October 16, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Santa Ana College
California State University - Sacramento
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
Boise State University
Portland State University
Portland State University
The University of California
American Anthropological Association
American Anthropological Association
School for International Training-Graduate Institute
The University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas
University of Montevallo
University of West Georgia
California State University Dominguez Hills
Santa Ana College
Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Women's Studies
Mario Robertson: It's going to vary greatly depending upon the area of anthropology that you pursue. It is perhaps one of the more diverse academic disciplines in terms of classes and knowledge development that doesn't always directly translate over to corresponding career skills the way engineering, chemistry, or accounting skills might. Instead, anthropology provides you with a powerful set of tools to analyze and understand the world in a number of ways. This is perhaps why the "skills" that often stand out the most on Anthropology resumes are experience. This shows potential employers that you can harness all of this knowledge and apply it to either some career arena or academic arenas such as a field project, ethnographic research, volunteer experience, or anything that offers a glimpse into the application of the wealth of knowledge into some type of applicable and useful format.
Mario Robertson: The ability to interact, listen and understand people. Anthropology, by default, is a people-based discipline, and as a result, your "people skills" are critical. Not just in terms of being welcomed into an environment but in terms of really listening to what people are saying and understanding the meaning of what they are saying even if they don't know sometimes. There is also an element of being a chameleon that is helpful to anthropology-related careers because you often find yourself migrating between social, economic, and professional contexts as needed by the work.
Mario Robertson: This really depends on what area of anthropology you are seeking as a career. Anthropology really spans across the spectrum of human and human-related studies and understanding. As a result, different areas of anthropology have different demands. If one was seeking something in cultural resource management, then there would be skills like artifact preservation and archival skills that would be critical. If you were seeking a career as a primatologist, it might focus more on non-human behavioral skills and zoological/biological skills. Career fields related to archeology or linguistics would each have their own specialized skill requirements as well. Which ever subdiscipline of anthropology you specialize in, make sure that you develop a strong foundation in the fundamentals of that disciplinary area.
Mario Robertson: Depending on the career you are seeking, you will find a range of skills that are differently valued. The most solid piece of advice I could provide on this for anthropologically related careers would be to do some research. Think about what careers you may want to work in with your degree in anthropology, look at some existing job announcements for those careers at different levels, and make sure that as you are earning your degree (or assembling your resume), you include specific classes, experiences, or opportunities that will prepare you and make you an ideal candidate for entry into one of the many careers that anthropology can open doors to. This can often be an enlightening experience, serves as an opportunity to explore the careers that are out there, and save you from making critical mistakes that obstruct you from achieving your dreams.
California State University - Sacramento
Department of Anthropology
Dr. Nandini Singh Ph.D.: Being a four-field discipline, a degree in anthropology provides the following skills that stand out
on a CV/resume and should be listed:
a. Written communication
b. Analytical and critical thinking
c. Presentation skills
e. Grant writing
f. Discussion and group-work skills
h. Gathering, assessing and interpreting qualitative and quantitative data
i. Statistical and computing skills
j. Synthesizing information from various sources, academic and non-academic
Dr. Nandini Singh Ph.D.: a. Effective communication. Rather, effectively communicating productive ways to approach cultural diversity and human biology. All anthropologists study human cultural diversity and evolutionary biology. Being familiar with a wide range of behaviors, beliefs, and practices, anthropologists or people with an anthropology background are likely to be more culturally informed and sensitive in dealing with colleagues in a professional setting and with their community at large. These skills are invaluable to live and work in an increasingly global world.
b. Teamwork and collaboration - a lot of work, particularly fieldwork, in anthropology requires being a part of a team or collaborating with community members.
Dr. Nandini Singh Ph.D.: a. Statistical and computing skills: Sub-fields of anthropology such as archaeology and biological anthropology employ various quantitative techniques such as quantitative modeling, data processing, computer programming, and 3D geometry.
b. Gathering, assessing, and interpreting qualitative and quantitative data: Data in anthropology can come in various forms, ranging from ethnographic accounts to genomic information.
Dr. Nandini Singh Ph.D.: a. Written communication: Being able to synthesize and coherently present information is invaluable in any professional setting but can particularly be used to seek jobs as a grant writer in private foundations, a medical writer in Pharmaceutical companies, and/or a fundraiser for NGOs or charities.
b. Quantitative skills: Anthropologists who have a bioinformatics background can earn
considerable salaries in genetics labs, pharmaceutical companies, and medical research
Dr. Kristen Carlson: Some skills stand out across all fields in Anthro. Anthropologists across the discipline excel at diversity, inclusion, and listening. Anthropologists can work with and organize large and small groups of diverse people and help them attain their goals. Whether it's on a dig or in a board room.
Anthropologists work hard. They are used to dedicated hours either in a lab, on a dig, or working with communities.
Anthropology students should never turn down an opportunity to get to work in the field. Volunteer on faculty and local projects and take field-based courses. The best thing for a resume is experience.
Dr. Kristen Carlson: Anthropologists have to be organized, independent thinkers who can take studious notes and record every detail of their surroundings.
Dr. Kristen Carlson: Hard skills become very specialized across the discipline. Archaeologists HAVE to have a field school to be considered for any job. Many biological anthropologists also attend field schools to learn the hands-on skills they need in their careers. Want to work in forensics? An internship in a crime lab is vital. Museums? Internship.
You can't learn how to do the work of Anthropology from a book. It can only be learned by doing with the background knowledge that comes from classes. So students have to get internships and get on projects related to the specific fields they hope to join. In those hands-on settings, they will start to put together the things they learned in class with the dynamic world of practical anthropology.
Dr. Kristen Carlson: Anthropology is never listed in the top-paying fields. Most people find and stick with anthropology because they love the work. That being said, you can make a completely comfortable living from Anthropology. Again the skills needed vary across the discipline but getting hands-on experience will get you into better jobs faster. Field schools are a must and a great way to be employable early in your career, giving you the best opportunities to advance.
Miriam Stark Ph.D.: The two biggest trends we will see in the job market for anthropology, given the pandemic, are an accelerated shrinkage in academic positions as universities struggle with pandemic-related budget problems and a consistent market for practicing anthropologists. Archaeologists have found the Cultural Resource Management (CRM) world to be the largest employer of graduates, but, cultural anthropologists will also find employers interested in hiring them for their critical thinking skills and general liberal arts background.
Miriam Stark Ph.D.: Students who want to pursue postgraduate study in anthropology should take, at least, one gap year to focus on their research interests in anthropology and strengthen their dossier. BA graduates in archaeology, with sufficient technical training, can move directly into entry-level CRM positions. BA graduates in other subfields might volunteer or work in an allied field, like development through governmental programs (like Peace Corps) or non-governmental organizations (NGO's).
Miriam Stark Ph.D.: My best piece of advice is to enter the field with your eyes wide open. Learn about the field. Learn about employment options. Learn about the mechanics of graduate school: how long it takes, the costs, and what different degrees provide in terms of employability. And, make sure you have a passion for the field because that's what it takes to succeed in Anthropology.
Dr. John Ziker Ph.D.: Communicating how your experience, as an Anthropology major, is relevant to the workforce is a vital meta-skill. You may have had research experiences as an undergraduate, both in teams and independently. You may have had leadership experience, such as being an officer in an Anthropology Club. And you may have developed specialized skills in Anthropology courses or fieldwork. Organizations are looking for people who can articulate the value of their experiences. Anthropology provides a broad array of skills. Some more general, such as critical thinking and written and oral communication and teamwork. Some skills are more specific, such as survey and excavation for archaeology positions, research design, data analysis skills (qualitative and quantitative), and familiarity with research ethics. Some Anthropology programs provide so-called career enhancers.
An example is our User Experience Research program at Boise State University that offers experiential learning in ethnographic techniques to understand your customers' needs better, leading to the superior design of products and services. Another example is our Data Science for Liberal Arts program that enhances disciplinary perspectives, methods, and passions already cultivated in students' major programs by providing new tools to answer research questions. The ability to communicate in a foreign language is also a valuable skill for some employers.
Dr. John Ziker Ph.D.: Anthropology students find work in a wide array of fields and locations. Our graduates work in everything from international development, corporate and community affairs, historic preservation, user research, and forensic anthropology to writing/editorial/copyright work, law, pharmaceutical research, and on and on! Our graduates work everywhere from a rural Idaho Sheriff's office to San Francisco Bay Area technology companies. Anthropology graduates are needed everywhere.
Dr. John Ziker Ph.D.: Technology helps facilitate research, reproducibility, and transparency. Technology development provides opportunities for Anthropology graduates to apply their understanding of the human experience's diversity to improve the technology by making its use more ethical, equitable, and geared to solve social problems, including environmental dilemmas and gender, wealth, and racial disparities.
Brian Bates: I advise my seniors to continue to hone their written and oral communication skills. These are transferable skills that far too few people master, yet employers consistently indicate they need.
STEM competencies are increasingly in demand in the marketplace. These competencies include, among others, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, scientific writing, and processing information. Anthropology and archaeology majors should feel confident in these skills since they are at the heart of what we do. The key is to do a self-inventory of skills in these areas based on their undergraduate courses and research experiences. As students identify these skills for themselves, it becomes easier to market those to potential employers.
Students should understand that their first job out of college may not be their dream job. They will likely have three or four jobs before finding the one that suits them for the long-term. It is essential to be open to new experiences and opportunities for professional development and growth. Taking advantage of such opportunities may well open doors to a career trajectory that you never even considered, but that may provide you with a rewarding professional life.
Brian Bates: My program has an archaeological emphasis, so I try to provide our students with access to a wide range of technologies that will benefit them in the field. To that end, I think it is critical for Anthropology & Archaeology majors to develop at least a basic understanding of geographic information systems (GIS). Nearly any employer in our field will use GIS for project development and analysis. Beyond that, GIS is one of those transferrable skills that many different career fields employ on an increasingly common basis. An undergraduate with some GIS chops will have an advantage over their peers who do not have that skill.
In addition to GIS, I train my students in land navigation, using a map and compass (a lost skill). This is critical in essential Phase I archaeology, yet many recent graduates do not know how to do this. I also introduce students to a range of surveying technologies such as high-accuracy global positioning systems (GPS), total stations, and even the use of high-definition laser (LiDAR) surveying. In my experience, these technologies are shaping the near-term future of archaeology, and undergraduates who understand these have an advantage.
Brian Bates: Many of our graduates who go directly into the workforce (instead of going to graduate school) will start a cultural resource management job doing compliance archaeology as a field technician. These positions typically have a starting pay between $14 and $18 per hour, which averages $28,000 - $36,000 per year. This is consistent with most liberal arts majors in their first year out of college. Without a doubt, these numbers are lower than, say, starting salaries for a business major. However, several recent studies have shown that people with liberal arts and sciences degrees see their earnings catch up to their peers with professional or engineering degrees over time.
Further salary growth in our field, though, ultimately requires a graduate degree, so I encourage my students to think about that as a component of their career strategy.
While money is essential; we cannot live without it; it is not the only measure of success. I tell my students that they will be working for a long time, perhaps 40 or more years. With that in mind, it is equally, if not more important, that you enjoy what you do. Happiness in life - your work, home, relationships - is directly related to longevity. The key to living a happy life is not just money, but in doing those things that bring you fulfillment and a sense of purpose.
Suzanne Morrissey Ph.D.: Young graduates need to think quickly and with skepticism, read situations from multiple angles, and have openness to variable solutions. This means that they need skills in understanding pluralistic vantage points, judging where information comes from and who it benefits and who it hurts, and being gifted at recognizing and acknowledging their own biases. Anthropology teaches these skills as it prepares graduates for work in a wide array of fields.
A discipline with multiple subdisciplines (cultural, biological and forensic, medical, and applied, plus linguistics and archaeology), anthropology trains students in prehistory, history, cross-cultural studies, animal-human behavior, and relations, film and rhetoric, the built environment, and environmental studies. While learning about cultures across time, space, and place; students are trained in research design, methods (both qualitative and quantitative), and analysis. Students learn interview techniques and participant observation, focus groups, survey design, concept mapping, card sorting, ethnographic writing, translation, and cross-cultural communication.
Suzanne Morrissey Ph.D.: Students of anthropology pursue interests in health and the environment, archeology and cultural resource management, museum studies and curation, language/linguistic studies and translation, history and archival research, education, music, art and dance performance and traditions, international politics, policy and relief work, and more. In the United States, employers are looking for new graduates who can do primary and secondary research and writing for a career in social marketing, user experience (UX), healthcare program design and patient-reported outcomes, workplace assessment and program evaluation, customer service, journalism, and urban design.
Suzanne Morrissey Ph.D.: Anthropologists have been at the forefront of research in virtual worlds for decades, recognizing the importance of online spaces in peoples' social and emotional lives. As technologies evolve and circumstances surrounding our abilities to travel freely change (e.g., restrictions on movement due to the COVID pandemic), those virtual worlds and private spaces for sociality and community become increasingly meaningful. As peoples' lives shift toward remote experiences, anthropologists will likewise follow them into such areas.
We will study human behavior, shared experiences, and learning in those places and contribute to public engagement in knowledge production. Rather than sitting on street corners or front porches, anthropologists will be online, attending cultural events, reading and writing blogs, producing films and social media content, and mapping kinship ties and support networks virtually; the questions anthropologists ask about the human condition may not change but the places where we ask those questions will.
Portland State University
Douglas Wilson: For archaeology, an archaeological field school that addresses archaeological survey, excavation, and laboratory processing is critical to building the skills necessary for work in the field. I also encourage my students to understand the laws, policies, and applications of cultural resources management, as well as basic numeracy, including statistics and spatial analysis using geographic information systems (GIS). Understanding diversity and equity is also a critical skill that can be acquired partly through courses and workshops and partly through lived experiences. This is particularly important for those who plan to work in the public archaeology area, including museums and heritage sites.
Douglas Wilson: There are cultural and heritage resources management firms, museums, and protected heritage places throughout the United States. Entry-level jobs are available in federal and state agencies, parks, museums, and the private sector.
Douglas Wilson: Technology will continue to make fieldwork more seamless with reporting, and will improve our ability to situate archaeological resources on the ground. Technological improvements in interpretation and data sharing will continue to change the way cultural resources professionals interact with clients, other practitioners, and the public.
Portland State University
Jeremy Spoon Ph.D.: In the coming years, cultural anthropology offers many skills applicable to addressing critical global problems. These include ethnographic and survey skills that help to bring an understanding of how humans experience the world. Anthropologists are well-suited to serve as group facilitators, conflict mediators, strategic planners, record keepers, data analysts, translators, advocates, allies, and activists.
Jeremy Spoon Ph.D.: Cultural anthropologists find jobs working for non-profit associations in the U.S. engaging issues ranging from human health and education to environment and economic development. They also work for local, state, and federal agencies and institutions, such as the National Park Service or Oregon Health and Sciences University, as cultural resource managers, tribal liaisons, outreach specialists, public health advocates, researchers, and more. The cultural anthropologist also works for Native American tribes, cultural resource management companies, and numerous types of museums and cultural and interpretive centers. Design and architecture firms are also creating spaces where anthropologists work.
Jeremy Spoon Ph.D.: The innovations that came with adapting to the Covid pandemic and lack of travel ability have created new virtual spaces for conducting innovative anthropological work.
Amber VanDerwarker Ph.D.: Hands-on internships show engagement with learning and also indicate the candidate would have a reference from a mentor/supervisor with which they have worked closely. Of course, this is an opportunity that has become increasingly difficult to take advantage of during COVID. Students may reach out to professors in the current context to ask if they have other research needs that can be conducted remotely. For example,
I have a student intern who helps me push forward an article by conducting literature searches, document translation, article summaries, and GIS-based analyses. Given that many jobs may start in a virtual format, it is crucial to indicate a self-direct, strong work ethic, adapt to multiple working environments, etc. Think of examples of these traits you can mention in a job interview.
Amber VanDerwarker Ph.D.: Zoom boosts student opportunities in new ways by providing accessibility to students. For example, I run an annual workshop on applying to grad schools in my department. Usually, maybe 10-15 students show up in person. On Zoom last week, ~50 students attended. I have also invited various experts to talk to my students, which has opened up the capacity to present diverse perspectives on overlapping topics. This also means a lot of job interviews will be conducted virtually! This is great for candidates, as they can have a set of pre-prepared answers to common interview questions handy to refer to (while appearing to answer naturally).
Amber VanDerwarker Ph.D.: Undoubtedly, there will be enduring impacts on all of us. However, in anthropology specifically, most post-BA jobs are challenging to translate into virtual settings (e.g., museum assistants, archaeology field and lab techs, academic lab assistants). And many grad schools are scaling back admissions this year. So students must start thinking now of Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. If you don't get your ideal job right away, look for other jobs that may help you build the skills to make you more competitive for where you want to go after.
Edward Liebow: First off, graduates should know there is strong demand in business, public, and non-profit settings. An anthropology degree signals great preparation for a variety of meaningful career track jobs. However, most of these positions are not labelled "anthropologist" or "archaeologist." A quick search of the big job ad aggregator websites (e.g., Indeed, Monster, Idealist) using keyword terms like "ethnography," "qualitative research," and "cultural resource management" returns many, many jobs in the tech, healthcare, finance, and environmental planning sectors. Other relevant search terms include "contact tracing," "user experience," "consumer research."
In the past several months, we have seen an uneven recovery from the early 2020 economic calamity: relatively narrow uptick in services, but a substantial recovery in manufactured goods. There are plenty of manufacturers that employ anthropologists and can expect the need for careful observation and cross-cultural sensitivity to grow. The workplace of the future will be changed by the pandemic, and user experience research is needed to drive product development. Companies like Steelcase and Humanscale are looking for talent. Innovations in the healthcare, telemedicine, and public health spaces require evaluation for safety, effectiveness, and patient satisfaction. Transportation technology is changing, and everything from intelligent highway/vehicle systems and driverless vehicles to onboard operating systems need reexamination. Efforts to bridge the deep chasm of socioeconomic inequality will require public/private partnerships and understanding culturally diverse ways in which households and extended families manage finances to develop products and services that will help move people along the path to financial self-sufficiency. Significant public investments in infrastructural improvements are coming, along with a growing need to "look before you leap" at the impacts of these investments, including the protection of important environmental and cultural heritage resources. Firms in the business of environmental planning and cultural resource management will likely be looking for candidates. Be creative. Be flexible. Use your whole biography as a resource. Some great career-track experiences await you.
Dr. Doc McAlister Billingsley Ph.D.: A big part of any new job is learning the culture of the workplace. Practice your observational and interview skills--ask the right questions, learn the language, and what it reflects about unspoken rules. Imagine that you need to create a manual for new employees, and fill in the missing pages as you learn the ropes. Society is also adapting to the online nature of work during a pandemic, which requires sorting out the rules and norms for things like video conferences and appropriate expectations for colleagues, who may be responsible for family care.
Dr. Doc McAlister Billingsley Ph.D.: This depends on what field graduates are working. Generally, cloud-based collaboration tools (Office 365, Zoom, Google Drive, etc.) are becoming must-have, must-understand technology.
Dr. Doc McAlister Billingsley Ph.D.: This ordeal has already surpassed milestones associated with significant events like the world wars or the 1918 Flu pandemic. Itś hard to predict what the impact will be, however, because we're still nowhere near controlling or ending this pandemic. Necessary public health measures like mask-wearing have become so politicized; it seems like we're all just waiting for November to decide how to deal with a crisis that's been affecting us since February.
American Anthropological Association
Daniel Ginsberg: One thing that really stands out is someone who's had an opportunity to participate in a research or applied anthropology project while they're still completing their degree. Students often find opportunities to work with data that professors have collected in the field, or they may help to implement research-based, community-engaged programs in areas such as health, environment, or education. Having this kind of background on your resume doesn't just show that you have real-world teamwork experience, but it also helps potential employers to see how you, as an anthropologist, would contribute to their organization.
Daniel Ginsberg: Traditionally, anthropology has relied on face-to-face interaction, whether it's conversations with research participants or physical presence at archaeological dig sites. In the last decade or two, there's been a steadily increasing presence of anthropologists in the tech industry-for example, anthropologists have done a lot of important work on self-driving cars, and it was an anthropologist's insight that led to the Bose Soundlink Bluetooth speaker-but a lot of that work still relied on the ability to spend time with people face to face. Now that the pandemic has pushed so much professional work into remote online formats, anthropologists are working to adapt their methods to this new setting, and my guess is that their insights will also help people in every profession to find better ways of communicating and collaborating online.
Daniel Ginsberg: I expect the coronavirus pandemic to be a generation-defining trauma. Just a few months in, COVID-19 has already done a level of harm that ranks with major wars, economic collapses, and natural disasters. The shape of the "new normal" is still unclear, but it won't be like the "old normal." In a way, anthropologists are relatively well-positioned to find their way through this kind of uncertain terrain. There has always been an entrepreneurial streak within the discipline, where many anthropologists, rather than looking for an employer who understands the value of anthropology, find it easier to build a base of clients who will hire them to do what they want to do. It's cultural knowledge that has enabled anthropologist-entrepreneurs of the past to make space for themselves and their discipline in the business and government world, and this ability to understand society and relationships will also enable anthropologists to be leaders in understanding and defining the "new normal."
School for International Training-Graduate Institute
Master's Program on Climate Change and Global Sustainability
Jonathan Walz Ph.D.: In sustainability fields, hard and soft skills for working at the human-environment interface will be essential: project design and management, impact assessment, tech tools (e.g., R Studio, ArcGIS/QGIS, SPSS), and skills in policy analysis and economics, but also skills in collaboration and negotiation, developed capabilities to work and speak across natural/physical sciences and social sciences, awareness of ethics, and effective use of social media for information sharing and advocacy.
Jonathan Walz Ph.D.: In sustainability fields, topical interests and graduates' skillsets play some role in the locations of potential work. The urban hubs of the east and west coasts are best for policy and law linkages to sustainability. These also are where urban and coastal issues are best addressed. Sustainability jobs in energy, water, and food can be found throughout the country.
Jonathan Walz Ph.D.: Technology will continue to be essential for data collection, analysis, and application. I see advances in materials science and artificial intelligence as transforming the collection and management of energy. However, we should not be mystified by technology; soft skills, such as negotiation and intercultural knowledge, still will be desired. After all, technologies are human products-the ethics, uses, and effectiveness of technologies play-out in social circumstances.
David Carmichael: Students hoping to find work as archaeologists need to have a variety of skills, or at least need to have begun developing those skills by completing their undergraduate training. They need to be informed about the laws and ethical guidelines that guide our work, both in terms of the archaeological database (sites, artifacts, human remains, etc.) and our interactions with the stakeholder communities most affected by our work. Students need to have some experience recognizing and identifying archaeological materials in the field. They need to be sufficiently skilled at map reading, the use of GPS, and geomorphology that they can effectively describe the locations and settings of the materials they observe in the field. Students also need to be able to write clearly and concisely and work as part of a team.
David Carmichael: Our archaeology students continue to be successful in finding employment, mainly in Cultural Resources Management settings. This is because, at least for the moment, archaeological studies are still required by several environmental laws and regulations in all states. Ongoing, this administration's efforts to gut some of the critical ecological rules (such as NEPA) could adversely affect our students' job prospects, but that hasn't happened yet. We have recent graduates working for several CRM contracting firms across the Southwest. A smaller number of students are employed as staff archaeologists in federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. The largest concentrations of such jobs occur in areas where development is most intensive, so there are more opportunities on the west coast than in much of the southwest. Salaries are generally higher on the west coast, which may provide additional incentives to move there. Still, many of our students prefer to stay in the southwest, closer to family, and they have been successfully finding jobs in this region.
David Carmichael: Technology has long been part of the tool kit for archaeologists, both in the field and in the laboratory. I believe we will see an increasing role for technologies such as GIS, drones, LIDAR mapping, and the use of digital notebooks and total stations. The various technologies used in materials research will continue to be necessary for the lab, including trace mineral chemistry, DNA identification, plant and animal residues on artifacts, and high power microscopy.
Dr. Carina Heckert: There is a myth that degrees in anthropology, and other fields in the humanities, are not as marketable as other degrees. While there may not be a clearly defined job trajectory with an anthropology degree, the skills that anthropology teaches are highly sought after in many realms. These skills include critical thinking, analytical writing, research, interacting with people, and understanding how individuals and groups operate. These skills are useful in a range of fields, such as health care, marketing, social services, and the nonprofit sector, among others. The beauty of this is that it gives anthropology graduates the flexibility to apply their skills to different careers, rather than being tied to a limited set of career options.
Dr. Carina Heckert: I will focus on the health field, since I am a medical anthropologist. Recent graduates with training in medical anthropology have been employed in a variety of fields within the health sector. One area where I see a lot of growth is in health research, much of which is conducted out of medical schools. An anthropology degree, especially with a focus in medical anthropology, includes training in ethnographic and qualitative research methods, which prepares graduates for careers in health-related research.
University of Montevallo
Department of Behavioral & Social Sciences
James McDonald: I am a strong believer in getting as many methods and research designs under your belt as possible. Students need both qualitative and quantitative skills, as well as a working knowledge of statistics (or better). Students also have to be steeped in an applied orientation that dials them into real-world problems, but also gets them thinking about other things, like leveraging careers outside the academy and the power of networks. Internships, practicums, and other forms of engaged, project-based learning are invaluable. I am convinced that applying knowledge, in the service of real-world problems and scenarios, is the only real way that students internalize knowledge and make it their own. Those experiences are also real lines on a resume that will get them jobs, down the road, after graduation.
Students also need to be trained about how to think about the transfer of their skill sets to jobs that aren't called anthropology. Few, if any jobs, get labeled as anthropology, but our skill sets fit well in many facets of government (research, policy, and analysis), museums, the corporate world (after all, Microsoft is the single largest employer of the anthropologist in the world), marketing/advertising (those organizations can teach you the mechanical tricks of the trade but they can't teach you to be deeply interested in what makes people tick), and non-profits of all stripes.
Also, students need to be attentive to the fact that diversity is at the very center of the anthropological paradigm. We are the cross-cultural specialists, more than any other social science, through our deep and nuanced understanding of culture as an analytical concept and not just a superficial slogan that gets slung around.
James McDonald: Urban areas that are growing and diversifying should have opportunities. Again, the key isn't region so much as students have a well-developed sense of their skill set and how it transfers across diverse jobs and careers.
James McDonald: Luckily, the anthropological skillset is resistant to being automated. We are definitely part of the knowledge and creative economy. Tech will enhance what we do and how we do it. For example, the software is getting strikingly sophisticated for the analysis of interview data. Not only does it speed up analysis, but it is also simply more accurate.
University of West Georgia
Department of Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology
Lisa Gezon Ph.D.: The enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on anthropology graduates will be to make them more prepared to respond flexibly to the changing job market and to changing ways of fulfilling the tasks of a given job. It will also give them a critical awareness of the ways that events like pandemic differently affect groups in society.
Lisa Gezon Ph.D.: The great thing about an anthropology degree is that it prepares people to work in any field where they interact with people: either as part of their job description or with workmates. Anthropology prepares students to gain a professional mindset with professional skills that are valuable in many contexts: they learn hard skills of writing, oral communication both formally and informally, the ability to identify problems, the ability to do research on possible solutions to problems, and the ability to work with people from different cultural backgrounds (either foreign or subgroups of people different from themselves within the U.S.A.). They learn soft skills of working together in teams, meeting deadlines/work ethic, multitasking, and flexibility.
So, to be more direct in answering the question, anthropology students can enter the job market directly, for an entry-level position, in many fields with a Bachelor's degree. They can also further specialize by taking courses in certain complementary areas (for example, business, pre-med or allied health, computer science) during their undergraduate education. Some specialties may require further training. Students should not hesitate to apply their skills in business, education, and public health/administrative careers--and others.
Lisa Gezon Ph.D.: Anthropologists will learn to use state-of-the-art technology, in whatever fields they find themselves in.
Sarah Lacy Ph.D.: The microgeneration of millennials that graduated college between 2008 and 2011, of which I myself am a member, are seeing a dent in their lifetime earnings from graduating into a recession and not being able to recover those losses. From a financial perspective, those graduating now will need to be aggressive about recovering lost job and raise opportunities in the future, as these things compound over a lifetime. As far as the specifics of a global pandemic, I do think we will be seeing more companies pivoting to work-from-home opportunities and forgoing rent on offices. Graduates will need to play up skills like self-motivation and time management to employers to show they can work independently and without a manager a few desks over.
As work-from-home becomes more common for white collar workers, the lustre of big cities are fading. Without a commute, graduates may find the cheaper cost-of-living and greater space of suburban to rural areas more enticing than the expense and congestion of cities--as long as there is good internet access!
Also work in public health is finally expanding! Local public health departments and big hospitals are finally seeing the huge value that medical anthropologists can bring, especially during a pandemic that is impacting minority communities differently. Despite the high unemployment rate right now, multiple graduates from my department this year found work as contact tracers and hope to use that as a launch pad for MPH degrees and public health careers.
Sarah Lacy Ph.D.: Anthropology is such a diverse field. One may imagine archaeologists working in remote locales on excavations, but cultural resource management (CRM) specialists are just as likely to be working on a highway expansion project in the middle of a city. States with more population expansion and, therefore, government construction projects, are great for archaeologists, and historically this has been the Western states. Cultural anthropologists have been in-demand at tech companies, so places like Silicon Valley and Seattle or Santa Monica and the other "little Silicon Valleys" are good places to target. However, anthropologists often have to make a compelling argument for why someone with experience in ethnography and analytical writing is a good fit for a consumer testing position, for instance. Though work-from-home opportunities are opening up jobs across the country, without relocating, I think recent anthropology graduates need to be very flexible. They should make application materials that focus on their unique skills, as human resources officers may not know exactly what anthropology training entails. Within the field, CRM work often follows the whims of construction projects. Museum job opportunities are few and far between, and recent graduates should be willing to relocate, if they find one.
Sarah Lacy Ph.D.: Technology is really changing the concept of fieldwork. Though Zoom conferencing will not replace the detailed knowledge you can get from a community by living with them for a year, it could replace shorter visits and ease returning to communities to share the results of your work, once it is finished. Museums and collections are increasingly posting 3-D scans of their archives online, allowing a biological anthropologist to measure bones a continent away. Archaeologists are collaborating with chemists, computer scientists, and big data engineers on novel projects asking big questions. Remote research, especially as travel restrictions remain in place, will become the new norm.
I encourage all of my students to get experience with Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) software as it is both de riguer in any anthropological landscape research and an excellent skill to leverage for jobs outside traditional anthropology work, e.g., in the lands department of a utility company or security work at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Anthropology majors should be demanding training in these methodologies and technologies if their departments are not offering it. Academia can be slow to change, and many departments rest on their research laurels and do not prioritize job skills for bachelor's degree graduates. Majors can expand their own opportunities by seeking minors in geography, chemistry, and computer science departments.
Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminology
Stephen Carmody Ph.D.: I do think that there are both short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus on graduates. I am not as skeptical about the job market as others are. I do think that in the short term, jobs may be more difficult to find as corporations and government entities respond and react to the virus. But I am more optimistic about what that looks like a few years down the road, especially for those with a degree in the social sciences.
There are so many issues that we are dealing with in our society today, aside from the coronavirus, that students with a degree in one of the social sciences are prepared to deal with. We study culture, society, and human behavior. I once read that many of the jobs that are important today were not around a decade ago. If that holds true, I believe that there will be many new jobs/fields of employment in the near future, and our students will be well-prepared for those jobs.
I think something else that is important to highlight is how flexible and adaptable this generation of students has been faced with the challenges of the coronavirus both inside and outside of the classroom. I think that this bodes well as they enter the job market.
Stephen Carmody Ph.D.: This is a question that I get all the time from students and parents alike. Lawyers go to law school, and doctors go the medical school. I think a challenge that we face is convincing students that they can find employment after graduation. In our program, we emphasize critical thinking skills, writing, data collection and analysis, and research methods. These are skills that all employers are looking for in future employees.
We train our students in these skills so that when they graduate, they aren't limited to the type of jobs that they can apply to. Students with a degree in the social sciences can go to work for private corporations or for the government. There is really no limit to the range of jobs that you can work if you are well-trained in the skill sets that we emphasize.
Stephen Carmody Ph.D.: Technology is at the forefront of all our conversations today as we discuss how we move forward in response to the coronavirus, whether that is education, employment, grocery shopping, etc. We are rethinking what all aspects of our life look like in the future. I do not see the need or importance of technology dwindling in the future. It is my generation that is struggling to keep up, not the students. Again, their understanding of technology, along with the skills they learn, will position them well for future job opportunities.