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Sociology and Anthropology


What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of human behavior and what it means to be human. This ranges from the study of culture and social relations to human biology and evolution; languages; music, art, and architecture; and to past vestiges of human habitation. It considers such fascinating topics such as how human behavior changes over time, how people move about the world, why and how people from dissimilar cultures are different and yet also the same, how the human species has evolved over millions of years, and how individuals understand and operate successfully in distinct cultural settings.

Anthropology includes four broad fields–cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, physical anthropology, and archaeology. Each of the four fields teaches distinctive skills, such as applying theories, employing research methodologies, formulating and testing hypotheses, and developing extensive sets of data.

What Does Anthropology Teach That is Useful Outside the College Setting?

Careful record-keeping, attention to details, analytical reading, and clear thinking are taught by anthropological courses. Social ease in strange situations, critical thinking, and strong skills in oral and written expression are cultivated by anthropological training. Using a range of social, behavioral, biological, and other scientific research methods, anthropology majors learn to supplement statistical findings with descriptive data gathered through participant observation, interviewing, and ethnographic study.

An anthropologist is a trained observer who knows the importance of collecting data, in listening and watching what  others are doing, in reflecting on what has actually as well as apparently occurred, in researching the context, in applying various explanatory models, and in adopting a broad perspective for framing an understanding. Whatever the topic of research, anthropologists share a particular holistic vision that requires using a repertoire of methods in order to forge a deeper understanding of situations. This holism characterizes the best anthropology and imparts the perspective for which the profession is valued.

While the job market for academic anthropologists is relatively steady, demand for anthropologists is increasing in other areas, stimulated by a growing need for analysts and researchers with sharp thinking skills who can manage, evaluate, and interpret the large volume of data on human behavior. The extent of occupational flexibility reflects the emphasis on breadth, diversity, and independence of thought.

Updated 2.19.2014