I. Many of our alumni have continued graduate training in anthropology.  Grinnell is 3rd in the nation as the undergraduate origin of Anthropology PhDs.  Traditionally, most PhD.s in anthropology have worked in academic settings, teaching and doing research at a college or university.  Currently , however , teaching positions are not easy to find, and students should consider other possibilities.  Today more individuals with Ph.D.s in anthropology work in applied positions than within the academy.

II. If you want to pursue graduate work in anthropology, use the American Anthropological Association Guide (available from the Goodnow Secretary) to sort through the departments offering advanced degrees. Explore the Anthropology Department web pages on the internet. The collection of program brochures in the Goodnow Student Project Room, although less comprehensive, can also be helpful. Some of the criteria you should consider for a graduate program in anthropology are:

A. Region and City (You may have to live there for years!) Remember that it takes an average of over 8 years to complete a Ph.D.

B. Subject matter specialties and theoretical orientation of the department (You will need to find at least 5 people with whom you could work. Some of these maybe outside the Anthropology Department or college.)

1. Use electronic data bases to find recent publications of the faculty in the department. You can also look up researchers whose work you admire in the AA Guide to find out if they teach and where.

2. Read the articles carefully. If you like what you see, contact one or more of the faculty by E-mail or phone, with further questions about their research. Consider how your inquiry is received. That may tell you as much as you need to know about that faculty member.

3. The faculty member may refer you to an admissions contact for further information about the department. Use this designated contact to find out about all of the routine information.

4. Most departments now have web pages. Read these to find out about requirements, courses, and the atmosphere of the place.

C. The quality of mentoring in the department

1. Get names and phone numbers of current graduate students and recent Ph.D.s and M.A.s either from the department web page or by asking someone in the department directly. Contact them and talk with them. Find out who is a good mentor. (Forget about working with superstars, unless they also happen to enjoy being mentors.) Ask about departmental politics. Avoid these problems by anticipating them.

2. If at all possible, set up an appointment, visit the university and talk with faculty and graduate students.

3. See if the faculty you are interested in often publish with their students.

D. The department's success in getting students finished and placed, without going deeply in debt.

1. Find out how long it takes students to finish degrees, whether they get jobs, and what kind of jobs .

2. Find out about local opportunities for work in applied anthropology or training in other fields (public health, urban planning, cultural conservation). Sometimes departments have joint programs with other departments.

3. Find out about possibilities for financial aid (fellowships, Teaching and Research Assistantships). Going into debt to finance your graduate training is not advisable.

E. Some additional considerations about your interests and preparation:

1. Take the Graduate Record Exams early, if possible, so that you can re-take them to improve on a poor score. Practice and study for the exams.

2. A smaller university is not necessarily a disadvantage, as long as you are able to find a committee (3-5 people) interested in working with you, and a good mentor.

3. You need to have a research topic or project in mind when you get to graduate school. You may not end up doing exactly that, but you must have a focus. This project focus should be reflected in your admission essay for graduate school.

4. Your topic should be "marketable" to your potential employers. It must be a hot topic that will give you some visibility or unusual skills and expertise. But not too unusual--there must be a demand for the expertise.

5. Whether you are aiming for an academic or non-academic job, you will have to sell yourself first to a graduate school and then to an employer, so get used to thinking about your good qualities and how they can be valuable to others!

updated: 9/27/2006

Grinnell College Home Page | Anthropology Home Page
This page last modified December 2, 2008
by Sondi Burnell