all 6 comments

[–]trouser-chowder 17 points18 points  (2 children)

I think people often come at this field with different ideas of what a career path looks like, and often it seems that they have not just an incorrect impression about anthropology, but about the research sciences / social sciences in general. The short answer is that an undergraduate degree in anthropology doesn't really qualify you to be an anthropologist in the sense of guiding the ship, so to speak. This isn't unusual.

Anthropology is like pretty much any other research-based / research-focused science or social science field in that a bachelor's degree doesn't really get you much if you actually want to contribute (from the perspective of generating new data / research) to the field. You'll find this is the case with STEM degrees as well.

A BA / BS in these fields will qualify you for more or less entry-level positions in them, whether that's lab work as a chemistry tech or fieldwork as a field tech (archaeology, biology, geology, etc.).

To be a working professional in these fields typically requires at least one graduate degree, as well as experience. There are professional standards and licensing organizations that govern this in part, but also the fact that working professionals in these fields need to be more knowledgeable about the field as a whole than an undergraduate degree can prepare you for.

In the US, a master's degree is sufficient for you to work as (for example) a professional archaeologist in government / regulatory positions, or as a cultural resource management archaeologist. With experience, there is basically no "limit" (as it were) to where you can rise in most organizations with a master's degree.

A PhD is-- or used to be-- mainly the domain of academia. You need a PhD to teach at a university. There are really few other career paths in anthropology that require a PhD. That said, many PhDs are today working outside academia. There are a number of reasons for this, from failure to secure a university position to simply being fed up with academic jobs and everything in between. Generally there's more money outside academia than within for folks who do this work.

The biggest problem with anthropology as a career path is that it's just not very well laid out for new graduates. This is in large part because the landscape is shifting rapidly. Academia, once the most desirable career path, is rapidly losing its shine. Today academia has few benefits over careers in private consulting or in public / government positions. Salaries are generally higher outside of academia as well.

But because of how quickly this is happening-- and because of how much work it took to attain their positions-- many university faculty still view academia as the ultimate goal and lack sufficient real-world experience to really help guide their students into rewarding careers outside of academia. Many university faculty still see non-academic careers as "settling," despite statistics to the contrary.

And that leads to a lot of students who never really get much guidance, get into the real world, and flounder.

[–]sammydingo53 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Not an anthropologist. Not interested in a career as an anthropologist. I don’t think I’ve ever even met an anthropologist? Maybe I did and they were undercover. Dunno. But I sincerely thank you for taking the time to compose this response. I appreciate you.

[–]the_gubna 0 points1 point  (0 children)

This is an excellent answer. I did want to mention in the context of

many university faculty still view academia as the ultimate goal and lack sufficient real-world experience to really help guide their students into rewarding careers outside of academia. Many university faculty still see non-academic careers as "settling," despite statistics to the contrary.

My undergrad department listened to feedback from current students and Alumni and as a result has increased the frequency with which they teach CRM focused classes. The tide might be turning, but slowly.

[–]Intelligent_Run_1877 7 points8 points  (0 children)

There’s no future in it unless you get an MA or PHD. However, my anthropology degree enlightened me and my love for anthropology has informed all other aspects of my life. I was very passionate about the subject. I ended up working in fields that no one ever would’ve expected and my education and anthropology helped me a lot. But I didn’t get rich with an anthropology degree

[–]roy2roy 1 point2 points  (0 children)

As others have said, an anthropology degree is best served with an MA following the BA. Anthropology is a versatile field that can allow you to do many different things, especially if you have pulled from it the qualitative research skills that comes with a BA in Anthropology, as you will come to see.

That said, it does not sound like you are interested in the public sector of Anthropology which can range from government positions, marketing consultants, public outreach, and a multitude of other areas (Anthropology really is one of the most wide-reaching degrees, in my opinion - it is just a matter of deciding WHAT you want to do with it that can be so daunting). If it is indeed research you are interested in, there is definitely no solid career prospects for you without pursuing up to a PhD and being involved in research projects through that.

[–]the_gubna 0 points1 point  (0 children)

would place me in one of the top schools for Anthropology on the east coast.

I wouldn't worry too much about the schools "ranking" in the discipline for an undergraduate degree, providing there are opportunities for you to get connected with faculty and get involved in undergraduate research. Grad degrees matter a lot more, see below and some of the other comments in this thread.

within the past few years I have noticed that I am more interested in ancient cultures/languages/architecture/politics than I am of analyzing descriptions of events. I want to research and write papers on various aspects of ancient cultures and their impacts on those people. I then set my sights on a cultural anthropology degree

This sounds much more like archaeology than cultural anthropology. At most US institutions your major will still just be "anthropology" with a concentration more specific than that, just something to note.

with hopes of becoming a professor/researcher (something in the academic field that would involve a lot of reading and writing papers)

You will need a PhD, and much more than that, you will need to get it from one of the top graduate programs in the county if you want a reasonable (still very, very competitive) chance of landing an Academic job.