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Anthropology - Overview


Anthropology is the study of humans and their cultural and physical environments. Students learn to analyze human cultures from various points of view. They also may learn about prehistoric humans and primates.

Every day you get up. You eat breakfast and then go to school. You like to play soccer, baseball, and badminton. You enjoy hanging out with your friends, who do the same things as you: eat breakfast, go to school, have fun. And everyone across the whole world is just the same, right?

You probably answered, No, we're all different. Even though you and your friends may be a lot alike, each of you likes different things. Maybe some of your friends hate sports and enjoy reading detective books instead. Maybe you eat eggs in the morning but have friends who eat only toast. But what about kids your age who are part of a small tribe in the Amazon? Do they have books like you? Do they have a sport like soccer? Do they have school? If they don't, what do they do that is different? As an anthropologist, you try to answer questions such as these.

In an anthropology program, courses cover many different areas, such as history, biology, geology, sociology, and psychology. You take courses on how to conduct research, and you write about your results. In addition, you take courses about specific groups of people, such as Native Americans or Vikings. Or you take courses about archeology and what scientists have found, such as frozen Incan mummies and ancient human weapons.

Studying anthropology gives you a lot of options. You can specialize in archeology, where you learn about prehistoric humans and go on "digs." In an archeology dig, you carefully look for artifacts buried in the ground. You can be a biological anthropologist, which means you study how humans developed. This includes studying how humans are related to other animals, such as monkeys and chimpanzees. Cultural anthropologists study different cultures around the world, including the U.S. Linguistic anthropologists study how words and books develop.

A degree in anthropology prepares you to do more than study cultures. You can use your research skills and your knowledge about different cultures to work for the government or for international agencies. You can work for marketing companies, nonprofit groups, or museums. You can even use your knowledge about human bodies to become a crime investigator.

Many four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in anthropology. Many also offer graduate degree programs. Typically you receive a bachelor's degree in anthropology in four years. Most community colleges offer two-year programs in anthropology, which can be transferred to a four-year college or university. Graduate programs take from two to five years after you finish your bachelor's degree. Most people who get doctoral degrees in anthropology become professors and do research.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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