What is anthropology?


Chances are that you already enjoy watching people in their natural environment. If so, then an undergraduate university degree in anthropology could be for you. And as businesses become more closely based on human behaviour, the career opportunities after graduation are great.

You are probably an anthropologist at some level already � watching people on a busy street as you sit enjoying a drink in the sun might well be considered as field work by many experts in the subject. Understanding why people do particular things in certain circumstances is at the heart of a university degree in anthropology, whether in a purely cultural, political or biological way. People�s behaviour might often appear unique, but the rigorous study of a select group may demonstrate very different results as they subscribe to common patterns and reactions.

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What is anthropology?
Anthropology is the study of all human behaviour, whether through physical or social characteristics. It is an increasingly complex academic area investigating human beings across different periods and locations and all layers of humanity, such as socio-political, evolutionary, cultural and biophysical. As an academic subject anthropology seeks to investigate how and why people�s behaviour changes, over what period of time and under what circumstances.

The four broad fields of the discipline � cultural anthropology, linguistics, physical anthropology and archaeology � are all characterized by different approaches and teach different skills. It is common for academics to specialize in a geographic region or one of the specific areas related to the subject, often immersing themselves in months of field work, living, working and studying with their particular subjects.

Is anthropology for me?
If you find human behaviour interesting, maybe even sometimes compelling, then a university degree in anthropology might well be for you. Because anthropology focuses on observing and analyzing people and their cultures, the subject naturally appeals to those undergraduate students that are curious about the world around them. Put another way, if the current series of Big Brother or the latest gossip magazine fascinates you then it�s likely you are a natural anthropologist!

One of the elements that makes anthropology such a unique academic discipline is that it is often seen as the fusion of a number of different subjects � it�s unlikely that you are studying anthropology as a specific area at high school, but you will be following subjects that represent its building blocks. Sociology, history, literature, geography, biology and mathematics are all relevant to the higher study of anthropology and will prepare you for the diverse challenges that the discipline has to offer.

What programs are available?
As with many undergraduate degrees, there is a wide range of programs available in anthropology. Single honours degrees focusing on all areas of the discipline are a popular choice amongst students, as are more specialist degrees such as social anthropology, medical anthropology, the anthropology of education and cultural anthropology. There is also a wealth of choice if you choose to combine your study of anthropology with another academic area, such as psychology, history, management or law.

Depending on your preference some top universities� departments are well-known for different approaches to the subject. The Department of Anthropology at University College London (UCL) is recognized internationally for its broad-based approach combining biological, social and material culture perspectives; whereas the Anthropology Department at the University of California at Berkeley is known for its work in the area of folklore. Other departments, such as those at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Lund in Sweden are known for their strengths in social anthropology.

No matter what your preference, your undergraduate degree in anthropology will certainly include the requirement for some kind of field work. Again, depending on your interests and your program, this may include a period of study abroad attached to another university in a different country, or an element of international study on an archaeological dig or field project.

What are the career prospects for an anthropology graduate?
A surprising number of careers exist for anthropologists graduating from one of the world�s top universities. For many years the greatest concentration of anthropologists was in the academic world, but as more businesses and other organizations become aware of the importance of managing, evaluating and interpreting the data on human behaviour the range of career opportunities is expanding.

Depending on the specialism of your undergraduate degree, you will find job opportunities in the fields of research, medical and allied areas, business, cultural and other management and business. Your undergraduate degree will teach you vital skills relevant to the workplace: careful note taking, attention to detail, excellent observational and analytical skills and cross-cultural communication are all factors examined by many employers when recruiting.

Specifically, because much of the content of your degree will involve collecting data, researching a context and analyzing what you have watched, you will find that your skills are in demand by market research companies, marketing firms and product development industries alike. Moreover, with the growing interconnectedness of international trade and government, anthropology graduates are sought after because of their familiarity with different cultural and linguistic situations and the various effects of these on different forms of communication.


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