Anthropology Advising Guide
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work
What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is the study of past and present humankind. Utilizing knowledge from the biological, social, and behavioral sciences, anthropology represents a holistic and humanistic discipline, bringing together a variety of perspectives to learn about ancient peoples and to solve modern problems. Anthropologists take both a comparative and evolutionary perspective to more fully understand what it means to be human, and to explore human similarities and differences across geographic space and time.
American anthropology is commonly divided into four fields: cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology, and biological anthropology.
Cultural anthropologists study societies in the contemporary world using the method of participant observation, in which researchers reside in a community, learn its language, observe social behavior, and conduct interviews of community members. Traditionally, anthropologists studied mostly small-scale indigenous societies, where they examined religion, kinship, production and exchange, political beliefs, food practices, and other aspects of social life. These remain an important focus of research, but increasingly cultural anthropologists have turned their attention to larger-scale developed societies. Participant observation in modern settings offers insights into many problems of contemporary social life, including religious and ethnic conflict, the effects of climate change, globalization, social inequality, health disparities, and addiction.
Language – the ability to represent meaning through symbols and to communicate those meanings to other people – is a hallmark of all human societies. Linguistic anthropologists study the social and cultural contexts of human communication. How does language symbolically represent our natural, supernatural, and social worlds? How does our day-to-day use of language reflect our social identities of region, social class, gender, and ethnicity? In addition, the comparison of distinct languages can offer evidence of their historical evolution and illuminate past and contemporary relationships between their speakers. By documenting indigenous vocabularies and grammars, linguistic anthropologists also contribute to the revitalization of endangered languages in the modern world.
Biological (or physical) anthropologists study human biological variation and adaptation in response to the natural and cultural environments of the past and present. They seek to understand what it means to be human by taking into account our unique evolutionary and individual life histories, in all their diversity. This broad discipline encompasses approaches ranging from comparative observations of non-human primates (primatology), physical variation and population genetics (human biology), hominid evolution (paleoanthropology), and the study of ancient human skeletal remains from the archaeological record (bioarchaeology). More recently, these methods have been applied to assist law enforcement with the forensic identification of modern human remains (forensic anthropology). By utilizing a biological perspective, these anthropologists seek to explore the dynamics of the human condition and our continued evolution into the future.
Archaeologists study our ancestors through material remains (artifacts) in order to reconstruct the past, inform our present, and look to the future. Fieldwork involves an array of sophisticated methods and careful excavation techniques to identify archaeological sites and recover traces of a past human presence. An archaeologist will often specialize in the analysis of certain artifact types, such as animal bones (zooarchaeology), pottery, plant remains (paleoethnobotany), or stone tools. From two million-year-old stone tools in Africa, to early 20th-century houselots in downtown Mobile, Alabama, archaeologists analyze the physical evidence of the past in pursuit of a broad and comprehensive understanding of human culture.
Career Opportunities in Anthropology
An undergraduate degree in Anthropology can prepare you for a number of exciting career paths. While traditionally, anthropologists have been employed in university settings, many other opportunities are available in today’s world for trained anthropologists with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, including work in government, corporate centers, museums, non-profit organizations, and cultural resource management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow 19% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.”
At a glance…
- Archaeology: Most professional archaeologists work in cultural resource management (CRM) - they mitigate the effects of federal undertakings on archaeological sites. Other archaeologists are employed by museums, universities, and government agencies.
- Cultural Anthropology: Cultural anthropologists are increasingly being employed by corporations, non-profit and advocacy groups, and government agencies.
- Biological Anthropology: While some biological anthropologists may work in an academic setting, others work in forensic labs or with law enforcement, zoos, pharmaceutical firms, museums, or in industry.
- Linguistic Anthropology: In addition to working in academic settings, linguistic anthropologists are often employed by government agencies and corporations.
Salary Trends in Anthropology
Salaries earned by anthropologists are dependent on degree level. According to a recent survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, anthropologists in the United States earned a median salary of over $57,000 per year during 2012, up from a median salary of $54,230 in 2010. In 2011, the highest employment level in anthropology was found in the South and Southwestern United States.
High School Preparation
Many students are not exposed to anthropology until college; however, even if your high school does not have anthropology courses, there are still high school classes you may find useful before entering college and declaring a major or minor in Anthropology. Depending on the particular field of anthropology you are contemplating, consider taking coursework in social studies, history, or other social sciences, math (statistics is especially useful), physical sciences like biology and chemistry, as well as a foreign language. Computer skills are important, as are good writing skills. Courses that encourage critical thinking are especially useful.
How to Major in Anthropology
To major in Anthropology, students must take a minimum of 34 credit hours in anthropology courses, as well as SY 109, for a total of 37 credit hours. Students should first complete core courses in AN 100, AN 101, and AN 210/210L before moving on to upper division courses. Students must take AN 454 (theory), as well as one 300+ course in each of the following fields: archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Majors must complete their remaining 12 hours in Anthropology at the 200+ level.
Students pursuing a degree in Anthropology must have a minor in another discipline. A degree in Anthropology with honors is also available.
To minor in Anthropology, students must take a minimum of 18 credit hours in anthropology courses, including AN 100 and AN 101.
The minimum requirements for a B.A. in Anthropology in the USA College of Arts & Sciences are as follows:
|AN 100: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology|
|AN 101: Introduction to Archaeology and Biological Anthropology|
|AN 210/L: Biological Anthropology|
|Upper Division Requirements:|
|AN 454: Anthropological Theory|
|300+ level Archaeology course|
|300+ level Biological Anthropology course|
|300+ level Biological Anthropology course|
|300+ level Cultural Anthropology course|
|4 additional upper division anthropology courses (200+ level)|
|SY 109: Introduction to Sociology|
Special Programs, Internships, and Directed Studies
We encourage students to take advantage of the many hands-on opportunities in Anthropology available to them while at USA. Students can gain archaeological experience in the field or lab by working with the Center for Archaeological Studies and the USA Archaeology Museum. Students interested in forensic anthropology have the opportunity to work on real forensic cases with faculty and the Mobile Police Identification Unit. Numerous internships are also available with area institutions including the Mobile Medical Museum, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Office of Archives and Records Management, the History Museum of Mobile, and the Mobile Municipal Archives.
Students are especially encouraged to engage in independent research with faculty through Directed Studies, Senior Theses, or by joining them on both domestic and international excavation and research projects around the globe. We also offer three associated programs and minors to help complement student interests, including the Forensic Science minor, a minor in Museum Studies, and the Native American Studies Program.
What’s so unique about Anthropology here at USA? Here are a few examples of the many opportunities available to students:
- Survey archaeological sites in Conecuh National Forest with Dr. Carr
- Travel to southeastern Arabia with Dr. Gregoricka to work with Bronze Age skeletons
- Learn how to excavate with Dr. Waselkov at Old Mobile
- Engage in community service by giving tours to elementary and middle school students at the USA Archaeology Museum with Barbara Filion
- Intern at a local museum and design and implement a public exhibit
- Investigate local, active forensic anthropology cases with Dr. Gregoricka
- Present your research at professional conferences, including the Southeastern Archaeological Conference and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
- Experience the archaeology of Belize and living Maya culture while studying abroad with Dr. Carr
- Attend guest lectures with world-renowned anthropologists
- Work with our active and student-run Anthropology Club, which plans multiple events, lectures, and trips each year
- Apply for our numerous anthropology scholarships and awards given out each May at our annual Departmental Awards Ceremony
Study Abroad Opportunities
Anthropology is the study of humankind, and as a result, learning about other cultures firsthand by studying abroad is an integral experience for our undergraduates. Faculty-led programs with an emphasis on anthropology include:
USA in Belize (Dr. Carr): Belize offers something of a unique experience for study abroad because of its multicultural nature and significant archaeological sites in a country where English is the primary language. Students have the opportunity to learn anthropology in the midst of another culture without a language barrier. As home to some of the most important archaeological sites of the Mayan world, Belize offers the opportunity to explore the rise of cultural complexity and the evolution of state level societies, as well as the results of colonialism and current situation for modern Maya people.
Anthropology courses offered:
AN 101: Introduction to Archaeology and Biological Anthropology
AN 490 (Special Topics): Mayan Archaeology & Culture
USA in the UK (Dr. Gregoricka): Thanks to our origins as a colony of its once-great empire, we have a special kinship with Great Britain, sharing a language, customs, and much of our cultural DNA. At the same time, in the two centuries since American independence, we have diverged in many ways, creating a one-of-a-kind natural study of comparisons and contrasts. Oh, and living in London is pretty darn cool. Students will spend one month living and learning in London while taking two academic classes. The program will include exciting excursions and many opportunities to use London as a classroom.
Anthropology courses offered:
AN 390: Answers from the Grave: The Archaeology of Death in Prehistoric Britain
Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years.
To see a sample academic plan for this major, please click here. Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.
For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.
For More Information
You can find us on campus at:
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
5991 USA Drive North
Humanities Building Rm. 34
Mobile, AL 36688-0002
Phone: (251) 460-6347
Fax: (251) 460-7925
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/usa.anthropology
*The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other majors, please refer to the USA bulletin or contact the department/College directly.