Physical Anthropology

How to Choose an Anthropology Graduate Program



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After working in the museum field for over ten years, I've given a lot of advice to people asking about Anthropology programs. Some were mid-career professionals looking for a change and some were still in college working as interns. I always give the same advice. Do your research.

First, you need to know what kind of anthropology you want to study. The four sub-fields include physical, socio-cultural, archaeology and linguistics. They are drastically different from each other, so you will need to know if you want to work in forensics, language preservation or actually dig in the field. What do you plan to do with your degree? If you want to work in a crime lab, go for physical anthropology. But if you want to work for a non-profit, look into socio-cultural anthropology.

You also may not even be looking for an Anthropology program. There are also general programs in the Social Sciences that are also appropriate for what you want to study. While I studied anthropology in my undergraduate career, I ended up getting my Master's Degree in the Social Sciences. This made me much more marketable during my job search.

Location is everything. Maybe you have a family and need to look for a program locally. Maybe you are single and are will to travel around the world for your program. This is extremely important, and is an often overlooked part of the process. Sometimes you have to live in a culture to really learn it. Are you willing to live in Ecuador while studying the economics of the Otavalo marketplace? Some programs require language skills and fieldwork that could take you away from your home country for months at a time. Examine the requirements of the degree program and ask yourself if you can really commit to completing them.

Once you have decided on a field of study and the location, look specifically at the programs. Is there a particular professor with specialized knowledge that you want as a mentor? You also need to know how the academic community works within that particular program. Some students realize their philosophies disagree with their advisor too late after years in a program. As a result, it is much more difficult for a thesis to be accepted and a degree awarded.

Then there is the money issue. Programs are expensive, whether you are looking to earn a Master's degree or PhD. You will want to examine the costs, teaching programs, scholarship and fellowship opportunities, and the payoff. Will you be able to make a career from your degree? It may be worth it to go into debt if you can find an excellent long term job after graduation.

Anthropology is an incredibly interesting and rewarding field of study, and I have been fortunate to make a career out of it. It takes commitment, funding and a lot of work to complete a graduate degree. If you do your research and know what you are looking for, you will find the right match.

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