What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is the study of humans, our relationships with one another and with other species. It is an interdisciplinary field that combines a focus on culture and society with elements of history, politics, economics, and the natural sciences to better understand human experiences.
Anthropologists use research, observation, and human engagement to understand cultural and ethnic difference and social inequalities. This includes the historical rise and fall of societies, through to the current interrelationships between humans from different social, ethnic or cultural groups.
Current issues such as environmental governance and sustainability in conditions of climate change; global inequalities in wealth and power; cultural diversity, ethnicity and nationalism; war and peace and the role of religion in the state and daily life also form a key focus for anthropologists. They have strong interdisciplinary links to fields such as archaeology, human geography, indigenous studies, politics and international relations, global development, sociology and linguistics.
Interpretive, analytical and creative skills are a must. Anthropology involves engagement with historical documents, recordings of personal experiences, interpreting statistical data and everything in between. It considers both overarching patterns, and the stories one individual’s recount can tell us. Those with an anthropology background value diversity and communication, as they will likely engage with a wide variety of individuals. Anthropologists are well versed in the historical origins of power inequalities and how these inequalities infuse, and are normalised by, contemporary social, cultural, economic and political institutions.
Anthropology plays a key role in the decisions of governments, large corporations and multilateral organisations like the UN and the World Health Organisation. Anthropological knowledge is increasingly in demand. As societies attempt to move forward and create a better world, it is the observations of anthropologists that play a key role in the creation and implementation of policies and projects concerning economic and social development.
Anthropology can be studied alongside another related field, through a double major within the JCU Bachelor of Arts. See the full list of JCU BA Majors and electives here.
What does an anthropologist do?
Many anthropologists spend their time ‘in the field’; talking and collaborating with people from different cultures and walks of life, collecting oral histories; mapping social structures; facilitating the recording of traditional environmental knowledge; or examining cultural objects and sites. Anthropologists use their knowledge of science, history and socio-cultural analysis to co-produce environmental and cultural knowledge heritage with indigenous collaborators around the world. Anthropologists are well known for providing analytical perspectives that prove to be crucial for understanding and often solving large-scale problems including financial crises, pandemics and climate change.
Research is a common path for those interested in anthropology, where they can specialise in cultures or issues of their choice. Anthropologists regularly present their findings at conferences all over the world.
However, anthropologists are also in demand within a variety of other sectors. Government policy is a key area in which your studies will help make a difference. Particularly within cultural, social, and socio-economic policy, departments often need the input of anthropologists to influence decision-making. An understanding of the patterns of human actions and ideas can be pivotal for the crafting of laws, social programs, and even budgets.
Increasingly, corporations are also looking at how anthropologists can contribute to their organisation. From interpreting consumer behaviour, to assisting with collaboration within the workplace, there are rich opportunities to embrace.
Anthropology can also take you overseas. Development workers in the government and private corporations and also those in the non-profit sector, all utilise the principles of anthropology within their roles. Your knowledge of various cultural and social dynamics will be invaluable here, as will your passion for working with people.
You may also wish to share your love of cultures with those around you. Some anthropologists draw on their well-honed communication and engagement skills to work within cultural heritage sites. These individuals play an important role in ensuring what we learn from others is embraced, not lost.
Working as an anthropologist will ensure that every day is different. Your qualifications will equip you to adapt to a variety of workplaces.
What jobs are there in anthropology?
Anthropologists will find roles across the public and private sector, with opportunities spanning from large corporations through to non-profit organisations, governments and multi-lateral organisations such as the UN.
You may find your calling within politics, planning, research, or cultural liaison.
In Australia, fieldwork-focused anthropologists have the opportunity to work across unique sectors of society, from within our largest cities to our most remote communities. Others choose to immerse themselves within the beating heart of government, influencing the policies and politics of the day.
Research may also take you overseas, as you use your JCU education to forge connections with anthropologists all over the world or find employment working for international agencies delivering programs in such fields as public health, education, human rights, and sustainable development.
The jobs on offer to those with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Anthropology from JCU include:
- Cultural Heritage Officer
- Native Title Anthropologist
- Museum Curator
- Aid worker
- Social research officer
- Policy advisor / strategist
- Consumer researcher or consumer insights analyst
- Human-centred design strategist
- Academic researcher
- Liaison Officer
- Regional Planner
- Community Development Officer
- Foreign Affairs Officer
- International Development worker
- Social and economic impact auditor
- Biodiversity conservation program advisor
- Tourism/Cultural Site Operator
Why study Anthropology at JCU?
With personalised learning and small class sizes, you’ll feel confident to forge your own path within this flexible degree. An Anthropology major will equip you with the skills to analyse issues affecting societies, cultures, and ethnic groups. JCU’s diverse collection of majors and minors will empower you to specialise or diversify and feel supported in selecting what works best for you.
JCU anthropology students have access to practical case studies, fieldwork, and projects that can take students to locations in Australia, PNG, the Pacific and Asia. Experiences such as these will enrich your learning, as you put your classroom learning into practice from the start of your degree.
You will gain valuable communication and analytical skills through the combination of research, observation, and interview experience within this degree. These skills will both enrich your learning and increase your employability once you enter the workforce.
As a Bachelor of Arts student at JCU, you’ll also have the opportunity to complete an Honours year, where you can immerse yourself in a personal research project. You’ll gain the benefits of one-on-one academic mentoring, as you embrace the opportunity to focus on your passion.