BA in Anthropology: The Definitive Guide & Top Schools

When you realize humans share 99% of our DNA sequence with chimps, it makes you think.

At some point in evolution, one of our severely distant ancestors looked up and pondered.

They didn’t just think about food or the noises around them.

These relatives became self-aware.

A lot has happened since we started using our brains for more than just essential functions to survive.

Anthropology is the study of what makes us human.

If that sounds like something you’ve been thinking about, stay tuned.

We’re going to share exactly how you can turn that interest into a career with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

What Will I Learn in an Anthropology Program? (Curriculum)

Since anthropology is about people, there’s quite a lot of time that’s covered in a degree.

By the time we mean from the beginning of human existence, which obviously predates written records.

Understanding humans is an all-encompassing subject that covers a plethora of topics.

Some of the topics you can expect to go over throughout the program are:

  • Fossils
  • Evolution
  • Sex
  • Cultural Development
  • Language
  • Music
  • Behavior
  • Indigenous Biology
  • Humans and Aliens
  • Rituals

All of these topics are geared towards getting inside the mind of people from all walks of life and times in history.

Since society and interests are always changing, anthropology will always have something new to learn about as time moves on.

One day, students taking anthropology will be learning about those of us who are alive now, at this point in history.

Until then, here are examples of courses that will be taken as an anthropology major:

  • Examining Human Evolutionary Biology
  • Humanities
  • Getting Inside Culture
  • Human Fossil Records
  • Anthropology of Social Justice
  • Warfare Evolution
  • Anthropology of the Environment
  • Archeology of the British Isles
  • Reconstructing Hominin Behavior
  • Gender and Sexuality

The first two years of the program will have mostly core classes, such as math, literature, and science.

Anthropology classes get sprinkled in a bit heavier in sophomore year.

By junior year, you will have more anthropology classes, and that will be when any remaining core subjects will get wrapped up.

When students hit senior year, almost all of what’s left will be anthropology related.

At some point in that, last year will come the capstone.

Essentially, the capstone is a major project that will be presented to the advisors of the department.

This project is an opportunity for anthropology students to show off all that they’ve learned in their major.

It needs to show critical thinking and an almost expert-level understanding of anthropology.

The capstone is completed as part of one of the senior classes.

That means students will have an instructor to lead them in the right direction and offer assistance when necessary.

Both professors and students work together to create something meaningful for graduation and for their perspective of anthropology.

How to Choose a Good Program

Before locking down one program over another, do some serious contemplation.

What is it you want to accomplish with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology?

Do you want a Ph.D. or prefer to stop at the bachelor level?

Think about how far you want to take it and the type of job you’ll want to qualify for.

Something else to consider is what direction you lean in within anthropology.

Are you most interested in culture, the evolution of humans, or a geographic region?

Once you have an idea of where you’d like to take the degree and what you’re most interested in, it’s time to pull out the course catalogs.

That’s how you can tell what courses a university provides and what they will require you to take in order to graduate.

Each school will offer slightly different things with more emphasis on one topic or another.

Gather a shortlist of schools and then reach out to department advisors.

They will be able to guide you about what the classes are like and what graduates are able to accomplish with their degrees.

This is also a good time to ask about higher education beyond the BA.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Bachelor’s in Anthropology?

This degree is designed to take four years or eight semesters.

The reason it’s stretched out over four years is all that’s involved in earning the degree.

To start with, there are a whole bunch of core classes that every student has to take, regardless of major, in order to meet all the requirements.

Then there’s a whole list of very specific, degree-oriented classes to round out the Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

It’s laid out so that by the time you get to senior year, anthropology is the only subject you’re studying.

Technically, you can shave a year off that time by going to school for three semesters as opposed to two.

Summer semesters are taught at a faster rate and the classes are often twice as long as the regular semester.

Beware of the difference before having a full summer load.

It’s also possible to add more classes during one of the regular semesters.

For example, most schools count 12 credits as full-time.

12 credits usually make up four classes.

Adding one or two additional classes each semester will take off time as well.

It’s not necessarily recommended that you pour on as many classes as possible or don’t allow yourself a break.

At least don’t add extra classes or fill up your summer with homework until you’ve got a full year under your belt.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Bachelor’s in Anthropology?

On average, students can expect to spend a total of $40,000 on obtaining their anthropology degree.

Naturally, that number can vary a great amount depending on a number of factors.

For one, where is the institution you’ll be attending?

A school in a big city is going to vastly outweigh the tuition of a small school in the Midwest.

Of course, that doesn’t include living expenses.

Something else that can have an impact on the cost of getting a degree is tier level.

A tier 1 school is typically going to cost more than a tier 3.

Lastly, taking all your classes at university will cost more than taking transferrable credits at a community college.

Community college offers a lower per-credit rate.

Taking as many classes as you can at this lower rate can end up saving thousands by the time you graduate.

A little strategy can seriously impact how much money you come out of pocket.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Anthropology?

Whether you intend to continue higher education beyond a bachelor’s level or not, there’s still plenty you can do with that degree.

Most notably, you can go ahead and get a foot in the door for a future career when your studies are complete.

It would be wise to research career choices before starting the degree so you have an idea of what to look for.

Of course, your niche interest can change throughout the four years of study, but it’s meaningful to have the perspective.

Aside from being an anthropologist, common fields of interest in the field are archeology, education, medicine, and even museum curation.

Within these categories, and more, you can get started with an anthropology degree.

Then, if you find the job wildly fulfilling professionally, it would be a good time to continue your studies with the experience picked up thus far.

Should I Get a Bachelor’s in Anthropology?

It really depends on what you expect your next several years to look like, career-wise.

Anthropology is most often a subject that is carried through to the doctoral level.

Many anthropologists end up teaching in universities, although not all.

So, that’s why we say it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

If anthropology is a passion of yours, it would be wise to really focus on what you want to be doing long term.

Spending years of your life getting a degree in one subject just to work in another can be unsatisfying professionally.

It takes strategy and determination to make a plan you can see through with a degree in anthropology.

Doing a bit of research will only be beneficial to your decision.

Chat with anthropologists and others who didn’t go past a bachelor’s to get an idea of what the job market is like.