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JOB OPPORTUNITIES
FOR ANTHROPOLOGY MAJORS

Cal State Fullerton

University Catalog CSUF Career Center Contact Us at Anthropology Department Anthropology Department Navigator

 

The intellectual experience of anthropology is one of the most exciting encounters you may make in your academic career. It also offers a wide and intriguing spectrum of career opportunities. This article has been prepared to describe those areas of employment that both undergraduate and graduate students can explore to discover rewarding permanent full-time and part-time employment. In it, we explore job opportunities in both the public and private sectors, as well as strategies which might be followed to enhance the anthropology student's marketability.

Statement on Jobs

Very early in your education you should plan a career. If you have not already decided what direction that planning will take, start today. There are various ways for doing this. One is to sort out what your skills are and to work to improve them.

Several of the more important "cross-over skills," i.e., skills you gain in anthropology which can be transferred to a wide variety of jobs, are: knowledge of the working of society and the role of culture, writing, communication, research methods, and analytic techniques. All these talents are in demand to analyze social problems, to communicate your analyses to others, and to work to solve them. This talent is applicable both to the private sector (think tanks, marketing research, international corporations) and to the public sector (local, state, and federal government agencies).

One should be aware that many of the technical skills learned in biological anthropology and archaeology can be translated into a broad range of competencies such as surveying, environmental impact, medical research, planning, etc. One problem is that once these skills are acquired, it is also necessary to conceptualize how the skills can be put to use in a variety of contexts. There are, for example, very few jobs in primate research outside of universities; there are, however, many jobs working with animals. The same is true of medical anthropology and nutrition. Most biological anthropologists teach and do research at universities and colleges while some teach in high schools. Still others work for various state and federal government agencies, or are privately employed. At colleges, physical anthropologists can be found in anthropology, sociology, social sciences, anatomy, biological sciences, human biology, zoology, and medical school departments. Biological anthropologists may do forensic consultation for law enforcement agencies to assist in solving crimes.

You should also be aware of how important grades may be. Some employers may not need to see your academic transcript, but others may insist on it. But grades have other ramifications. They indicate that you have certain positive work habits which will assist you in preparing for examinations that some jobs require. They also raise your general visibility with professors, who in turn may be more willing to write strong letters of recommendation, something which every potential employer will want to see. It is important in pursuing a job to establish as many contacts as possible. Remember that one of those contacts is your teacher.

It is also useful to have had practical experience in the area in which you plan to seek a job. One means of doing this is to enroll in the Internship Program. This program will give you a chance not only to acquire valuable experience but also to make contacts in your field. This adds to your potential recommendations and puts you in a better position to get your job.

The Internship Program in Anthropology (ANTH 491) allows you to work in museums, hospitals, welfare agencies, planning commissions, archaeological excavations, translating programs, and so forth. Some of these internships are paid and several have developed from volunteer work to paid positions.

Many anthropologists in the 1990s will be hired by expanding their talents to "cross-over" into other employment areas. To do this it is very important to be a generalist and apply your discipline to other areas. One way of preparing to "cross-over" is to be very selective about your electives, make them count in your job preparation. It is also highly useful in some kinds of careers, and in any career abroad, to have had language training. The ability to speak a language other than English improves your chances for placement.

At some point, you must go out and look for a job. The first step in actually presenting yourself to an employer is to prepare a clear and informative curriculum vita. This is an overview of your qualifications. In it, present yourself in the strongest possible light. Explain how your classwork relates to jobs, list your travel experiences, your awards, your interests. If you have questions about this, please consult with your academic adviser. You might also consult the booklet What Color is Your Parachute? by Bolles. Local bookstores ordinarily stock this.

Employers are also impressed by personal characteristics. They look for such things as intelligence, friendliness, good work habits, and how well you fit into a group. These traits tend to come out in interviews. One means of enhancing your skill at interviews is to ask your academic adviser to give you a "mock" interview. It is essential that you convince an employer that you have something better to offer than other candidates. This can be partly accomplished by demonstrating leadership skills. Work taken beyond the B.A. also assists in this competitiveness; you might consider entering the graduate program not only for the possibility of a teaching career but also to make a stronger case with an employer. Consult the Career Development Center in Langsdorf Hall 208. They have a library and referral service for career planning.

You might also consult with the Testing and Counseling Center which teaches career planning and assists you in evaluating your skills, values, and needs. Three books you might consult on this matter are Irish's Go Hire Yourself an Employer, Bolles' Where Do I Go From Here With My Life?", and the Quick Job-Hunting Map.

Full-Time Jobs

Anthropology majors at both the B.A. and M.A. levels often take positions in business and government. Common choices are advertising, administration, market research, sales management, public relations, banking, merchandising, medical, editing, journalism, utilities, and management consulting. Although positions in these fields are open to individuals with a B.A., an M.A. confers a special advantage in being promoted or assigned to interesting overseas assignments. Anthropology majors are particularly suited to such governmental positions as foreign service officer, aid for international development office, urban planners, counselors, and conducting environmental impact studies.

These kinds of jobs are more competitive than part-time jobs, but the security level, and often income, goes up. If your problem is survival, look at the part-time opportunities; if it is security then you should pursue a full-time job. Obviously, you can hold part-time employment while looking for a full-time job.

One of the largest areas of employment is in social services. There are a variety of programs at the city, state, and federal levels. Two likely areas are youth programs and programs for the aged. You can get information on these areas from the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Various social scientists have been hired in programs dealing with dangerous drugs and alcoholism. For information on this field, consult with the National Institute of Mental Health. There are also possibilities with various hospitals and government agencies in regard to social and case workers. And, although they pay only subsistence wages, various volunteer programs, such as Peace Corps and Vista, provide experience and contacts. If interested in the latter, contact Action Volunteers, 1133 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90024.

In acquiring a full-time job it is important to be willing to relocate. Although Orange County is a prosperous area, its economic growth rate is offset by the large numbers of people who wish to live in the area and who migrate here. Other regions of the United States may, for your particular skills, be better locations. You should also think of employment overseas, which is a continually expanding market.

Part-Time Jobs

If you are working on a master's or plan to go to graduate school you might consider teaching at community colleges. To get into this work you should get a community college teaching certificate. You can get an application form for a California Community College Credential (A-1). When you fill out the application, make your qualifications for teaching as broad as legitimately possible. If you have a strong minor in philosophy, list that as one of your areas of interest also.

There are also several federal and state programs for teaching teachers or students in limited resource areas. The Child Development Association, for example, trains people to work with children. Most of the clients in this program are child care teachers going for a certificate in social science. The anthropologist can assist such teacher training in language self-concepts, safety in environment, creativity, art, and group management.

The federal government's Head Start Program is also a potential employment area that teaches academic subjects in limited resource areas. If students are interested in either one of these programs, they should consult with the Undergraduate Adviser.

There are also a number of opportunities to design and teach your own course at night schools, extension programs, prison programs, and the like.

When applying for these kinds of jobs, take your resume with you. Be willing to teach to humanities and interdisciplinary classes as well as anthropology. Go to different department on campuses and find people who are available to talk about your area of teaching potential.

These are some, but by no means all, of the possibilities. It may take time and certainly it will take energy to get a job. But your academic preparation has made you a saleable and useful member of the community. Now you must go out and find where you can best fit in.

Good hunting!!!

For More Information:

BulletAnthropologists at Work:  Responses to Student Questions About Anthropology Careers.

BulletSteenbert, Sue. 1977. Employment Opportunities for Anthropology Graduates,
    Southwestern Anthropology Association.

BulletThe London Times Educational Supplement.

BulletThe London Times Higher Education Supplement.

BulletUNESCO International Social Science Journal (lists job openings abroad).

BulletCooperative College Registry (Washington, D.C. - lists over 100 small U.S. Colleges).

BulletOverseas Educational Service of Education and World Affairs, Inc. (New York, NY).

BulletThe Chronicle of Higher Education (1717 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.).

BulletThe Conference Board of Associated Research Councils (Washington, D.C. - administers
    programs for foreign scholar exchange under the Fulbright-Hays Act).

BulletAmerican Anthropological Association Newsletter.

BulletWrite also to the British Council and the Canada Council and to individual governmental departments and agencies in the U.S. and in foreign countries.