Programs in anatomy teach about the structures and parts that provide the framework for animals and other living organisms. Students learn organ systems and tissue structure. They may also study the dynamics of structures that make up the whole organism.
Did you know that a giraffe does not have any more neck bones than a mouse has? One of the amazing things you learn in anatomy is how nature stretches parts of the body to achieve necessary results. Pandas need a thumblike digit to strip leaves off bamboo stems, but their true thumb already has a specialized function. So one wrist bone sticks out and has an impressive set of muscles, thus functioning as a thumb.
Most anatomy programs do not devote a great amount of time to pandas. But studying the structure of other animals can often provide insights into how our own bodies are constructed. And you also look at the development of this structure over time. You study embryology to learn how the structures of the body develop from small collections of cells in the embryo.
As in most subjects in biology, you cannot understand what happens on the large scale without understanding the microscopic scale. So you study the structures of tissues and cells and the chemical processes they perform. Nerve tissue is of particular interest.
You confirm much of what you learn by examining cadavers. But you also study images from CAT and MRI scans. And you devote a good amount of laboratory time to examining tissue samples under the microscope.
You can take a course in anatomy as an undergraduate, but almost no colleges offer a major in it. To specialize, you need to study this subject in graduate school. That means you first must get a bachelor's degree, probably in biology. That typically requires four years of full-time study beyond high school. About 40 schools offer a master's degree program in anatomy. This usually takes two years beyond the bachelor's degree. It is generally expected that you will continue your education to the Ph.D. This usually requires an additional three years. About 55 schools offer this degree.
One of the main goals of the program is to prepare you to teach anatomy. So you are likely to be required to be a teaching assistant for part of your program. Another important goal is to learn how to do research. Thus you learn how to use statistics to process data that you collect from research, and you study experimental design. Then you conduct an original research project that you write up as your dissertation.