Cultural Anthropology Degree Program Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Cultural anthropology programs cover a variety of topics, including archaeology, evolution, religion, linguistics and geology, and are available at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.

While different program levels have different requirements for admission, bachelor's degree programs generally require a high school diploma or GED, while master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree in a related field. Admission into doctoral programs typically requires a master's degree, but some schools may allow students with bachelor's degrees to proceed directly into a doctoral program.

Cultural anthropology students often participate in fieldwork opportunities to gain hands-on experience during their study, regardless of degree level, with PhD programs placing comparatively greater emphasis on independent research. This experience can take the form of fieldwork or laboratory research. Students in master's degree programs can expect to complete a thesis project and/or final exam; they may also be required to demonstrate a proficiency in a language other than English. PhD programs, on the other hand may require students to complete a traditional dissertation and ethnographic study or write publishable scholarly papers.

Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Anthropology

While students can find schools that offer a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology, many programs feature a more general Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a concentration in cultural anthropology. Students may also complete prerequisites of anthropological studies or cultural anthropological studies, languages, ancient history and related electives at the associate level for transfer to bachelor's degree programs. Students learn qualitative and quantitative research methods through coursework and archaeological labs, and may have the opportunity to study abroad and gain ethnographic experience.

Common courses include:

  • Ethnography
  • Global cultures
  • Mythological and religious studies
  • Anthropological theory
  • Archaeology
  • Evolution

Master's Degree in Cultural Anthropology

Students may find programs offering a Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology or a Master of Arts in Anthropology with a cultural anthropology focus. Programs may emphasize ecological, psychological and medical anthropology. Other common areas of study include:

  • Cultural anthropology fundamentals
  • Archaeological theory
  • Theory of evolution
  • Ethnography
  • Linguistics
  • Medical anthropology

Doctoral Degree in Cultural Anthropology

Much of a doctoral student's time is spent planning and researching in preparation for a dissertation requirement. Typically, doctoral students participate in a theory seminar and ethnography courses and become familiar with the 4-field tradition of anthropology.

Other common courses include:

  • Medical anthropology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Cultural theory
  • Psychological anthropology
  • Consumerism
  • Grant writing
  • Mesoamerican archaeology
  • Religious anthropology

Continuing Education

Students who have earned a bachelor's degree have the option of going on to earn a master's degree. Students may acquire experience in the field through an internship prior to graduating. Field experience may also be gained through a summer job in a degree-related position.

College and university teaching positions are typically reserved for those with a doctorate. Students who want to pursue these and other advanced positions can find programs offering a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology.

Popular Careers

An individual who has acquired a bachelor's degree in cultural anthropology may find work in:

  • Foreign affairs
  • Health and human services
  • Government organizations
  • Museums

Employment Outlook and Career Info

Anthropologists perform fieldwork and research, then report on their findings. Fieldwork may require extensive travel and encountering new cultures, languages and people. An individual with a master's degree in cultural anthropology may be able to teach in secondary schools and pursue government or non-profit work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for all anthropologists, including cultural anthropologists, was expected to be 5% between 2019 and 2029. Competition could be strong due to the relatively small number of jobs (

According to the BLS, those with a doctorate degree in anthropology have the best chance of earning a position in this field. These individuals must be excellent communicators - oral and written - and skilled in methods of quantitative research. The BLS reports that the best job prospects for anthropologists can be found in management, scientific and technical consulting services, which in 2020 employed about 15% of anthropologists, while approximately 23% of anthropologists worked in scientific research and development. Other major employers of anthropologists include federal and local government and architectural and engineering industries, according to the BLS.

Individuals with an interest in cultural anthropology can pursue the subject at both undergraduate and graduate levels. These programs prepare individuals for work with schools, government agencies and human services organizations, to name a few options.

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