Digging humans: literally and figuratively

Studying anthropology in Canada will equip you with a wide range of skills and bright prospects for your future career.

Anthropology in Canada combines the European (British and French) tradition, along with the American emphasis of a four-field approach to the study of human past and present. Included in the sub-disciplines of anthropology are archaeology, linguistics, sociocultural anthropology, as well as physical or biological anthropology. There are a multitude of other specialisations in the discipline including forensics, paleoanthropology, medical… In addition, applied anthropology has been put forward as a distinct field of knowledge examining how anthropological knowledge can be applied outside of academia.


Digging humans

“Students who wish to work as researchers generally continue on to do a master’s degree involving courses, research and a thesis, and some will go on to do a PhD”

Given that anthropology is not a legislated professional body, an anthropologist is not a title per se, but a set of skills acquired, along with a way of looking at the world, to understand humanity. The discipline emphasises holism, studying culture and societies as interconnected patterns whereby each element of society is influenced by disparate threads found elsewhere that may not at first glance be seen as interconnected. Anthropologists generally espouse the ideal of cultural relativism, being wary of judging another society based on one’s biases, while not abandoning their critical analysis of all societies, including their own.

A student’s training in anthropology generally begins at college or university, with students completing a major in the discipline and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts or, occasionally, a Bachelor of Science. It is expected that students will take courses from the various sub-disciplines, but may specialise over the course of their degree. Students who wish to work as researchers generally continue on to do a master’s degree involving courses, research and a thesis, and some will go on to do a PhD. Graduates of anthropology will then apply their skills in a variety of domains: some will become consultants working to conduct archaeological surveys and excavations to ensure that the archaeological heritage is 
not destroyed by development, some will work for First Nations communities conducting research as directed by the community, others may work for non-profit organisations seeking to improve the lives of society’s marginalised, while others may end up working for the public sector or the private sector.

To summarise with a cliché, the discipline is less a destination than the departure point on a journey.

Michel Bouchard
Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Northern British Columbia and
Communications Officer,
Canadian Anthropology Society