The Practice of Anthropology
Scroll down the page to read about the practice of anthropology or go to:
–> What do Practicing Anthropologists Do? See what one survey revealed
–> Special Interest Groups
–> Local Practitioner Organizations
–> Creating a More Relevant Code of Ethics
–> NAPA OT Field School
–> Ethnographic Practice in Industry Conference (EPIC)
–> AAA Task Force on Climate Change
–> Resources Links Page (under development)
Practicing anthropologists work to understand and help people around the world. We also turn up in places you might not expect to find us, including the fields of agriculture, computer science, law enforcement forensics, and more.
Our profession is dynamic and constantly evolving as professional anthropologists find work in increasingly diverse occupations. NAPA members use anthropological training to address current issues related to:
- public health
- international development
- organizational and community development
- information technology systems
- social justice
- law and law enforcement
- mass media and communications
- environmental management
- the arts, and much more
The Profession of Anthropology
Put simply, anthropology is the study of humans and our culture, past and present. Anthropologists seek answers to several fundamental questions about humanity and our world. How did our kind evolve? What shapes our lives as creative and social animals? What can be done to improve how we live? These simple questions raise thousands of more detailed questions about the dynamic relationships between the world we live in, our own biology, our social relationships, and the ways we communicate.
U.S. anthropologists divide the work among four sub-fields: biological anthropology, archaeology, sociocultural anthropology, and linguistics. These fields can be addressed academically and through the application of knowledge to real-life situations. The discipline is inherently multidisciplinary in nature. Anthropologists borrow from and contribute to many other professions, disciplines, arts, and sciences. They collaborate and exchange enough information amongst themselves to keep anthropology dynamic, vibrant, and restless.
Biological and physical anthropologists tend to study environmental, biological, and social processes that shape us as a species. They integrate research from primatology, anatomy, osteology, genetics, molecular biology, evolutionary and population biology, ecology, demography, nutrition, medicine, pathology, and forensics.
Sociocultural anthropologists focus on our communities, social behaviors, and belief systems. They investigate businesses, social networks, migration, gender, sexuality, economics, medicine, architecture, families, civil institutions, governments, policies, law, educational systems, ideologies, knowledge systems, artistic expression, and many other topics related to the human endeavor.
Linguist anthropologists concentrate on how we communicate: human anatomy, cognition, language formation, language development, social relationships, expression, symbolism, and meaning.
Archaeologists specialize in the ways we interact physically with our environment and cultural materials. Geology, surveying, materials science, demography, osteology, human biology, ecology, social organization, and other specialties come into play as archaeologists try to reveal our past through physical remains.
Practicing anthropologists apply their work often by working in tandem with community leaders, non-profit institutions, companies, governments and other stakeholders, to understand, create, implement, and evaluate programs, products, services, policies, laws, and organizations.
Areas of Practice
Practicing anthropologists work in many industries and areas, including:
- Agricultural Development
- Business – Product Design, Project Management, Program Management, Research and Development
- Computer Science – Database Design and Development, Software Design and Development, User Interface Design
- Community Development
- Cultural Resource Management
- Education and Training
- Environment – Management, Policy
- Government – Local/State/Federal/International, Military, International Policy
- Information Technology – Human Factors Engineering, Localization and Globalization, Network Design and Administration
- Law Enforcement – Forensics
- Legal Practices
- Medical – Health Care, Public Health
- Museums – Curation, Project and Program Management
- Organizational Management
- Nonprofit – Grant Writing, Management, Policy
- Social Services
To get a better sense of the range of work anthropologists do outside of academia, visit the AAA “Profiles in Practice” webpage, which profiles the work of over a dozen anthropologists. You can also visit some great Prezi presentations prepared by practicing anthropologists that explore what they do:
For more detailed information, see the links at the top of the page.