The information below is relevant to starting and developing a career in practicing and applied anthropology.
“Employers often seek sharp thinkers who can manage and interpret the large volumes of data that either exist or need to be gathered on human behavior. Governmental, nongovernmental, and private business entities need those who can collect and/or analyze qualitative and quantitative data, and then apply the holistic understanding and insights to the information that anthropology can provide.”
What to keep in mind when planning your job search and resume preparation
If you are still in school, look for opportunities that are relevant to the area in which you wish to work. For example, if you want to get into international aid, there are many opportunities to volunteer overseas (if you have the means). If you are interested in local community issues or public health, find a city government or nonprofit with which to work. You may find that articulating the benefits and relevance of an anthropology degree to those unfamiliar with the field is often the largest hurdle. Look at some of the skills listed below, and think broadly about your education and experiences, and how those are relevant to a particular position. Boil those down into key strengths to note to an employer.
Volunteering directly or doing an internship in your desired field will help you develop contacts that you can use after graduation. Just as importantly, it also exposes the public (and potential employers) to anthropologists at work – thereby increasing awareness of our field and the skill sets we bring to bear.
State and local governmental organizations use anthropologists in planning, research, and managerial capacities. Many corporations look explicitly for anthropologists, recognizing the utility of their perspective on corporate researcher teams, for example, or as evaluators or project managers. Many anthropology graduates work in the public and not-for-profit sectors, such as for local governments, charities, central government bodies, universities, museums, and voluntary organizations, as well as for international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
When preparing a resume, you will need to adjust it slightly to best appeal to the particular sector of the employer. A state employer will look for rather specific backgrounds in education and experience, as laid out in a job announcement. A nonprofit may focus more on any prior relevant experiences and how you fit best into their organization.
It is difficult to compile a list of all jobs that anthropologists are able to do, but according to the American Anthropological Association some of the most common job titles/positions include:
Each of these job roles will require a resume with a slightly different focus, that highlight how your education and experience best match both the position and the organization.
Skills to note on your CV or resume
When drafting your resume, make a list of the most relevant skills you have developed as they pertain to the job in question. Use all the skills you have acquired throughout your school and work life, not just those developed while earning your anthropology degree.
Read the job posting several times and circle the skills you listed that are most relevant to the career you are seeking, to ensure you will be satisfied in that position.
As well as a specialized knowledge of applying anthropology, you may have also developed a range of social, behavioral, biological, and other scientific research methods. Additional, general skills gained with an anthropology degree include careful record-keeping, attention to detail, analytical reading, and clear thinking. You have also most likely developed skills that are less easy to express in a resume, such as social ease in strange situations, critical thinking, and strong skills in oral and written expression.
Keep in mind the following general skills that can be listed in a resume or cover letter, and remember to tweak your resume to highlight the skills most prominent in a job listing, or that will best suit a particular employer:
Remember, you are an anthropologist! Be sure to research the company or organization, and use the information you have gathered to not only to adapt your resume but to develop your objective or personal statement (if required) and cover letter.
Some application postings will only accept a resume. But frequently, you will be allowed, even required, to submit a cover letter, too. The cover letter lets you to express yourself more thoroughly than you can through your resume, and to “pitch yourself” more specifically to the position needs outlined in the job announcement. Here you can let your personality show through; try to pique an employer’s interest in you! Remember that you may be one of hundreds of applicants, so don’t be afraid to try to stand out a bit.
- Attempt to discover who specifically will receive the cover letter, and personalize it to address that person.
- Complement, but do not duplicate, your resume.
- Write simply, clearly, and to the point. The letter should be less than one page.
- Explain plainly why an anthropologist best suits the job and organization.
- Include some of the keywords or skills listed in the job announcement.
- Highlight any special talents or experiences you wish the employer to consider.
- Briefly explain any employment gaps or anomalies in your job history.
- Have someone who knows you well proofread your draft, and offer suggestions.
- If you get into a creative bind, find some sample cover letters online for ideas and inspiration.
- Unless specifically requested, do not include a salary history.
- Follow any specific instructions requested by the employer!
Always save a copy of each cover letter. This will help you remember who received which letter, when. (If the cover letter is in the form of an email, draft and finalize the message first in a word processor.) And as you write more and more cover letters, you will be able to cut and paste content from prior versions that are relevant for current applications. This will be especially helpful as you find different ways to best articulate the relevance of anthropology in different contexts.
General resume tips
- No two of your resumes will be alike. Each will be tweaked to best present your background vis-a-vis a specific job.
- There are numerous samples of resume styles and formats online; find one that best suits the relevant employer.
- Most resumes should only be two pages. CVs may run several pages, as required by the employer.
- Put your name and all available contact information at the top, and ensure their accuracy.
- Do not use specific anthropological jargon, unless the employer seeks a specific anthropological background.
- Do use descriptive words that highlight your anthropology, such as “cross-cultural,” “ethnographic,” holistic,” “insightful analysis,” “multidisciplinary,” etc. If needed, use the cover letter to further describe the relevance of anthropology for the job/organization.
- Be specific but brief. Use active/action words. Focus on your successes and specific outcomes.
- Skills, education, and experiences should be listed in the order that best suits your background, or that best match the job announcement.
- Triple check spelling, grammar, and consistent format/layout. Don’t cram too much into the resume.
- Professional references (usually three) with full and accurate contact information should be included, if requested, on a separate page, in the same format as the resume.
- If you have a LinkedIn or personal web page, be sure the content aligns well with your resume.
Jobhero is a website that gives great examples of the different way you can work your skills as it pertains to the job you are seeking. Visit their anthropologist resume samples.
- Briller, Sherylyn H., and Amy Goldmacher, 2009, Designing an Anthropology Career: Professional Development Exercises, Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
- Camenson, Blythe, 2004, Great Jobs for Anthropology Majors, McGraw-Hill.
- Ellick, Carol J., and Joe E. Watkins, 2011, The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: From Student to a Career, Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
- Guerron-Montero, Carla, 2008, “Careers in 21st Century Applied Anthropology: Perspectives from Academics and Practitioners,” NAPA Bulletin Number 29, Wiley-Blackwell.
- Gwynne, Margaret A., 2002, Applied Anthropology: A Career-Oriented Approach, Boston: Bacon Allyn.
- Gwynne, Margaret A., 2002, Anthropology Career Resources Handbook, Pearson.
- Nolan, Riall W., 2003, Anthropology in Practice: Building a Career Outside the Academy (Directions in Applied Anthropology), Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher.
- Omohundro, John T., 1997, Careers in Anthropology, Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co.
- Stephens Jr., W. Richard, 2001, Careers in Anthropology, Pearson.
- Wasson, Christina, ed. 2006. “Making History at the Frontier: Women Creating Careers as Practicing Anthropologists.” NAPA Bulletin No. 26, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
• American Anthropological Association (AAA) Career Center
• NAPA Mentoring Program
• Best of the Web, “Anthropology Organizations” (a comprehensive list of discipline specific organizations)
• Anthropology Blogs (links to an almost overwhelming number of anthropology and anthropology-related blogs)