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What is Anthropology?

The term anthropology comes from the Greek Anthropos, meaning “man” and logos for “study”. In more modern terms anthropology can be defined as the study of human beings or humankind. This study encompasses literally everything about human life. Anthropologists are interested in discovering where, why and when human beings first appeared on earth, as well as understanding how human societies have developed or changed over time. In order to achieve these aims, anthropology often draws on the knowledge and methods of other disciplines such as genetics, biology, history, politics and economics. It also seeks to be holistic, comparative and practical.

Anthropologists study differences and similarities among all societies throughout the world. In addition to identifying features which many societies share, this comparative research highlights the vast diversity of human expression and experience. How individuals impact and are impacted by their society is another prime concern. While anthropologists traditionally concentrated on the study of non-Western cultures today many researchers are investigating the shape of their own society. Because the scope of anthropology is so broad, most anthropologists specialize in one of four sub fields. These fields are biological anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology and cultural anthropology. The anthropology department at Portland Community College offers classes in all four of these sub-fields. Students can also take classes from the four anthropological sub-fields that lead to different career tracks, such as:

  • ATH 101-104: foundational survey courses that are important for all career tracks
  • ATH 207-209, 234 career track: field research, ethnography, education
  • ATH 230-232, 212, 214, 235 career track: cultural resource management, EPA tribal cultural consultant, historic preservation, archaeology, museum curation

Why should I take anthropology classes at PCC?

No matter what your major or career interests are, taking a class in anthropology at PCC will help you: 

  • increase your level of cultural literacy and awareness
  • apply anthropological concepts and ideas to your daily life
  • enhance current work, family and personal relationships
  • gain a fuller understanding of human behavior from a cross cultural perspective
  • examine issues related to social justice, culture change and globalization
  • evaluate the impact of humans and their activities on the environment
  • analyze information accurately about historic and prehistoric societies
  • fulfill general education requirements in social science and critical thinking
  • major in anthropology or transfer with your associate's degree to a four year college

Does PCC offer a Degree in Anthropology?

PCC does not offer a degree in anthropology. However, all anthropology classes taught at PCC can be used to fulfill degree or elective requirements at four year institutions in Oregon or across the country. Students who want to major in anthropology should make a plan with their adviser to transfer and continue their studies at another college or university. Since transfer requirements vary from college to college, make sure that you check what these requirements are at the college or university you plan to attend. Consult an admissions counselor at the college or university you plan to transfer to for more information about this process. For students considering majoring in anthropology and transferring to PSU, the following video provides more information about courses you should take at PCC.

In addition to PSU, Oregon State University (OSU) offers an excellent online bachelor's degree in anthropology (as well as many other majors). This is a great alternative to PSU, particularly for students who prefer to take all their classes online. (It also means you don't have to move to Corvallis to attend OSU and complete your degree!). OSU also has a much stronger anthropology program (online and on campus) than PSU does. So if students are thinking about going to graduate school after they get their bachelor's degree, then OSU is by far the better choice.

What sorts of careers or jobs can you get with an anthropology degree?

It's a great time to become an anthropologist! According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of anthropologists and archaeologists are expected to grow by 19% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations". These numbers indicate that students who pursue careers in anthropology will have more job options available to them than many other occupations. In addition to working in education and research, many anthropologists are also employed by corporations, the government or non profit organizations.

To see videos about careers in anthropology, visit the PCC Library: Careers in Anthropology page.

What's Next?

anthropology program flag
  1. Complete the steps for new students
    • The admissions form will ask you what you plan to study. Since we don't offer a degree or certificate in this subject, you should choose Associate of Arts - Oregon Transfer (AAOT) for now.
  2. Plan how you'll pay for college
  3. Plan your transfer