Anthropology is the comparative study of humans in all walks of life, all kinds of societies, all parts of the world, and at all points in time. It has four major subfields: biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, and archeology.

This field provides insight into our biological and cultural evolutionary background and offers a holistic view of how our economic, social, political, and religious systems relate to one another. It helps us reflect on our own social systems, on the interrelationships between individuals and societies, and on the reasons for the development of thoughts and feelings that can promote connection or conflict across social and cultural groups.

The major in anthropology prepares individuals for advanced training or careers in anthropology, allied fields, and professional programs.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa’s Department of Anthropology offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree with options for students to gain practical experience, explore the four subfields, and choose an area of emphasis. The research specialties of faculty members span a variety of topics, numerous regions across the globe, and all four subfields.

Course work examines topics such as language and culture, human prehistory, human evolution, identities and political concerns of contemporary world peoples, environment and culture, the influence of gender on human experience, health and healing across cultures, religious activity in diverse cultural settings, anthropological genetics, expressive culture (art, verbal arts, literature, music, and dance), nonhuman primates, and urban anthropology.

Students in the BA program are encouraged (and students in the BS program are required) to do field work or research, and have many opportunities to study abroad.

The department also offers a Certificate in Museum Studies, which students can use to supplement their degree.

Course Work

Students majoring in anthropology earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. No matter which degree you earn, you'll acquire a broad background in anthropology. The major’s flexibility will allow you to pursue specific interests. You may also want to consider courses in art history, biology, world languages, geography, geology, global health studies, history, linguistics, museum studies, psychology, and sociology.

BA Students

If you're a BA student, the major will give you a comprehensive overview of anthropology’s four subfields and a cross-cultural perspective on human experience. BA students are encouraged to gain hands-on experience by participating in field schools, assisting faculty with research, and taking independent study courses in addition to the basic requirements for the major.

BS Students

The BS program emphasizes opportunities to develop skill in research methods, scientific reasoning, and connecting anthropology with related fields of study. It's a good fit for students with interests in any of anthropology’s four subfields (sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archeology).

In addition to meeting the course requirements for the BA program, BS students also are required to complete courses in directed laboratory or field research; complete additional courses in quantitative, mathematical, or formal reasoning; and minor in a field related to their interests.

Optional Emphasis Area

Whether you're a BA or a BS student, you'll choose a degree concentration from the following tracks:

  • Gender and Culture 
  • Cultural Resource and Heritage Management 
  • Environmental Anthropology 
  • Medical Anthropology 

See Anthropology in the UI General Catalog to learn more about required courses for each degree and graduating with honors.

Anthropology Minor

See Anthropology in the UI General Catalog to learn more about earning a minor in anthropology.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The UI Anthropology Club is open to all students interested in this subject. The club coordinates field trips and activities that foster learning and student-faculty interaction.

Field Research & Study Abroad

Under the direction of anthropology faculty, you may acquire skills in data recovery and interpretive techniques during archaeological field research in Portugal, France, Namibia, Sicily, or sites here in the United States. 

Faculty are available to mentor student researchers in sociocultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology. In recent years, students have conducted field research in Brazil, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Ghana, Iceland, India, Japan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam.

The university's Office for Study Abroad offers a wealth of programs that feature cross-cultural experiences. These will give you first-hand knowledge of the diversity and complexity of humanity that is central to the study of anthropology. See the Recommended Study Abroad Programs for Anthropology Majors.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

The department's faculty members are experts in the peoples, cultures, and histories of Latin America, Europe, South Asia, Africa, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Native North America, and numerous cultural groups in the United States.

The department has well-equipped laboratories for archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. It also offers unique collections on campus as well as access to other collections.

The department maintains its own collections of Midwest prehistoric and historic fauna materials and has a documented human skeleton collection originally developed by Stanford University Medical School. It also has access to the Iowa Archaeological Collection through the Office of the State Archaeologist, which is located on Iowa's campus.

The University is a charter member of the Human Relations Area Files. Through these and other library resources, you’ll have access to source materials on more than 400 culturally diverse societies.


Anthropology students develop a broad liberal arts background that will prepare them for a variety of interesting and challenging careers. You'll have a special understanding of human relations and expertise for jobs involving international or cross-cultural work as well as social and ethnic diversity in the United States.

Graduates find rewarding careers in government, international affairs, conservation, economic development, public health, urban and regional planning, social work, museum work, and education. You might work to help resolve contemporary world problems by joining the Peace Corps, the Americorps program, or an international or domestic nongovernmental organization.

You'll also be prepared to pursue graduate study in anthropology or related disciplines or to earn a professional degree in law, business, or one of the health sciences.


Consult multiple sources for scholarship information, including the Office of Admissions, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Anthropology.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Anthropology (BA)
Anthropology (BS)
Gender and Culture
Cultural Resource and Heritage Management
Environmental Anthropology
Medical Anthropology
Teaching Licensure
in Social Science
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan