What is Anthropology?
As the world is transformed and shrinks, anthropology is increasingly relevant. Devoted to the proposition that the diversity among humankind is comprehensible and enriching, anthropologists examine the history and variety of human experience with the goal of understanding what it means to be human. In the process of their study, anthropologists:
- concern themselves with understanding how and why humans vary culturally and biologically, both in the present and in the past; and
- intentionally integrate multiple disciplines—such as economics, history, psychology, biology, and political science, among others—in describing and explaining the causes for human social and biological characteristics.
To simplify the study of such a broad range of interests, the field of anthropology is divided into four main areas:
- sociocultural anthropology
- biological anthropology
Why Study Anthropology?
Students of anthropology want to understand some of the most intriguing and troubling issues faced by modern society, such as:
- the similarities and differences among human societies
- how humans interact with and change their environments
- the role of learned versus innate behavior
- the origin and meaning of ethnic and gender differences
- the way in which institutions explain economic and political differences among nations
- the meaning of religion, community, and family
Tools for Understanding Others
Anthropology also gives us the tools for understanding:
- societies different from our own
- the historical development of similarities and differences among humans in biology and culture
- issues related to ethnic diversity on the local and global levels
Anthropology at Washington University
The anthropology program at Washington University is designed to meet your interests and career plans. Course offerings, research opportunities, internships, and an honors program can combine to fulfill your specific goals while you gain a strong general foundation in anthropology.
The faculty in the Anthropology Department are active in research and bring a diversity of experiences to their teaching. They conduct research around the world along with many sites in the United States. Our faculty are accessible and welcome the opportunity to advise you. As an anthropology major you will have a faculty advisor to help you with selecting courses, planning a career, and other academic concerns.
The anthropology major requires a total of 34 credits, selected as follows:
- Required courses: 10 units
- Anthro 150A Introduction to Human Evolution
- Anthro 160B Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
- Anthro 190B Introduction to Archaeology
- Anthro 397 Proseminar: Issues and Research in Anthropology
- Elective courses: 24 advanced units; these units must be 300-level or higher, including 9 units at the 400-level.
Global Health and Environment Track
Anthropology majors may choose an optional track within the major called Global Health and Environment if the students’ interests lie primarily within this area of anthropology. The track provides strong training for professional and graduate study. Students enrolled in the Global Health and Environment track must complete the Anthropology major courses listed above as well as take required and elective courses specific to the track.
The Anthropology Minor
Many students who recognize the value of anthropology to enhance other areas of study choose to minor in anthropology. The anthropology minor requires 18 units of study, including two of the three introductory courses, and at least 9 credits at an advanced level.
Semester or Year Abroad
You may choose to spend a semester or year abroad in your junior year. Anthropology majors have many options for studying abroad, including colleges and universities as well as immersion programs with a specific focus. There are also summer programs for students whose curriculum leaves limited time for a semester abroad. Other study abroad options are available through our Office of Overseas Programs.
Learn by Doing
You will have multiple opportunities to learn while you apply your skills. For example:
- You may participate in applied classes where you gain real experience with anthropological methods in cultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological anthropology.
- You may also take courses such as:
- Medical Anthropology
Behavioral Research at the St. Louis Zoo
GIS, Landscape, and Spacial Analysis in Archaeology
Population and Society
Human Growth and Development
- You may work closely with faculty members conducting ongoing research, including projects in the archaeology and physical anthropology laboratories.
Should you achieve high academic performance, you will be encouraged to apply for the anthropology honors program during your senior year. If accepted, you will plan and conduct an original research project under the direction of a member of the faculty.
The successful completion of your project allows you to graduate with Latin honors, often leads to publication in professional literature, and enhances your applications to graduate schools. Examples of some recent undergraduate honors theses include:
- How to hunt a Dik-dik: Zooarchaeology at Guli Waabago, Somalia
- Eastern Orthodox Christian Parishes in the St. Louis Area
- Analysis of plant remains from a Caddo site in Arkansas
- The Effects of Malnutrition on Cortical Bone Thickness
- Flooding in East St. Louis: the causes and consequences of an inequitably distributed environmental risk
- Doing Ants’ Work: the evolution of Chile’s Popular Movement
- Community and Healing: Black Hospitals and Racial Policies in the Jim Crow South
- Medicine at the Crossroads: Processes of Modernization in Amazonian Ecuador
- The Implications of Kinship, Religion, and Economy for Navajo Reproductive Health
- Power, Politics, and Poultry: Contracts, Control, and Resistance in Rural Missouri
- Language Policy in Nepal
- Identifying the Other: The Maintenance of Social Division in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Anthropology majors can gain pre-professional experience and earn up to 3 units of credit by taking part in internships in businesses, cultural institutions, and agencies in the community. Examples of recent internship sites include public health organizations, museums, the St. Louis Zoo, and the St. Louis Police Crime Lab.
Anthropology and Your Career
Many students who pursue careers directly related to anthropology obtain a Ph.D., becoming researchers or professors. However, the breadth and flexibility of anthropology training lends itself to many professions and career options, including:
Directly Related Careers
- Business Consultant
- Cultural Resource Manager
- Forensic Anthropologist
- Marketing/Advertising Associate
- Museum Curator
- Policy Consultant
- Product Development Coordinator
- Development Specialist
- Environmental Consultant
- Foreign Affairs Officer
- Public Relations Specialist
- Social Worker
- Urban Planner
Other People-Oriented Careers
If you use anthropology in a career that involves interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds or work in a foreign nation, you may work with organizations such as:
- Government Foreign Service
- Marketing and Public Relations companies
- Development Organizations
- Municipal Governments
- Not-for-Profit Groups
Specially Focused Careers
You may choose to focus on two different areas of study and complete two majors, combining anthropology with:
- Environmental Studies
- Foreign Languages
- International & Area Studies
- Political Science
Many preprofessional students major in anthropology to broaden their undergraduate experience. For example:
- An anthropology major with an emphasis on sociocultural or medical anthropology is excellent for students planning to attend graduate school, law school, medical school, or
schools of public health or social work.
- An anthropology major with an emphasis on physical anthropology provides outstanding preparation for all health-related fields, as well as graduate school, zoo, or
- An anthropology major with a concentration in archaeology is well-prepared for graduate school, work in cultural resource management, or work with state or national parks and monuments.