Masters Degree in Cultural Anthropology: Program Information

Cultural anthropology is the study of living peoples, their cultures, societal differences and economies. In a master's program, students will examine the social and political environments of different cultures and peoples to prepare for future careers.

Essential Information

Students in cultural anthropology master's programs learn skills in ethnography (a method for researching cultural events) and social theory. They use techniques such as interviews, observation and fieldwork to observe the morals, beliefs and customs of groups of people, exploring the relationship between their socio-economic surroundings and the possible broader effects of their actions.

Fieldwork is typically emphasized in the curriculum, and graduate students are often required to demonstrate competence in a foreign language, whether or not their field research requires it. Areas of specialization include ethnography, social theory, field methods, history, folklore, gender and race. A cultural anthropologist|] with a master's degree often goes on to teach at the university level, do research or become a museum curator.

Master's Degree in Cultural Anthropology

Admission to these 2-3 year programs may require two to three letters of recommendation, as well as an undergraduate degree. In addition to completing the required Graduate Record Examination (GRE), applicants should have previous field study or independent research experience to bolster their applications.

Previous participation in the anthropological community, such as attending conferences, lectures and workshops, will also increase an applicant's chances of being accepted into a master's program. The first part of this program will be devoted to study in area-specific courses in anthropology.

Possible courses of study will include:

  • Anthropology of religion
  • Gender and expressive culture
  • Field methods and problems
  • History of anthropological theory
  • Folklore of celebrations
  • Public symbols and monuments

Popular Careers

A master's degree in cultural anthropology will assist the prospective student in preparing for a postgraduate career, whether that career involves field work, studying a remote tribe of indigenous peoples, or a professorship at a major university. Graduates will have obtained the skills to interview the people of specific cultures or teach anthropology at the college level.

Some possible careers in cultural anthropology include:

  • Professor of anthropology
  • Museum Curator
  • Linguistics specialist
  • Corporate consultant
  • Primatologist
  • Archeologist

Employment Outlook

Job opportunities in anthropology are not always plentiful, and there can be fierce competition for openings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career growth for anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow at a slower than average rate of 4% from 2014 to 2024, with a mean annual income of $64,290 as of May 2015. In addition, museum curators had a mean annual income of $56,990 as of May 2015.

The best career opportunities will be in the technical consulting, scientific and management sectors of the economy. Specifically, people will be needed in the U.S. Department of Defense to study the customs and values of societies that are of interest to the government. Also, consultants will be sought after to use their analytical skills to solve growing economic and social challenges.

Continuing Education

After completing a master's degree in cultural anthropology, students may choose to enroll in a Ph.D. program in anthropology or a related subject. Earning a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology may help a master's degree holder attain a higher-level university teaching job or garner a higher wage in the job market.

A master's degree in cultural anthropology allows students to specialize in an area of interest and receive hands-on experience. Graduates can pursue doctorate programs or work as researchers, teachers or consultants.

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