What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is the study of the ways of life of people around the world, both those existing in the present and those known only from the archaeological and paleontological record. It focuses on understanding humans through a comparative perspective, one that teaches students to be acute observers and analysts of human behavior. Many social sciences focus on understanding human behavior, but only anthropology seeks to understand the whole panorama of human existence in both geographic space and over long periods of time.
What makes us human? How do we relate to one another – with what shared values or drives? When we disagree, how do we express the differences we consider unbridgeable? Are they, in fact, unbridgeable? These are anthropological questions. They touch on the evolution of Homo sapiens, on the culture of various human groups, or on both of these elements together. If these topics intrigue you – and how could they not? - then you should consider majoring or minoring in anthropology.
Students of anthropology go to great lengths to explore difference and similarity. Some of us – evolutionary anthropologists - study orangutans, observing behavior and collecting urine to assess their social structure. A cultural anthropologist might live among sorghum farmers or slum dwellers in Africa, learning their language and eventually seeing their world through their eyes. Some archaeologists jump back a million years to probe the survival strategies, successes, and failures of the earliest humans. Finally, linguistic anthropologists often scrutinize conversation to see who – male, female, elder, or child - speaks first, loudest, and in which language? All of anthropology will challenge your assumptions, occasionally blow your mind, and ultimately prepare you for the diverse world in which we live.
Why Major in Anthropology?
Like other liberal arts disciplines, anthropology teaches students to think in a critical way, and it exposes them to a fundamental part of the Western intellectual tradition. But it also gives them a perspective on their own position in a world of cultural, physical, and political diversity. It offers a backdrop against which students can understand their own cultures, traditions, and behaviors and provides them with sensitivity to understanding human biological and cultural similarities and differences.
Majors and Minors in Anthropology
Department of Anthropology Majors:
- B.A. major in Anthropology
- B.A. major in Cultural Anthropology
- B.S. major in Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Anthropology Minors:
What Can I Do with a Major in Anthropology?
Demand for anthropologists in the job market has been on the increase in recent years, stimulated by a growing need for analysts and researchers with sharp thinking skills who can manage, evaluate, and interpret the large volume of data on human behavior. What we know about the future marketplace indicates a need for the type of global, holistic knowledge that an anthropological perspective brings. Majoring in Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, or Evolutionary Anthropology prepares students for a wide variety of occupations and careers. For example, students with a strong anthropology background have found employment in non-governmental organizations; museums; cultural resource management firms; government agencies; health care organizations; local, national, and international businesses; and as translators, social workers, journalists, and teachers. In addition, an anthropology major is excellent preparation for students seeking advanced professional degrees in such areas as business or law or who plan to pursue graduate education in anthropology.
The Undergraduate Director, Professor Robert S. Scott, can provide interested students with information and guidance in planning a major or minor, and discuss how anthropology can contribute to various goals.
New: Find out about the Rutgers chapter of Lambda Alpha , the national honor society for student anthropologists.