Anthropology is a social science, though it incorporates aspects of both the humanities and natural sciences. For the aspiring cultural anthropologist, numerous undergraduate programs are available. The best programs give students the tools needed to pursue further graduate studies or delve into a career outside of academia immediately after receiving the bachelor's degree. Top programs are found in public and private universities and small liberal arts colleges.
Components of a Good Program
"U.S. News and World Report's Ultimate College Guide" ranks schools based on class size, student-to-faculty ratio and college presidents' and deans' opinions. The National Research Council ranks graduate programs according to the quality of research produced by faculty. Good professors shape their students' experience and career path. Learning under a committed researcher who is active in their field provides students with the widest breadth of current knowledge in the discipline.
Traditionally, the best cultural anthropology programs are at private universities with reputations for rigorous academics throughout the school. Harvard University is rated number one by "U.S. News and World Report." Harvard offers a sociocultural anthropological concentration, rather than a generic anthropology degree.
The University of Chicago is well known for its dedication to the social sciences, with 34 percent of students studying a social science field, according to "U.S. News." It is particularly distinguished in the subfield of cultural anthropology, with many published faculty members who engage in groundbreaking research.
The University of California at Berkeley is well known for the quality of research in its cultural anthropology program and is highly ranked by both the National Research Council and "U.S. News." Students are given opportunities to develop research skills through original research projects and as apprentices to faculty and graduate students by taking part in the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program. The National Research Council ranks Pennsylvania State University number one for research productivity. It offers the traditional four-field approach to anthropology and has a strong cultural anthropology faculty.
Small Liberal Arts Colleges
Small liberal arts colleges can offer unique college experiences. Classes are typically smaller, with more emphasis on individual student involvement. Because their emphasis is on allowing students to choose their own path, they are strong in interdisciplinary offerings, such as cultural anthropology. Top programs include Swarthmore College, ranked fifth for best liberal arts college value by "U.S. News," and Grinnell College, ranked seventh.
- American Anthropological Association: Career Paths and Education
- U.S. News and World Report Ultimate College Guide 2011; Staff of U.S. News and World Report
- University of Chicago: Department of Anthropology Undergraduate Program
- University of California Berkeley: Anthropology Undergraduate Program
- Harvard Department of Anthropology: Sociocultural Anthropology Undergraduate Program
- National Research Council: Research Doctorate Programs
Katherine Bell splits her time between Western Montana and New Orleans. She is currently working on a PhD, conducting research on the endangered Blackfoot language. She has an Master of Arts in linguistic anthropology from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Florida.