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Undergraduate Program in Anthropology


What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the systematic study of humanity, with the goal of understanding our evolutionary origins, our distinctiveness as a species, and the great diversity in our forms of social existence across the world and through time. Anthropology is divided into four subfields. Sociocultural anthropologists interpret the content of particular cultures, explain variation among cultures, and study processes of cultural change and social transformation. Davis sociocultural anthropologists conduct research on most areas of the world, focusing on such topics as: human ecology; gender relations; culture and ideology; demography and family systems; race, class, and gender inequality; resistance movements; colonialism, neocolonialism, and development; cultural politics in the West.

Linguistic anthropologists study languages and other aspects of human communication. This work may be contemporary, or it may involve reconstructing the history of a language no longer spoken. Davis linguistic anthropologists study language as it is used to create and maintain gender and ethnic identities, the effects of linguistic diversity on communication between groups, the connections between language and worldview, and the origins and use of non-alphabetic writing systems of the world.

Archaeologists study the material remains of present and past cultural systems to understand the technical, social, and political organization of those systems and the larger culture evolutionary process that stand behind them. The Davis program in archaeology emphasizes research in California and the Great Basin, but also supports the study of hunter-gatherer systems in general, and is currently engaged in such research in Australia and Asia.

Biological anthropologists study a variety of aspects of human evolutionary biology. Some examine fossils and apply their observations to understanding human evolution; others compare morphological, biochemical and physiological adaptations of living humans to their environments; still others observe behavior of nonhuman primates (monkeys and apes) to understand the roots of human behavior.

Undergraduates at UC Davis may major in anthropology in two ways. The Bachelor of Arts gives a background in all four subfields, with an emphasis in sociocultural anthropology. The Bachelor of Science program has much in common with a major in zoology or other biological sciences, and is appropriate for students interested in biology or applications of the natural sciences in archaeology.

Careers in Anthropology

A Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology provides the student with basic skills of critical analysis, writing, and cross-cultural understanding, which have many applications in public service or political activism, and in the private sector. An emphasis in sociocultural anthropology could prepare one for work in development, community organizing, policy analysis, and social research. Linguistic anthropologists may work in the areas of inter-cultural communication, language revitalization, and literacy programs. An emphasis in archaeology yields unusually bright prospects for entry-level employment or degree-related careers with one of many Federal and State agencies and private cultural resource management firms. A Bachelor of Science degree provides suitable preparation for Medical or Dental School.

An anthropology degree with appropriate courses in education also can prepare one for high school teaching in social or natural sciences. However, most practicing anthropologists hold jobs in colleges or universities, where they teach and conduct research. Such jobs require Ph.D. level graduate training.

Students in the social sciences have a number of opportunities to do field work through internships in state and federal agencies, in private businesses and other institutions where they can put into practice what they are learning in their classes. These internships often help students better understand their career interests and it is not unusual for internships to lead to employment opportunities after graduation.

The social sciences provide a strong liberal arts foundation on which a student can build a rewarding career in many areas. Some graduates put their knowledge to work in fields such as international trade, public administration, personnel work, marketing and sales, or banking and finance. Some students use their social science majors as stepping stones to graduate level professional programs in such fields as education, social work, administration and law. Many who graduate in the social sciences continue their studies, pursuing the Ph.D. and a career in research or teaching.

Learn more about careers in Anthropology (including preparing for graduate school):

American Anthropological Association

American Association of Physical Anthropologists

Society for American Archaeology

Preparation for the Anthropology Major

High School Preparation: (Recommended as part of, or in addition to the UC admission requirements)

  • Literature
  • Composition
  • History
  • Social Sciences
  • Foreign Language
  • Physical Science


Transfer Preparation: (Recommended)

  • Biological Anthropology
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Introduction to Archaeology


In addition for B.A. candidates:

  • Physical Geography
  • Foreign Language
  • Statistics


In addition for B.S. candidates:

  • Principles of Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Elementary Statistics
  • General Zoology
  • Organic Chemistry or Analytical
  • Geometry and Calculus
  • Foreign Language


(see the UCD General Catalog for course descriptions)


Degree Requirements

Undergraduate BS Requirements (evolutionary)

Undergraduate AB requirements (sociocultural)

Undergraduate AB requirements (evolutionary)

Undergraduate Minor requirements (all)


Undergraduate Learning Outcomes

Upon graduation, students majoring in Anthropology will be able to:

  • Describe how evolutionary and historical processes have shaped primates and human ancestors and lead to the biological, behavioral, and cultural diversity seen in the present.
  • Describe how cultural systems construct reality differently for various human groups.
  • Describe how varying types of data are collected, analyzed, synthesized, and interpreted to achieve these first two goals.
  • Communicate anthropological knowledge effectively through written, oral, and data presentation in varying formats for diverse audiences.
  • Discuss human diversity and how knowledge about human diversity should lead to a better understanding of and therefore respect for people different from ourselves.


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    Dept. of Anthropology

    328 Young Hall
    One Shields Ave.
    University of California
    Davis, Ca 95616-8522

    Ph.  530-752-0745
    Fax. 530-752-8885