The most humanistic of the sciences, and the most scientific of the humanities.

What is anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of how human beings live in the world. It is most commonly taught in the UK in one of two strands:

Social anthropology

Studies the forms and variations of human collective life.

It asks how people get along together, in relations of family and kinship, community and society, how they fashion their ideas of who they and others are, and how they find meaning in a world that often seems hard to fathom. How do they come to know, imagine, remember, learn, converse and associate in such different ways? By what means, and on what principles, do they build institutions, administer justice, exercise power, commit acts of violence, relate to the environment, nationalism, conflicts, worship the gods, care for the sick and confront their mortality?

To study these questions, social anthropologists work with or alongside people from around the world, in all walks of life, sharing in their experiences and perspectives, learning to perceive things as they do. By comparing these experiences and perspectives, they hope to learn lessons that will help us all to navigate an uncertain future. 

Biological anthropology

Explores the evolution and biological variation of humans, their hominin ancestors and non-human primates. 

Biological anthropology explores how humans have evolved over the last 7 million years to become the species we are today, rich in biological and cultural diversity. This exploration can involve excavating cave sites in remote parts of the world, or analysing DNA in laboratories.

The human story is complex and biological anthropology brings together a wide range of data to investigate what makes us human: data from fossils, archaeology, ancient DNA, evolutionary biology, human genetics, comparative anatomy and physiology, primate behaviour, human behavioural ecology, human biology and cognition. From these sources we build a picture of our evolutionary journey and an understanding of our modern diversity that can help us face the challenges of the present.

Both branches of anthropology explore how human biology impacts our cultural and social behaviours.

These aren't the only two ways to study anthropology however – you can also find courses in forensic anthropology, cognitive anthropology, and more. 

Anthropology course entry requirements

Entry requirements to study anthropology courses can vary, due to the fact that students aren't often expected to have studied it prior to applying. Interested applicants should check specific requirements of any course or provider they may wish to apply to. 

Some universities can also offer a foundation year, which could be beneficial if you don't meet their usual entry requirements.

What you will need to do
  • Apply by the January deadline
  • Write a personal statement
What you won't need to do
  • Submit a portfolio
  • Audition for a place
  • Attend an interview
  • Pass an entry test
  • Show work experience

Why study anthropology at university?

If your favourite subjects were both in the humanities and the sciences, and you find yourself asking the bigger questions about how and why humans are the way they are, then anthropology could be just the subject you're looking for. 

You'll be in good company too, with famous anthropology grads including authors (Kurt Vonnegut, Zora Neale Hurston, and Michael Crichton),  actors (Glenn Close), singers (Tracy Chapman), and even royalty (Prince Charles). 

Some modules you might study include:

  • Anthropological Theory
  • Anthropology of Art, Sound, and Images
  • Power and Culture: Inequality in Everyday Life
  • Cultural Diversity in Global Perspective
  • Key Ideas in Social Anthropology
  • Ethnographic Reading
  • Regional Studies of Culture
  • Business Anthropology: Consumers, Companies, and Culture
  • Political and Economic Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Ethics
  • Ecology and Behaviour
  • Human Evolution
  • Hominin Origins and Evolution
  • Primate Biology and Behaviour 
  • Comparitive Human Biology

Did you know...

... around two percent of the DNA from all living non-African people comes from the Neanderthals? And while our extinct cousins were typically light-skinned and red haired, they aren't responsible for our ginger gene – the traits we've inherited from them are more likely to influence our height, stature, and even mood. 

What can you do with an anthropology degree?

Studying anthropology at degree level will most often lead to a job as a:

The skills you’ll gain studying anthropology can help prepare you for a career in:

  • heritage and conservation
  • government
  • business
  • education
  • research
  • museums
  • public service
  • marketing

What's it like to study anthropology?

Well, you know the expression about jumping down the rabbit hole? Consider the fact that rabbits have burrows, made up of innumerable interconnected tunnels, that can stretch on, and on, and on... Studying anthropology can be likened to getting lost in these tunnels forever, and seeing where all the connections lie. 

As such, the potential for your studies is almost infinite. And anthropology as a field of study is connected to almost every other subject in often surprising and interesting ways, allowing you scope to pair it with other passions and interests. 

Over the course of your anthropology degree, you're likely to cover aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, art, music, economics, mathematics, mythology, history, linguistics, and even more. So, if there is another subject in particular that you're enthusiastic about, you can potentially bring that pairing to an independent study.

The university you choose may also offer the opportunity for travel – and given the scope of your chosen subject, this could be almost anywhere in the world. 

Studying an anthropology degree is likely to involve:

  • writing reports and essays
  • conducting research projects
  • attending lectures and seminars
  • project, presentation, and group work
  • fieldwork, with the potential for travel
  • studying for, and taking exams
  • independent study

Are you considering an accelerated degree? Read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three. 


If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.

Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.

Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.

Where can I look for an anthropology apprenticeship?

Aside from using our apprenticeships search tool, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • local council/government
  • heritage and conservation organisations
  • NGO's

Higher apprenticeships (level 4)

Degree apprenticeships (levels 5 - 7)

Start your search now

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