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Mentor Program: Undergrad QA1

NAPA Mentoring FAQs: Undergraduate Scenarios

Scenario One

Q. I’m currently working on my BA with a dual major in anthropology and another subject.  I would like information on what I should be getting involved in, what programs I should be attending, or what I should be considering.

A. There are several career tracks you can consider at this point.

1.  You can seek a career in your area(s) of interest with a BA degree.  You might not be an “anthropologist” per se, but you can move into your area of interest by seeking a position with an organization (private business, nonprofit organization, or public agency) and continuing to become skilled and knowledgeable in your area of interest or specialization.  Your college placement office would be an essential resource in that search. Where you live could play a significant role in your career possibilities.

2.  You can seek to become an anthropologist, which will require graduate training.  Admission to graduate school will typically entail an excellent undergraduate grade record, a strong score on the Graduate Record Examination (probably taken in your senior year), and often some individual experience (gained through internships, volunteer work, and summer programs) relevant to your graduate program and objectives.  Your faculty advisors, who will know you and your academic and personal capabilities, should be key sources of advice about whether graduate school training is right for you, and what schools you should consider.  You will need to be able to write well, to have various skills and competencies, and have a broad fund of knowledge. Graduate schools are extremely diverse in their focus and specializations, so this will need to be a carefully researched and considered choice to ensure a good match for your interests, goals, and personality.

3.  There are essentially two routes with respect to graduate anthropology: the professional masters program in applied anthropology, and the PhD.  The former is offered by various universities around the country.  It is typically a 2- to 3-year program, usually with a strong internship and/or thesis component.  You will find a partial list of such programs through the website of the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology Programs, http://www.copaa.info/.  Through this site you can explore and get an idea of what these programs are like.  You may find one that has a particular anthropological specialty or emphasis that suits your interests.  Not all of the programs listed are the same; look for those with a significantly sized student body, a sizable and diverse faculty, a strong internship and placement record, and evidence that the masters program is not simply a minor component of a department emphasizing a doctoral program.

The second route is the PhD program, which takes a minimum of 5 years (and typically 8 or more years) of graduate study.  There are many of these programs in the U.S. and internationally.  Again, your faculty advisors will be good sources of advice on these.  This is a much larger undertaking and will require a total commitment on your part to achieve the PhD. However, the employment options for anthropologists are greatest for those holding a PhD.

4.  Between now and your BA graduation, seek opportunities to explore your specific interests through internships, summer programs, field schools, volunteer work, and through tutorial courses.  These can help you more firmly gauge the strength of your interest in subjects of interest, while also broadening your fund of experience and knowledge in these areas.  Many students with interests in overseas development, for example, find opportunities to experience that through programs in Latin America or in Washington, DC. A foreign language and study abroad for a semester are both highly recommended.

5.  If your interest is in other subjects along with anthropology, you should consider graduate school in those subjects.  In the areas of health, law, international development, business, communications, and others, an anthropology bachelors degree can yield additional benefits when it comes to excelling in other fields.

Find more information by mining the websites of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology, along with this National Association for the Practice of Anthropology website. You can also join NAPA’s Linked In and Facebook pages, or the NAPA listserv, and pose questions to members through these social media. There have been a few books published in recent years that explore anthropology as a career; they can be found easily through search engines. NAPA has published two “Bulletins” (now called the Annals of Anthropological Practice) on anthropology careers (e.g., see Volume 29, March 2008).

Always seek advice from multiple sources and then decide for yourself what fits your particular situation and goals.

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