Career Advice for Anthropology Majors

Published: Oct 12, 2012

 Job Search       

Yesterday, Forbes named the “Ten Worst College Majors” in terms of employment and earnings potential for graduates. By analyzing data from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, which collected employment and earnings rates for graduates by major, Forbes determined that when it comes to your economic prospects, anthropology is the worst major a student can choose.

Of the ten “worst” majors on Forbes’ list, five are in the humanities (philosophy, history, English, liberal arts and anthropology). But don’t toss out your diploma just yet—here are some tips for applying for jobs with a liberal arts degree:

  • Know what they want… For many entry-level jobs, employers don’t expect new grads to have relevant experience. What they do expect, however, are relevant skills. Think over your academic experience and make a list of the skills you developed throughout college—these might include experience with analytical writing, project organization, quantitative research or verbal presentation. Many job postings list the types of skills they are looking for in candidates—mention those that you have in your cover letter and back them up with specific experiences. It’s also appropriate to describe your personality traits to the extent that they are relevant to the role. But don’t just say you’re outgoing, motivated or calm under pressure—give examples of how you have demonstrated these traits.
  • …And what they don’t want. No offense, but your future employer probably doesn’t care that you have a nuanced understanding of prehistoric anthropology or 18th century English literature. So unless you’re applying for a role where your liberal arts coursework is relevant, don’t bother mentioning it in your cover letter or resume. Instead, focus on the skills you gained through your studies, like critical thinking and professional writing.
  • Keep an open mind. Unlike your classmates who majored in, say, chemical engineering, there isn’t a clear career path for most liberal arts majors. So cast a broad net in your employment search: look into opportunities in both the private and public sectors, and consider roles in industries not traditionally associated with your major. For example, if you’re a philosophy major, you probably didn’t envision yourself working at a large bank—but you might be surprised to find out that many banks run public service foundations and community development practices that might be looking for a great writer.
  • Think long-term. It is highly likely that your first employer out of college will not be your last. Your career is certainly not defined by your first job—it is a decades-long, dynamic part of your life. So if your dream job or company is out of reach as a new graduate, look for a role that will help you gain the skills to make your dream job an eventual reality.

--Rachel Marx, Vault’s Law Editor, majored in Philosophy.