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Anthropology, ethnography, and your career

Majoring in Anthropology gives you knowledge, research methods, and skills that are in demand. This may surprise you. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida didn't need any more anthropologists. In 2012, Forbes Magazine described anthropology as one of the ten worst college majors for your career. But they didn't seem to be aware of the explosion in anthropology's main methodology: ethnography, a way of learning about the world through participation and observation. Anthropologists developed ethnographic research techniques to give them a better understanding of social, cultural, and political realities on the ground, as they happen. These techniques help them to view cultural practices and social interactions with new eyes, find implicit patterns and meanings, and see the actual workings of groups and institutions in practice.

While the Forbes article was directing students to majors involving technology, the technology industry was looking for...anthropologists. Nor was it the only one. Both federal agencies and nonprofits use ethnography to improve their programs, policies, and services. Other industries—business development, design, consulting, consumer research, management analysis, marketing, and others—hire ethnographers to help them drive innovation, solve problems, and make their services more relevant. This is because ethnography offers a powerful approach to "user experience" (or simply "UX"), a huge field that seeks to understand the experiential, social, and affective dimensions of people's encounters with anything from software to buildings to health care.

For anthropologists, however, ethnography is more than a tool: it is a practice that generates critical thinking and ethical awareness. Other skills developed by majoring in Anthropology—such as writing, analytical rigor, speaking, teamwork, and public engagement—are key assets that employers want. Our alumni have gone on to graduate and professional school and to careers in consulting, design, education, healthcare, higher education, human rights advocacy, information technology, international development, journalism, law, media, medicine, museums, nonprofits and NGOs, public administration and policy, venture capital and private equity, and many others.

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