Careers in Anthropology

Anthropological training informs a person’s understanding of cultural differences and similarities. In an increasingly integrated yet plural world, effective cross-cultural communication is critical. By emphasizing the interpersonal and social contexts of cultural experience, anthropology helps students not only navigate but also flourish in diverse living and working situations. Today, cross-cultural “fluency” is essential to mobility, and is thus relevant in an expanding array of endeavors, from international relations and business to domestic public policy, health care, law, education, social service work, and entrepreneurship. Whether one’s career objective is practical, scholarly, or some combination of the two, anthropological training can be an important foundation.

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) includes a section on careers in anthropology on its website. See a collection of essays on why anthropology matters in the Journal of the American Anthropological Association.

Read an article by undergraduate alumna Elisabeth Powell in the Journal of Business Anthropology reflecting on the relevance of her academic study of anthropology to her career in the business world.

Learn how undergraduate alumnus Raphael Frankfurter '13 went from studying anthropology at Princeton to providing humanitarian healthcare in Sierra Leone to pursuing joint M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.

Read an essay in 2018 by graduate student Alexandra Middleton reflecting on her own path from an undergraduate concentration in anthropology to her pursuit of a Ph.D. in anthropology.

The Center for Career Development at Princeton University provides resources for career exploration and development.

What have Princeton anthropology majors done after graduation?

In addition to university professors and published authors, anthropology graduates have included performing artists and writers, investment bankers, journalists, and lawyers involved in business, community, immigration, or international law. Anthropology graduates have gone on to earn MD's in a variety of specialties. They have taught in elementary and secondary schools, and have found work as media and market research consultants and as educational, environmental, or health-care policy researchers. They have been self-employed or worked for U.S. and international companies, and have founded non-profits. A number of anthropology students started their careers through participation in Princeton’s Teacher Preparation Program, Teach for America, Princeton in Asia, Princeton in Africa, or Project 55, as well as post-graduate fellowships (such as Fulbright, Gates Cambridge, and Rhodes) and corporate internship programs.

Most generally, at liberal arts institutions like Princeton, a student's departmental concentration is more than a means of preparing for a particular career. Rather, it is meant to help a student build the strong, flexible intellectual and communication skills that are valuable in many kinds of endeavors (as well as many aspects of personal life). Anthropology gives students opportunities to hone and demonstrate skills that employers in any sector or field value highly – in particular, the ability to immerse themselves thoroughly in an original and independent project, and take ethical and intellectual responsibility for that project’s research process, to write clearly and with precision, to be sensitive to other points of view and alternative approaches, and to carry their work competently and creatively through to timely completion.  

The Anthropology Department is particularly well suited to facilitate this kind of achievement. The scale of the department enables us to give concentrators personal attention, especially in their Junior Independent Work and Senior Thesis writings. Anthropology students have done extremely well at Princeton (with a high percentage earning academic honors and prizes, as well as prestigious national awards) and in their lives after graduation.