Become a Medical Anthropologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Medical anthropologists study the relationships between sociocultural elements and various aspects of health. They analyze changes to societies and the ways in which those changes affect disease and physical wellness. Becoming a medical anthropologist requires an advanced education and field experience.

Should I Become a Medical Anthropologist?

Medical anthropology is a research-heavy field that also requires developing relationships across many types of organizations, such as hospitals, museums and government agencies. Medical anthropologists must posses and utilize analytical and written and oral communication skills to process and report on their findings. Auxiliary skills and experience in areas like sociology, medicine and community health will also be used.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree, master's degree or Ph.D; most employers require a master's degree or Ph.D.
Key Skills Research skills, analytical skills
Salary $59,280 median salary for anthropologists in general

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring medical anthropologists must begin by earning a bachelor's degree. A major in anthropology can prepare students for this career field. Coursework in anthropology includes language, culture, research methods and religion. Other useful classes are those in statistics, math, quantitative research and research analysis. Students may also study nursing, public health or other medical fields with coursework focusing on science and health.

Step 2: Complete an Internship

Many anthropology programs require or recommend an internship. Students who participate in internship programs gain experience working with a variety of organizations that they may encounter as professional medical anthropologists, including museums, libraries, government agencies and cultural institutions. They practice researching, recording and reporting information.

Step 3: Get a Master's Degree or Ph.D.

Most employers require job candidates to have a master's degree or Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology. Studies at the graduate level include health and life cycles, ethno and alternative medicine, sexuality and gender. Students may also study medical ethics, geriatrics and public health. Complementary degrees include a Master of Public Health or Medical Doctorate.

Step 4: Conduct Research

Both students and professional medical anthropologists conduct research. Learning to compile and organize collected information requires attention to detail, organization and an open mind. Medical anthropologists must also be willing to travel and live in unusual situations in order to study cultures. They must be patient and willing to work on projects that can span years. Research topics range from the spread and prevalence of illness among designated groups to the morals of medicine and the stigmas of mental illness.

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