UCSD & BioAnthro Careers


The following is Jim Moore's personal take on what non-obvious things one can do with a BioAnthro major at UCSD. Career Services here tries to find out what graduates actually DO, which would be a big help; but few people respond to questionnaires so the sample is small. Circa 1989, based on their statistics, 25% of Anthro majors become tour guides in Katmandu [figure it out ;-). Caveat emptor!

Not many majors lead directly into a job--maybe folks hire "electrical engineers" with a BS, but I don't know of anyone recruiting for "biologists" or "historians" or "chemists" with a bachelors degree. Rather, people get hired based on what relevant knowledge and skills they can demonstrate to a recruiter, or they go on to postgraduate training. (Someone in the real world correct me if I'm wrong!)

BioAnthro is a funny major in that it straddles the social/natural science border. You can major in bioanthro and avoid quantitative or lab courses (and so not have much to offer to a local biotech company), or you can emphasize them (and so not have much to offer to a conservation NGO working in Guatemala). Where you go with the major depends a lot on what you make of it and how you present that when applying for jobs.

That said, a couple of non-obvious suggestions for career paths to think about:

Medical School Medical schools get about 3 zillion applications from bio majors who can pipette well, but have maybe focused a little too much on the lab side of things. If you want to go the research side of medicine, best to stay with biology; but if you want to work with people then BioAnthro is a fine preparation. Talk with someone at Career Services about must-have science courses for medical school; there aren't many. I have heard it said that the success rate for bioanthro (or human biology) med school applicants is greater than biology; they like the variety and they like the humanistic perspective it represents. All that said, note UCSD's current BioAnthro program is not especially geared toward premed-related courses; this is a do-it-yourselfer (Dr. Semendeferi's brain-related courses are obvious starting places).

Law School and Business School I think these are dandy things to do with a UCSD BioAnthro degree. Both fields involve an increasingly complex interface between peoples/nations (anthropology) and scientific/technological issues (biology etc.). Wouldn't it be great if there were a major that combined those perspectives, giving students a solid undergrad basis from which to go into ecologically and culturally-sensitive careers in business and law, especially in the international arena? BINGO. "Conservation and the Human Predicament" (ANBI 132) is the unofficial core course for this approach; have a look and give it some thought.

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