Studying Anthropology Major at UCLA: My Experience
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- What is Anthropology?
- What Can You Do With an Anthropology Degree?
- Studying Anthropology at UCLA
- Opportunities for Students Studying Anthropology at UCLA
- What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at UCLA?
When I began my journey at UCLA, I had absolutely no idea what anthropology was, let alone what career path I wanted to take. Four years later I graduated from UCLA with a BS in Anthropology and minors in both Gerontology and Global Health.
I hope this article gives you some insight into what studying anthropology is like and the career opportunities that are available!
What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is simply the study of humans. The field is often said to be the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities. As an anthropologist, you examine the complexity of the human experience through the past and present within four different fields:
- Biological Anthropology
- Cultural Anthropology
- Linguistic Anthropology
One of the reasons I love anthropology is because of its breadth. You are bound to find something within the field of anthropology that interests you. For me, it was within biological anthropology as I was interested in healthcare and medicine. As an anthropology major, I have stood out in my applications for graduate school in healthcare administration as I’ve been able to understand healthcare from a different light due to my courses—for example, how cultural differences can affect access to healthcare or healthcare outcomes.
What Can You Do With an Anthropology Degree?
Due to anthropology’s interdisciplinary approach in the fields of biology, history, linguistics, the social sciences, and many of the humanities, students pursuing a BA in Anthropology can find themselves pursuing a variety of careers in fields such as:
- Software Development
- Market Research
- Museum Curation
- Health / Public Health
Due to the Anthropology BS’s focus on science, students pursuing a BS in anthropology can find a career in which they’re either practicing science, or using science to help others such as:
- Evidence-based Public Policy
- Healthcare Management
- Health / Public Health
UCLA’s Anthropology Department even offers a course titled “Careers in Anthropology” to provide students an overview of the various career paths that are available to them after graduation by bringing in UCLA anthropology alumni that have succeeded in a variety of fields from medicine to tech. Additionally the course allows you to develop professional skills, such as resume building.
Studying Anthropology at UCLA
UCLA’s Department of Anthropology was founded in 1941 and has consistently ranked among the top 10 programs in the country due to its faculty and teaching. UCLA’s Anthropology faculty engage in cutting edge research. For example, Professor Molly Fox focuses on the transmissions of genes, phenotypes, and diseases between grandmothers, mothers, and children.
At UCLA, there are some majors that require students to complete an application after completing certain courses. For students interested in anthropology, you can simply make an appointment with your counselor and request to be “pre-anthropology”. You remain pre-anthropology until you complete all of your preparatory coursework which I will discuss in the next section.
At UCLA, there are two requirements for individuals who want to pursue a major in Anthropology: preparatory courses and major courses.
Both the Anthropology BA and BS require the following preparatory courses:
- Anthropology 1: Human Evolution
- Anthropology 2: Archaeology
- Anthropology 3: Culture and Society
- Anthropology 4: Culture and Communication
These courses are designed to introduce you to the four subfields of anthropology and allow students to decide whether anthropology is for them. These courses also satisfy UCLA General Education requirements so if you decide that you want to switch majors, you will not have wasted considerable time!
For the Anthropology BS, students must also additionally complete the following preparatory courses:
- Physics Series and Lab
- Chemistry Series and Lab
- Life Science Series and Lab
- Math Series and Statistics
These preparatory courses are considered those typical “pre-med” courses which is why the Anthropology BS is a great option for students who are considering careers in medicine or the sciences.
The anthropology major courses provide much more flexibility and freedom for students pursuing either the BA or the BS because students are required to take courses across the different subfields of anthropology such as Archaeology, Biology, Linguistics, Regional Cultures & Societies, Methods, History or Theory. Both degrees give students the opportunity to explore classes from across the full range of the discipline, while also allowing students to prioritize those areas that most interest them.
As a student pursuing the Anthropology BS with an interest in healthcare, I made sure to take as many healthcare focused courses as possible. Some of my favorite courses in the Anthropology department include:
- Anthropology 149: Health, Power, and Inequality
- Anthropology 139: Doctors, Clinics, and Biomedicine
These courses taught me the complex nature of the United States healthcare system when it comes to access and affordability.
As I mentioned previously, anthropology is a holistic field so I’ve also taken a variety of courses in different disciplines such as:
- Anthropology 112R: Cities Past and Present
- An examination of ancient and modern cities to evaluate how urban form developed and continues to thrive as a human social phenomenon.
- Anthropology 130: Anthropology of Migration
- An introduction to different views on population movement from refugee crisis and migration tendencies to policies surrounding newcomers’ incorporation and anti-immigration political strategies. Examination of motivations for migration, both voluntary and involuntary movements (e.g., displacement, slave trades, or ethnic violence) are also covered.
- Anthropology 135: Visual Anthropology: Documentary Photography
- An examination of how photography is used in the field of anthropology. For example: primary data, illustrations of words in books, documentation for disappearing cultures, evidence of fieldwork, material objects for museum exhibitions, and even works of art.
- Anthropology M128S: Primate Genetics, Ecology, and Conservation
- A focus on genetic research on wild primates at different geographic scales, using readings from primary literature on primate genetics, ecology, and behavior.
Cool Opportunities for Students Studying Anthropology at UCLA
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of anthropology, studying abroad is a great opportunity for students!
I attended a study abroad program at the University of Sussex in Brighton on the southern coast of England during the summer of 2019. While in England, I completed all of my physics courses and labs in just a span of 8 weeks compared to the 33 weeks it would take at UCLA. This was a great way for me to travel while also reducing the stress of taking the challenging physics series during the school year along with my other courses at UCLA.
Although studying physics abroad is a great option for those pursuing their BS in Anthropology at UCLA, there are also abroad programs for students pursuing their BA in Anthropology. One of my friends studied abroad in Italy during the summer and completed various Anthropology major courses during her time there.
Lemelson Undergraduate Honors Program
The Lemelson Undergraduate Honors Program is a wonderful opportunity for anthropology students who want to engage in research with faculty in the department of anthropology and receive a Departmental Honors Designation on their diploma. The program provides selected students with the ability to conduct original research funded by the Lemelson Foundation and mentorship by anthropology faculty members.
As part of the Honors Programs, students must submit a final Honors thesis to reflect their research in 25-30 pages of text. Honors students must also complete additional research focused courses, attend the annual Lemelson Honors retreat, and present their research project and findings at the annual Lemelson Honors Conference.
Clubs and Organizations
One of my favorite things about UCLA is the amount of clubs and organizations available. You can pursue all of your passions and interests. UCLA is home to over 1,000 student clubs and organizations. There’s even an Undergraduate Anthropology Association which aims to connect anthropology department faculty and students. Additionally, the organization holds panels on graduate school and career opportunities.
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at UCLA?
While UCLA’s acceptance rate is relatively low (around 14%), your personal chances of acceptance may vary.
To better understand your chances at UCLA, we recommend using our free admissions calculator. Using your grades, extracurriculars, and more, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance. The calculator will give you tips on how you can become a more competitive applicant.
You can also search for best-fit schools based on your chances, and other factors that may be important to you, like if you want to study anthropology. This tool will make it a lot easier to create a strategy for your college application process.