting applied anthropology -- boasts more than 2,000 members in business, academia, law, government, and medicine. It organizes an annual conference, hosts an online community for discussion and networking, and offers career and education resources for members.
American Association of Physical Anthropologists
AAPA advances the specialty of physical anthropology and represents more than 2,200 physical anthropologists around the world. Members get access to publications, annual meetings, career resources, a job board, and relevant news.