Become a Medical Anthropologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Medical anthropologists study the relationships between sociocultural elements and various aspects of health. They analyze changes to societies and the ways in which those changes affect disease and physical wellness. Becoming a medical anthropologist requires an advanced education and field experience.

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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring medical anthropologists must begin by earning a bachelor's degree. A major in anthropology can prepare students for this career field. Coursework in anthropology includes language, culture, research methods and religion. Other useful classes are those in statistics, math, quantitative research and research analysis. Students may also study nursing, public health or other medical fields with coursework focusing on science and health.

Step 2: Continue Your Education

Most employers require job candidates to have a master's degree or Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology. Studies at the graduate level include health and life cycles, ethno and alternative medicine, sexuality and gender. Students may also study medical ethics, geriatrics and public health. Complementary degrees include a Master of Public Health or Medical Doctorate.

Step 3: Complete an Internship

Many anthropology programs require or recommend an internship. Students who participate in internship programs gain experience working with a variety of organizations that they may encounter as professional medical anthropologists, including museums, libraries, government agencies and cultural institutions. They practice researching, recording and reporting information.

Step 4: Conduct Research

Both students and professional medical anthropologists conduct research. Learning to compile and organize collected information requires attention to detail, organization and an open mind. Medical anthropologists must also be willing to travel and live in unusual situations in order to study cultures. They must be patient and willing to work on projects that can span years. Research topics range from the spread and prevalence of illness among designated groups to the morals of medicine and the stigmas of mental illness.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Anthropologists and archeologists in general earned an annual median salary of $58,360 in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment for these professionals was projected to increase by 19% from 2012-2022, which was faster than average job growth, per the BLS.

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