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Careers in Applied Anthropology

by Shane Hall, studioD

Anthropology is a small discipline, compared to many other professions. Many anthropologists pursue academic careers, teaching college courses and pursuing a program of research. However, the American Anthropological Association reported that a decline in academic jobs has led many anthropologists to pursue careers applying their knowledge in other settings, including business and government. Career opportunities in applied anthropology include marketing, research and evaluation, consulting and nonprofit management.

Business Research

Corporations operate in a global marketplace, providing products and services around the world to customers of differing cultures. The website Fast Company reported that anthropologists in the corporate world apply ethnographic research methods, such as interviewing and observations, to help companies better understand their customers and workers. This information also helps companies to design products that meet the cultural sensitivities and needs of people in different cultures.

Market Research

Market research analysts study consumer preferences and buying habits, helping companies to better understand their customers and more effectively market their products. Market researchers use many of the same research methods, such as interviews and focus groups, that anthropologists use. Increasingly, market analysis also uses statistical analysis and data mining techniques to understand market conditions. For anthropologists interested in business careers, market research may be the perfect setting for their skills.

Policy Analysis

Some anthropologists are interested in public policy and the impact that government actions in areas such as education and health care have on human societies. Policy analysts research and compare public policy proposals to gauge their likely effects. Analysts also write reports of their resutls and sometimes offer testimony before governmental bodies. Employers of policy analysts include policy research firms and government agencies.

Government Careers

The federal government is one of the largest employers of anthropology majors after academia, according to the American Anthropological Association. Applied anthropologists in government agencies manage programs and evaluate the effects of government programs. Federal agencies employing anthropology majors include the U.S. departments of State, Education, and Health and Human Services.

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations ranging from charitable groups to historical museums offer opportunities for applied anthropologists. Anthropology majors in these settings serve as agency and program administrators, grant writers and museum curators. They also may provide consulting services, helping companies and others to preserve historically significant artifacts discovered in construction and development activities, for example.

About the Author

Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.

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