Anthropology Beyond the Books: The Rough Guide
by Sandi Richards
As an anthropology student, you have undoubtedly been faced with the question, "So what are you going to do with that? - Dig up bones?". Not only does this question highlight the popular views regarding our discipline; it also explains why anthropology students are often at a loss when it comes to deciding what to actually DO with an anthropology degree. Now, some people have their futures all planned out before ever setting foot on the U of L campus, for the rest of us, however, deciding on whether to pursue anthropology, finding out how to do so at the graduate level, and determining what the actual value of an anthropology degree is outside of academia, can be a bewildering, frustrating process. Hopefully, this guide can help you along the way, whether you are simply taking anthropology for fun or want to set the world on fire with your brilliant theories.
So, I've declared my major, what next?
Ok, so now that you've decided that anthropology is the degree for you, you're probably wondering what you've gotten into, and how to make the most of it. At this point there are a few things that you can do to make sure you'll be prepared later, whether you go on to grad school or not.
I love Anthropology, should I go to Grad School?
The decision to pursue further education is a personal one that should not be made lightly. Grad school is difficult, expensive, and often stressful. It also does not guarantee you fame, fortune, or even steady employment once you've finished. That being said, most people who decide to pursue anthropology do so at the masters and doctoral levels. And remember, as long as you keep your options open, you can always decide to enter further study a few years from now, after you've travelled the world.
Ok, I know all that..and I still want to go to Grad School, so what's next?
So, this is the part where you need to be prepared to do a bit of research. First of all, it's never too early to start looking into grad programs. During the third year of your degree is probably ideal, so don't leave it until the spring semester of your graduating year. The process can take as long as a year, so start planning NOW.
I've done my research, now how do I apply?
The application process varies from institution to institution. However, there are a few general rules to consider. First of all, make a list of schools to apply to. Don't limit yourself to only the best ones, be realistic, keeping in mind that some schools let in only one out of every hundred applicants. Unfortunately, an application fee is required, so the process of applying to multiple schools can be expensive. Along with filling out the usual forms, you may also be asked to provide a variety of other items which "prove" your suitability for the program to which you are applying.
Whether you need one or not, a statement of intent is a good idea. You can use this to narrow your search for schools in the first place. The statement of intent is not a personal life story of why you have always wanted to be an anthropologist, but rather an overview of your research interests and goals. Particularly highlight the reasons you have chosen the institution you're applying to. You can do this by mentioning the research facilities available, or other features that would help you meet your research goals. This part does require a bit of knowledge of the institution beforehand, but is worthwhile.
Transcripts: you will need to provide official copies of all transcripts to each institution you're applying to. These can be obtained through the Registrar's Office, for a small fee.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) : most Canadian schools do not require you to take the GRE, however, if you are considering applying to American universities, you may be asked to provide this. The GRE is only offered at specific locations and dates each year, Career & Employment Services (B610) can provide you with the information and application forms. This exam is designed to test you on a variety of subjects. Study guides are available, as well as online preparation and information: http://www.gre.org
Letters of Reference: These differ from letters you would provide to a prospective employer, in that they should reflect your research and writing skills, and should therefore, ideally come from professors that know you well enough to be able to comment. When asking for letters of reference, provide your professors (or whoever else you choose) with all the information pertinent to the program you're applying to, as well as any special forms necessary. Confidential letters, i.e. ones that you have not read, do sometimes hold more weight, and some schools, such as University of Toronto insist upon confidential letters of reference that are written on official letterhead from the sending institution. Each school varies in the exact specifications, but most require a minimum of two letters. Letters from Anthropology faculty will tend to also "count" for more than those of other faculty, so keep that in mind.
Grades/Courses: This varies significantly from university to university. There is usually a minimum letter grade or GPA requirement. However, there are a number of different grading scales used, including 3 point and 9 point GPA scales. Academic advising should be able to help you determine how your grades measure up to alternate scales. A minimum average of B+ or A- seems to be common in Canada, while some specify a 3.00 GPA and above. Your anthropology grades in particular, especially during the last year of study, are also taken into consideration. Some schools also require you to have a certain number of senior level courses, or a topical focus. The General Liberal Education Requirement at the University of Lethbridge does provide many students with a good balance of major specific course work, and general courses overall. Again, this varies by school, so the earlier you start looking into it, the more likely you will be able to accommodate any unusual specifications in your course choices.
I don't really want to continue with anthropology in an academic setting, what options are available to me?
There are numerous opportunities available besides continuing to graduate school. Of course, taking a little time off from school can put the last few years in perspective, and you might find that after being away from class for a few months, you're actually eager to go back. However, if this is not the case, you can apply anthropology in a variety of ways, including working in international development, social services, the government, or education. Depending on what your interests are, you can also continue your education in a related field, such as communications, archival studies, or archaeology.
Can I really get a job with an Anthropology degree?
Yes! That's the short answer. The skills gained by taking anthropology are applicable to all sorts of jobs and situations. The difficult part is learning how to market Anthropology to the rest of the world. Many employers would love to have an anthropologist on staff; they just don't know it. Communication skills, cross-cultural knowledge, and the ability to mediate between groups of people, are all valuable skills which are gained through anthropology. If you can provide employers with concrete examples of how you have attained these, and other skills, and how you can adapt them to a work setting, your chances are much better. Unfortunately, until "Anthropologist Wanted" ads start appearing in the Lethbridge Herald, "selling" yourself is a significant part of finding work outside of academia. All the reading and paper writing you had to complete as an undergraduate has also provided you with excellent research skills, which can be applied to many jobs, including the government or social agencies. Policy analysis, interviewing, and report writing are directly related to anthropology. For a more complete overview of the types of career opportunities available to you with a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology, visit Career & Employment Services, or check the bulletin boards in the Anthropology department. Networking, getting involved, and following your interests are as necessary in career planning, as they are in applying to grad school.
Where can I go to find out more information?
The Department of Anthropology
Turcotte Hall A 874
Phone: (403) 329-2598
Fax: (403) 329-2085
Administrative Support: Jenny Oseen
U. of ALBERTA - Anthropology
U. of CALGARY - Anthropology
CARLETON - Anthropology (M.A. only)
CONCORDIA - a joint dept., M.A. only - Anthropology
DALHOUSIE U. - Anthropology & Sociology
U. of GUELPH - Anthropology M.A.
U. of MANITOBA - Anthropology
MEMORIAL U. - Anthropology
McGILL U. - Anthropology
McMASTER - Anthropology
U. of SASKATCHEWAN - Anthropology, Archaeology
NOTE: Due to a shortage of supervisors, applications in cultural anthropology cannot be accepted.
SIMON FRASER U. - a joint dept., the site is for both Anthropology and Sociology
SIMON FRASER U. - Archaeology
U. of TORONTO - Anthropology
U. of VICTORIA (British Columbia) - Anthropology (M.A. only)
U. of WESTERN Ontario -Anthropology
YORK U. - Anthropology
This compilation of this information would not have been possible without the information provided during the Anthropology Beyond the Books workshop. My thanks to Norman Buchignani, from whose original notes the idea for this guide (and some of the links) came. Thanks also to the Anthropology Department for providing links, insights, and suggestions throughout the creation of both the workshop and this project.
While the information provided is intended as a guide, due to the nature of Internet resources, and changing institutional guidelines, accuracy is not guaranteed. There are literally hundreds of resources available for anthropology students today, so if this resource can provide a starting point to some of you, then my work is done!
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