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The Anthropology major is a department within the College of Arts and Letters.


Biological Anthropology
Cultural Anthropology

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Anthropology's goal is to document the diversity of ways humans live and have lived throughout the world. Anthropologists go “off road,” working directly with people and their artifacts, to examine their beliefs and values, how they make a living, how they express themselves, how they interact, and how they affect and are affected by the natural world.

Why is this important? An increasingly globalized and multi-cultural world requires anthropological knowledge and insight. Anthropology is essential to students interested in working in both the US and overseas on contemporary issues in areas such as social policy work, international development, public health, community-based advocacy, environmental and social justice, and cultural preservation.

Students in the JMU Anthropology program get to develop their interests by taking a wide range of classes in cultural, linguistic and biological anthropology and archaeology. At JMU, Anthropology majors can also do individually-driven practical and hands-on research in internships, anthropology labs, excavations and field-schools, and on study-abroad programs. Join us: learn what is going on in the world and help to make it a better place.

More About the Field

Anthropology is the study of humankind. Anthropologists study the origin, development and functioning of human societies and cultures, as they exist now, or have existed throughout history. Many sciences study humans and their behavior (anatomy, medicine, psychology, sociology and economics, for example), but anthropology is the only field which studies humans both as biological and cultural beings. Anthropologists are concerned with the total complexity of social and cultural life, including religion and rituals, family and kinship systems, languages, art and music, symbolism and economic and political systems. This "holistic" approach has forged anthropology into a unique and diverse social science discipline -- a field of study that both draws from and contributes to the natural sciences, the humanities and other social sciences. Anthropology is divided into several sub-fields, each of which looks at humanity from a different, but related, perspective. Anthropologists use a variety of research methods, including archaeological excavation, anatomical analysis, and fieldwork, participating in the daily lives of the people being studied.


Other than the general degree, which is the primary program for the major, there are three concentrations within the Anthropology Program at JMU. They are: Cultural Anthropology, Archaeology, and Biological Anthropology. In   Cultural Anthropology   there is a focus on the diversity of human cultures, both Western and Nonwestern, and is concerned with understanding and explaining the differences and similarities among the world's societies. Cultural anthropology is noted for its distinctive research method known as extended participant-observation in which the anthropologist lives the everyday lives of the people being studied. Archaeology is a sub-area of cultural anthropology that studies extinct societies by analyzing their material remains. Archaeologists attempt to understand how societies that no longer exist were organized and how this relates to contemporary societies. Biological Anthropology focuses on the evolutionary history of humans and biological variation among contemporary human populations. As such, biological anthropologists study human anatomy, genetics, human growth and adaptation, biological and cultural evolution and primate behavior. The General Anthropology program serves as the centerpiece of the major and serves to introduce students to the breadth of anthropology and includes a review of the theory, methods and topic areas of the sub-disciplines of the larger field.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Some common combinations include Africana Studies, American Studies, Art, Art History, Asian Studies, Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Communication Studies, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, Family Studies, Geographic Science, Geology, Historical Archaeology, History, Humanitarian Affairs, Global Religion & Global Issues, Human Science, International Affairs, Justice Studies, Latin American Studies, Modern Foreign Languages, Nonprofit Studies, Philosophy and Religion, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, Urban & Regional Studies, and Women's Studies.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Students who do well in this program are drawn to broad questions about human experience and social organization, globalization and multiculturalism. They are interested in exploring these questions through research and careful analysis. Good writing, strong analytical and oral communication skills help students do well in this program. Many of our majors see anthropology as crucial in helping humans understand, function in, and positively re-figure a culturally diverse and increasingly interconnected world.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • Advocate- Nonprofit Agencies
  • Anthropologist
  • Archaeological Technician
  • Archivist
  • Biological Anthropologist
  • City Planner
  • Community Planner
  • Community Program Director
  • Consultant
  • Cultural Affairs Director
  • Cultural Anthropologist
  • Cultural Artifact Specialist
  • Cultural Resource Manager
  • Criminologist
  • Economic Planner
  • Ethnologist
  • FBI Agent
  • Field Archaeologist
  • Foreign Affairs Officer
  • Forensic Anthropologist
  • Genealogist
  • High/Middle School Teacher
  • Historical Preservationist
  • Historian
  • Immigration Officer
  • Intelligence Officer
  • Lab Manager
  • Labor Relations Specialist
  • Lawyer
  • Linguist
  • Market Researcher
  • Medical Anthropologist
  • Meeting Coordinator
  • Multimedia Specialist
  • Museum Curator
  • Museum Education Director
  • Museum Interpreter
  • Museum Technician
  • National Park Service Officer
  • News Reporter
  • Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Physical Anthropologist
  • Police Officer
  • Policy Analyst
  • Political Aide
  • Probation Officer
  • Professor
  • Public Health Analyst
  • Public Health Educator
  • Research Analyst
  • Rural Development Officer
  • Smithsonian Technician
  • Social Science Analyst
  • Technical Writer
  • Trade Show Analyst
  • Writer/Editor

Who Employs Graduates?

Anthropology majors are attractive to employers interested in people with an understanding of global issues, with the ability to observe and interpret human behavior, cross-cultural beliefs and practices, and who can think and write clearly and contextually. Some of these employers include a variety of businesses, colleges & universities, conservation institutes, cultural resource organizations, environmental companies, government agencies, historic preservation offices, international organizations, libraries, museums, non-profit organizations, publishers, research institutions, and laboratories.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Each summer the Anthropology Program sponsors Archaeological Field Schools that have so far provided educational and research opportunities to numerous students. These programs are in historical archaeology at James Madison’s Montpelier, and more recently have included research on prehistoric sites in the American Southwest. In addition, students can participate in a spring-break program in Dominica, an ethnographic summer field school conducted in Kenya, West Africa, and a bio-anthropology field school in primate studies and conservation in Cameroon, West Africa. In order to gain additional exposure to the discipline, students may want to join the Anthropology Club, or Lambda Alpha, the national anthropology honor society. Students have recently interned at the Smithsonian Institution, the Blue Ride Area Health Education Center, and the Harrisonburg Hispanic Services Council. Anthropology faculty also regularly invite highly qualified students to gain hands-on experience through the administration of introductory courses and participation in research projects. Interested students should contact the Coordinator of the Anthropology Program for more information on both programs.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Anthropologists and Archaeologists
Anthropology and Archaeology Teachers

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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