Career outlook

What can I do with a degree in anthropology?

Students earning a degree in anthropology possess a unique combination of STEM and humanities-based skills. Anthropology degree holders are trained to:

  • Work in global, multicultural contexts
  • Address real-world problems by overcoming pre-conceived cultural assumptions, and incorporate local knowledge and community input into solutions
  • Discern trends, themes, and patterns from complex data sets
  • Gain field science techniques related to archeological excavations and ethnographic studies and surveys
  • Closely analyze texts and sources
  • Excel in argumentation, writing, and critical thinking

The broad nature of an anthropological education makes it well suited for the professional demands of today's world, which values culturally savvy, adaptable workers. The ability of anthropologists to see problems through a fresh "outsider's" vantage point is particularly valued by students who go on to work in business, consulting, and other administrative fields. Anthropology is a popular and relevant subject for pre-med students because it combines medicine with cross-cultural experience. It is advantageous as a pre-law major because it combines an emphasis on writing and argumentation with global awareness.

Transferable skills

An anthropology degree offers skills in:

  • Scientific research and analysis
  • Laboratory techniques, forensic analysis
  • Creating archeological surveys, object analysis, cataloging and classification of objects
  • Design survey, questionnaires, interviews; implement, code, and analyze interviews
  • Critical thinking and communication
  • Awareness of the role of culture in shaping the reactions and perceptions of others
  • Use of reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of differing conclusions, arguments, and approaches to problems
  • Creating original arguments and assertions based on evidence; critically evaluate evidence based-claims made by others

Careers in anthropology

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment of anthropologists is expected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022. Professionals with degrees in anthropology earn an average salary of $61,220.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and American Anthropological Association, despite the perception that anthropology is an "academic" field, the majority (7,700) work in non-academic professional contexts compared to the estimated 600 who are employed by educational institutions.

Career insights by degree

Still want more information about what degree is right for you? Visit our career insights explorer tool to learn more.

Graduate study

A graduate degree in anthropology provides countless opportunities to contribute to research, policy, community development, health care, law, industry, and many other areas. This degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

Notable people with an anthropology major

  • Tracey Chapman (songwriter, singer)
  • Gail Simmons (chef, television personality)
  • Kurt Vonnegut (author)

Career and job prospects

Archaeology students

What can you do with training in archaeology? Perhaps the more appropriate question is, what can't you do with training in archaeology? Archaeology may seem like an unconventional career path, but it should not be mistaken for one with limited professional options! There are countless opportunities to apply training in archaeology and/or museum studies in a wide variety of professional settings.

Thanks to the extensive hands-on training and research experience our program offers, our undergraduate students who have focused on archaeology and/or museum studies (either as anthropology majors or archaeology minors) have been very successful in gaining admission to top, nationally-ranked graduate programs. Many graduates have gone on to jobs in museums, federal and local government positions, education, law, public policy, historic preservation, city planning, tourism, GIS-based work, engineering, and, of course, cultural resource management.

Our graduate students with archaeology and/or museum specializations are readily employed upon graduation in a wide range of jobs related to their training. These jobs are located in public and private sectors and include work in cultural resource management firms, federal and local governments, industry, national research laboratories, environmental consulting firms, publishing houses, educational institutions, law firms, non-profits, and museums.

Employers of our recent graduates include the National Parks Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Commonwealth Heritage Group, Mannik & Smith Group, Ethnoscience Inc., PaleoWest, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, The Henry Ford Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Science Center, Arab American Museum, City of Detroit, Detroit Public Schools, Isle Royale National Park, River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Governor Warner Mansion, and many others.

Some of our M.A. students decide to pursue doctoral degrees, and their training at Wayne State has gained them admission to competitive Ph.D. programs in archaeology, anthropology, and public history nationwide.

Business anthropology students

Graduates can specialize in career fields such as:

  • Organizational ethnography (understanding formal and informal structures and processes, resolving internal conflict, assessing policy or process effects, implementing programs)
  • Marketing research (product design, social trends, intercultural marketing)
  • Consumer behavior (responses to advertising, purchasing trends, product use)

Business and organizational anthropologists work inside some of the leading manufacturing and service companies in the world, including Accenture, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Nissan, Procter & Gamble, Xerox, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, and J. Walter Thompson.

These firms have discovered that anthropology brings a unique understanding of human and cultural issues to their enterprises at home and abroad. Anthropologists help companies design products and organizational processes that incorporate an understanding of consumers, employees, and external communities. At the same time, anthropologists are discovering that the doors of business and industry open onto many exciting field sites and important research questions and that the anthropological perspective can make a significant contribution to corporate social responsibility and ethics.

Social work and anthropology (SWAN)

Graduates can specialize in career fields such as health, behavioral health, environmental health, interpersonal violence, gerontology, culture and food, medical anthropology, business and organizational anthropology, urban issues, and global affairs.

Anthropologists with specialization in social work are prepared for careers in academia (anthropology departments, schools of social work, medical schools), interdisciplinary research institutes (non-governmental organizations, global health agencies), and municipal and state agencies serving vulnerable populations.

Graduate job placement

In recent years, our master's degree graduates have been employed as:

Cultural, linguistic, biological, and business anthropology

  • Attorney (U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security)
  • Attorney (Feiger Law Firm)
  • Director (Detroit Neighborhood Housing Service)
  • Owner and CEO (Garmir LLC)
  • User experience researcher (Build/Create Studios)
  • Coordinator (Export Control, Wayne State University)
  • Owner (Detroit Denim Co.)
  • Senior Lecturer (Industrial Design Program, Wayne State University)
  • Organizational development coordinator (AlixPartners)
  • Client analyst (ForeSee)
  • Transportation manager (PACE Southeast Michigan)
  • Bishop (Old Catholic Church)
  • Senior researcher (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)
  • Ethnographer (Owens Corning)
  • Instructor (Macomb Community College)
  • Instructor (Henry Ford College)
  • Assistant professor (Kuwait University)
  • ESL instructor (ACCESS Community)
  • Product research and design (Ford Automotive Company)
  • Program officer (University of Michigan School of Business)
  • Coordinator (Veterinary Tech Program, Wayne State University)

Medical anthropology

  • Physician assistant (Henry Ford Hospital)
  • Researcher (Ruth Mott Foundation)
  • Researcher (Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center)
  • Project coordinator (University of Michigan Medical School)
  • Disability resources assistant (Delta College)
  • Data and design coordinator (Detroit Health Department)

Archaeology and museums

  • Outreach Coordinator (National Parks Service)
  • Archaeological technician (National Parks Service)
  • Senior archaeologist (Army Corps of Engineers)
  • Principal investigators and staff members (Commonwealth Heritage Group)
  • Head of Department of Cultural Resources (Chambers Group, Inc.)
  • Project archaeologist (TRC Environmental)
  • Principal investigator (PaleoWest)
  • Staff archaeologist (Ethnoscience, South Dakota)
  • Planner (Department of Planning and Development, City of Detroit)
  • Cultural property consultant (US Customs and Border Protection)
  • Director (Art Station, Illinois State University)
  • Assistant collections manager (Charles Steward Mott Estate)
  • Curatorial assistant (Arab American National Museum)
  • Collections specialist (The Henry Ford Museum)
  • Director (Governor Warner Historic Mansion, Farmington, MI)
  • Educational services specialist (The Museum of Flight, Seattle)
  • Museum assistant (Birmingham Historical Museum)
  • Librarian (Henry Ford College)
  • Guest services and programming (Detroit Institute of Arts)
  • Operations assistant (Michigan Science Center)

Applied anthropology

  • Health research scientist (Veterans Affairs Healthcare System)
  • Lecturer (University of Michigan-Flint)
  • Associate professor (College of DuPage)
  • Religious minister (Jackson, MI)
  • Research associate (Industrial & Systems Engineering, Wayne State University)
  • Lecturer (Middle Eastern Studies, Wayne State University)
  • Psychiatric social worker (Henry Ford Hospital)
  • Consultant/CEO (Applied Anthropology Firm)
  • Associate professor and chair (Health Services Administration, University of Detroit-Mercy)
  • Instructor (Macomb Community College)
  • Postdoctoral fellow (Karmanos Cancer Institute)
  • Professor of nursing (Madonna University)
  • Assistant professor (Baylor College of Medicine)
  • Research coordinator (Wayne State University)
  • Researcher (Department of Veterans Affairs, Palo Alto)
  • Chief executive officer (Good Sweet)
  • Assistant director (IRB, University of Michigan Medical School)
  • Project director (Behavioral & Field Research Core, Karmanos Cancer Institute)
  • Assistant professor of family medicine (Wayne State University)
  • Associate professor (Occupational Therapy, Eastern Michigan University)
  • Cultural diversity consultant (US Department of Homeland Security)
  • Social science researcher (Oxford University Clinical Research Unit)
  • Assistant professor (Health Sciences, Oakland University)
  • Proposal development and community outreach specialist (Center on Health, Aging and Disability UIUC)
  • Lecturer (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ferris State University)
  • Assistant professor (Liberal Studies, Cal Poly, Pomona)