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Study Anthropology, why & how to study

If you're interested in people, their history and the way they work, Anthropology might be the subject area for you.

Kavadi carrier at the entrance to the Batu Caves during the Thaipusam Festival


  1. What’s Anthropology?

  2. What Anthropology degrees can you study?

  3. What do you need to get onto an Anthropology degree?

  4. What topics does an Anthropology degree cover?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. Why study Anthropology?

  7. What do Anthropology graduates earn?

  8. What jobs can you get as an Anthropology graduate?

  9. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  10. Similar subjects to Anthropology

  11. Have any questions?

What’s Anthropology?

Anthropology examines the variety of ways in which human beings live in the world. The two types taught in the UK are social anthropology and biological anthropology.

Social anthropology looks at how people live in the contemporary world. Social anthropologists spend years in a particular setting (anywhere from a remote tribal village to the city offices of an investment bank) observing what people there do, how they think and how they relate to each other. This helps them understand a culture on its own terms and the historical, political, economic and ecological factors that have shaped it.

Biological anthropology investigates how humans evolved to have such a diversity of cultures – something that distinguishes us from any other species. It compares human social behaviour with other primates and analyses archaeological and fossil records to see how human life emerged. Biological anthropologists also study the physiological and genetic variations amongst contemporary human populations, examining how they have adapted to the circumstances they live in.

Both branches explore how human biology influences social and cultural behaviour. Some departments offer special courses in cognitive anthropology, or biology and culture, which allow you to explore this issue in depth.

You can also find courses in forensic anthropology, which blend forensic science with anthropology and have an emphasis on human remains.

What Anthropology degrees can you study?

Undergraduate degrees in Anthropology include:

  • Anthropology BA/BSc
  • Anthropology with Innovation MA
  • Archaeology and Anthropology BA
  • Forensic Anthropology BSc

Options may include an integrated foundation year or master’s. Placement and study abroad options may be available, as well as field research.

What do you need to get onto an Anthropology degree?

Entry requirements for an Anthropology degree at a university range from 104–165 UCAS points. This could include the qualifications below.

  • A Levels: AAA–BCC
  • BTECs: D*D*D*–DDM
  • Scottish Highers: AAAAA–BBBB (Advanced Highers: AAB–AA)
  • International Baccalaureate: 38–30

Good subjects to have studied include:

  • Biology at A Level (or equivalent), if your course has a biological or forensic focus
  • General studies A Level may be excluded from offers

Experience that would look good on your application:

  • Work or volunteering in any capacity with diverse groups of people to build your interpersonal, observational and reflective skills
  • Identifying topics of particular interest – you could start with the Discover Anthropology website, run by the Royal Anthropological Institute
  • Reading into the subject – you’ll be able to find reading lists on university websites
  • Attending a taster day such as the London Anthropology Day
  • Summer schools, if eligible, such as those run by UNIQ or the Sutton Trust

Other requirements for this subject include:

  • Pass in the practical element of science taken at A Level

What topics does an Anthropology degree cover?

Typical modules for courses in this subject include:

  • Anthropological research methods in action
  • Cultural representations, beliefs and practices
  • Evolution, variation and adaptation
  • Forensic human identification
  • Health, illness and society
  • Human physiology and pharmacology
  • Introductory anatomy
  • Kinship and religion
  • Landscape and ecology
  • Politics and economics
  • Social analysis and interpretation
  • Statistics and experimental design
  • The nature of archaeological and anthropological enquiry
  • Urbanism and society

How will you be assessed?

Courses are assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the module:

  • Essays
  • Exams
  • Fieldwork diaries or projects
  • Lab assessments on biological anthropology courses
  • A final year independent research project or dissertation

Why study Anthropology?

The study of Anthropology is shaped by the past and present but looks to the future. Changes occur in the way humans live every day, so there will forever be new discoveries. This makes it an exciting and fast-paced subject to study.

Career-specific skills:

  • A deep understanding of human behaviour and society and the factors that influence it, for good or ill
  • Intercultural awareness and cultural sensitivity
  • Social and biological research skills and methodologies
  • Where relevant, archaeological skills such as fieldwork, artefact identification and analysis

Transferable skills:

  • Analytical and critical thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organisation
  • Presentation
  • Problem solving
  • Research

Professional accreditation:

  • Degrees with a forensic focus may be accredited by the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences
  • Combinations with archaeology may be accredited by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

What do Anthropology graduates earn?

Anthropology graduates can expect an entry-level salary of around £18,000–£23,000.

If you enter the Civil Service Fast Stream to train as a government social researcher, you could be paid a starting salary of £27,000 if you work in London. Your skills could lead to work on diverse projects, from civil society and youth, to transforming farm animal health and welfare, with advertised salaries up to £60,000 for a lead social researcher.

A forensic anthropologist could earn £40,000–£45,000 depending on their experience and archaeological fieldwork skills, working in organisations that provide support to criminal justice services.

What jobs can you get as an Anthropology graduate?

Anthropology graduates are well suited to work in areas including advertising, finance, law, publishing, journalism, human resource management, public relations and marketing. Roles could include:

  • Archaeologist
  • Charity worker
  • Conservation officer
  • Humanitarian aid worker
  • Journalist
  • Market researcher
  • Museum curator
  • Museum outreach assistant
  • Policy advisor
  • Public health coordinator
  • PR officer
  • Social worker
  • Solicitor
  • University lecturer

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

You can study Anthropology at postgraduate level if you have a first degree in a related subject. Graduates with a good undergraduate degree in social anthropology can often go straight into studying for a PhD. Other Anthropology graduates may go on to study for a master’s in public policy, international development or public health studies.

Examples of taught master’s and research degrees at postgraduate level include:

  • Anthrozoology MA/MPhil/PhD
  • Biological Anthropology PhD
  • Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology MSc
  • Medical Anthropology MSc
  • Social Statistics and Demography MPhil/PhD

Similar subjects to Anthropology

If you’re interested in factors that shape society or in biological development, you could also consider:

Have any questions?

Get in touch with our experts by emailing with your question about studying Anthropology. We’ll be happy to hear from you!

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