Anthropology is, in simple terms, the study of humankind, but it can be a surprisingly difficult task to describe the discipline as a whole. Investigation of the origins of human life and culture covers a wide range of specialized areas, from conducting archaeological digs and analyzing ancient tools at the molecular level to researching cultural customs like marriage, burial and coming-of-age across the centuries.
Degrees in anthropology typically start at the bachelor's level, although some institutions do offer two-year associate degrees for students who aren't ready to commit to a full-fledged bachelor's program. Depending on the curriculum, you might study a broad-based approach to the field's various areas or focus in on a specific discipline.
Online anthropology degrees can be a great option for prospective students with busy work or family schedules. If a traditional study plan seems out of reach, either timewise or financially, look in to online degrees for anthropology students.
Best Colleges for Anthropology Degree Programs
We gathered data profiles on more than 400 institutions across the country and ran them through our multi-point methodology to see which ones sorted to the top. Click the button below to learn more about how we calculated the scores and rankings, and read on for our list of the ten best colleges for anthropology degree programs.
This medium-sized institution in Bellingham, Washington, offers several options for anthropology students. The general Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in anthropology at Western Washington University features four concentrations — cultural anthropology, biocultural anthropology, archaeology and linguistics — through which students can begin specializing their study path during their undergraduate work.
Undergraduates can also choose a Bachelor of Arts in Education (B.A.E.) in the teaching of anthropology and either a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or B.A. plan that combines biology and anthropology and can serve as the foundation for advanced study in medicine and other health-related fields. A Master of Arts (M.A.) in anthropology that emphasizes the Pacific Rim geographic region is available for students who have completed their undergraduate study.
The University of Montana was one of the most affordable institutions that made our top ten. Its annual average cost of tuition and fees came in under $6,200 in 2015, beating out all but one of the other schools on our list in that category. It also had one of the top admissions rates in the country, placing third out of our top ten schools for its percentage of successful applicants.
Students in the bachelor's program in anthropology at UM can choose to concentrate their study in forensic, linguistic and medical anthropology, as well as archaeology and cultural and ethnic diversity. The Missoula school also offers graduate and post-graduate anthropology degree programs, including Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) plans in cultural heritage and applied anthropology.
The numbers suggest that this small school in Ashland, Oregon, may be one of the top destinations for students seeking partially online anthropology degrees. While the catalog at Southern Oregon University doesn't list any fully online degrees for anthropology students, numerous one-off courses can be found in either online or hybrid formats.
The program for anthropology undergraduates at SOU contains a significant sociology component and can lead to either a B.A. or B.S. degree. A pair of 36-credit undergraduate certificates are available as well — including one in regional studies and applied research — and students may choose to minor in the forward-looking field of social justice.
Fort Lewis College reported our top ten's second-highest percentage of anthropology students among its 2015 graduating class, which means you're likely to have plenty of like-minded people around you to study with. Students also had the benefit of a 17:1 student-faculty ratio, a favorable enough balance to tie for the No. 4 spot among schools on our list that category.
This Durango, Colorado, school gives its students the opportunity to concentrate their anthropological study in the theory and practice of cultural resource management, a field related to archaeology that focuses on preserving and contextualizing significant historical sites and other parts of the cultural landscape. A general anthropology degree is also available.
The largest school at the top of our comes in at No. 5, and it stands out from the pack in a few distinct ways. For one, it had our list's largest percentage of distance education enrollment and offered weekend and evening classes for busy campus-based students. The Gainesville school also charged the third-lowest average cost for tuition and fees in our top ten and had a 2015 graduation rate over 86 percent.
Another intriguing feature about the program at the University of Florida is the presence of more than forty credentialed anthropologists across the academic specialties. The colleges of medicine and nursing each have anthropologists on faculty, as well as the Florida Museum of Natural History and the campus's forensic identification lab.
The graduation rate at St. Mary's College of Maryland ranked No. 3 among schools that made our top ten, and another top metric for our list's smallest school may offer some insight about all those successful graduates. The NCES reports a ratio of just 10 students per faculty member, nearly forty percent better than the national average of 16:1.
The anthropology degree programs at St. Mary's focus somewhat on its surrounding Chesapeake region but introduces students to list of concepts across the spectrum of anthropological study. Students can also take part in a year-long course known as a St. Mary's Project (SMP) that encourages them to draw from multiple research sources and presentation methods to explore an interdisciplinary topic.
The State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo was another top finisher in the graduation rate category. This institution — located near the Finger Lakes about 60 miles east of Buffalo, NY — saw more than 82 percent of its eligible graduates complete their degrees in 2015, earning the No. 2 spot among our top ten schools on that metric.
B.A. candidates at Geneseo undertake a curriculum designed to provide a firm foundation in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the discipline. Anthropology students hoping to parlay their anthropology training into a career in medicine or public health services can minor in sociomedical sciences, an interdisciplinary study of the correlation between trends in health and their potential social causes.
Just three other schools on our list charged lower average rates for tuition and fees than this Northern California institution, which also ranked No. 3 for its percentage of students taking at least some of their coursework in the virtual classroom. Humboldt State University also set aside our list's second-largest percentage of its annual budget for advising, counseling and other academic support services.
The BA program here features lab and fieldwork sections in archaeology and biological anthropology and encourages cultural and ethnographic research study with a domestic as well as international scope. Humboldt also offers partially online degrees for anthropology graduate students, making use of an intensive in-person summer session to add fieldwork and labs to a schedule of online classroom work.
Instructional expenses like research, course development and classroom technology are an important part of a well-rounded university education, and Mercyhurst University allocates a larger percentage of its annual budget to these expenditures than all other schools on our list but one. This private Catholic institution in Erie, Pennsylvania, also features on-campus flexibility measures like placement services for alumni and courses available on weekends and in the evening.
Mercyhurst offers a range of concentrations for students in its anthropology and archaeology B.A. and B.S. programs. B.A. students can focus their studies on archaeology or sociocultural anthropology, while B.S. students can choose among archaeology, bioarchaeology and bioanthropology. An interdisciplinary minor in gender studies may be added to either degree.
The most affordable cost of tuition and fees among all schools that made our list can be found at the University of Wyoming, where students paid an average of less than $4,900 for the entire 2015-16 academic year. It also boasts a student-faculty ratio of just 14:1 and posted the second-highest percentage of distance education enrollment in our top ten.
Study of unique archaeological heritage of Wyoming is the geographical focus of the anthropology program here, but students with an itch to learn about other parts of the world can still find what they're looking for. UW faculty members offer expertise in regions across North America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and more.
Anthropology Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
A bachelor's degree in anthropology can lead to a wide range of careers in a variety of fields, but it typically takes at least a master's degree to dig deep into anthropological work. Here's a quick primer on graduate degrees in anthropology and the types of careers they can lead to.
Career Outlook for Anthropology Majors
Finding a job after college is never easy, but knowing how the career market is expected to change over the next several years may help you better target your time in college to provide employment advantages after graduation. Here's a quick rundown of job growth projections for anthropology careers.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary||$94,080||5,890||6.7%|
|Librarians, Curators, and Archivists||$51,290||246,200||3.4%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Anthropology
Many scholarships, grants and other student aid programs in anthropology are administered at the regional or institutional level, but some awards are open to all qualified students nationwide. The Western Civilization Fellowship offered to graduate students by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is one such national aid plan. Here's a short list of scholarships and other aid for anthropology students.
Fellowship is renewable for up to five years if recipient maintains academic progress.
Renewable for one year if satisfactory progress is made. Continuation application required.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed January 11, 2018: What is Anthropology?, Boston University, https://www.bu.edu/anthrop/about/what-is-anthropology/; Associate of Arts Degree in Anthropology, Community College of Aurora, https://www.ccaurora.edu/catalog/associate-of-arts-degree-in-anthropology.htm; Welcome to the Anthropology Department, Western Washington University, https://chss.wwu.edu/anthropology; Undergraduate Programs, Anthropology, University of Montana, http://hs.umt.edu/anthropology/undergraduate/default.php; Graduate Programs, Anthropology, University of Montana, http://hs.umt.edu/anthropology/graduate/default.php; Sociology and Anthropology, Southern Oregon University, http://catalog.sou.edu/preview_entity.php?catoid=9&ent_oid=646; Class Schedule, Southern Oregon University, https://inside.sou.edu/schedule/schedule.html; Majors & Minors in Anthropology, Fort Lewis College, https://www.fortlewis.edu/anthropology/AboutOurProgram/MajorsMinors.aspx; About the Undergraduate Program in Anthropology, University of Florida, https://anthro.ufl.edu/academics/undergrad-students/; About the Major, Anthropology, St. Mary's College of Maryland, http://www.smcm.edu/anthropology/academic-offerings/what-you-learn/major/#content; St. Mary's Projects, St. Mary's College of Maryland, http://www.smcm.edu/anthropology/student-resources/smps/; Anthropology, SUNY Geneseo, https://www.geneseo.edu/anthropology; Sociomedical Sciences, SUNY Geneseo, https://www.geneseo.edu/sociomedical_sciences; Undergraduate Program, Anthropology, Humboldt State University, http://www2.humboldt.edu/anthropology/BA; Hybrid Graduate Program Offers the Best of Hands-On and Online Experiences, Humboldt State University, http://www2.humboldt.edu/anthropology/node/200; Anthropology/Archaeology, Mercyhurst University, https://www.mercyhurst.edu/hafenmaier-college-humanities-arts-and-social-sciences/anthropologyarchaeology; Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming, http://www.uwyo.edu/anthropology/; Anthropology Master's Program, The University of Utah, http://anthro.utah.edu/graduate-study/masters-program.php;
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed January 11, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- Cultural Resource Management - Protecting a Country's Heritage, ThoughtCo, K. Kris Hirst, June 20, 2017, accessed January 11, 2018, https://www.thoughtco.com/cultural-resource-management-170573;
- Anthropologists and Archaeologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed January 15, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm
- Professional organization pages, accessed January 15, 2018: Benefits of Membership, American Anthropological Association, http://www.americananthro.org/ConnectWithAAA/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=1764&navItemNumber=766; Membership, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, http://physanth.org/membership/; Membership, Society of Forensic Anthropologists, http://www.sofainc.org/home/members;
- Fellowships, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, accessed January 15, 2018, https://home.isi.org/students/fellowships
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.