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by Ed Hagen last modified Apr 08, 2011 12:23 PM
Frequently Asked Questions about Careers in Physical Anthropology

Frequently Asked Questions about Careers in Physical Anthropology


As part of the Careers in Physical Anthropology portion of the AAPA website, the Career Development Committee has created this page on which frequently asked questions from students, or new Ph.D.’s, can be answered by the Committee.  In the interest of helping as many people as possible, the Committee would like to encourage people to send questions to the Chair of the Committee, Dr. Joel Irish at  Questions can cover anything related to preparing for a career in physical anthropology (e.g., coursework, CV, job talks, interviewing, meeting talks, etc.).  They will then be forwarded to the Committee for input, and those deemed most generally applicable will be posted here with a response from the Committee. 



An undergraduate student writes in with the following question:


Dear Career Development Committee:


I am an undergraduate student at ____________ State University. Currently I am a senior studying biological anthropology.  I was searching the internet to gain more information about possible job opportunities in the field, other than a position at a University.  I read the AAPA webpage, and it said to contact you in order to gain more information about job opportunities in the field and wanted to know more about that.  Thank you for your time, and I really appreciate your help.




Name Withheld



Career Development Committee Response:


The emergence of opportunities outside the university appears primarily in biomedical research.  Biomedical interests overlap with those of biological anthropologists.  Biomedical scientists focus on issues concerning public health, growth and development, nutrition, aging, disease, pathology, epidemiology, genetics, physiology, and forensic science.  The theoretical bases of evolution, human adaptation, biological human variation and their relationship to cultural factors including nutrition (e.g., metabolic syndrome) are particularly relevant to biomedical applications.  A growing number of biological anthropologists are bringing these orientations and skills to full-time research careers in private industry and schools of medicine and public health.  


The book by Al Ryan (see reference below) was written in response to the need of providing students with a reference they can use when contemplating a career in biological anthropology within and outside academia.  It describes several career paths that biological anthropologists have taken, and how anthropological theory, methods, and training have been useful for job acquisition and career development.  Other references that describe alternative careers for anthropologists are also available.


Ryan, AS, editor.  A Guide to Careers in Physical Anthropology, Westport, Connecticut:  Bergin & Garvey, 2002.



A recent Ph.D. graduate writes in with the following comments:


Dear Career Development Committee:


I have discovered an inconvenient surprise at the end of my doctoral training. Other graduate students might find this information helpful on the 'Careers in Physical Anthropology FAQ' page. My intention was to defend my dissertation and use the time between the defense and the start of a post-doc to publish my dissertation research. To my surprise, many journals consider re-using data first published in a dissertation self plagiarism. Moreover, my university has encouraged all students to publish their dissertations in an open access online database. While open access is a promising idea, many publishers refuse to publish data that has previously been published in such a database.



Name Withheld


Career Development Committee response:


Thanks for the input; however, we do not believe the problem you mention is as serious as you maintain. It is common practice to publish journal articles out of your dissertation OR to actually publish your dissertation in book format through an actual publisher. Many people we know have done this. Your dissertation is not technically published, in the sense of going through an actual publisher; it is instead publish-on-demand. Your university making you publish your dissertation on line is becoming more common. But again, it should not prohibit you from using the data to write articles, a published book, etc.



The AAPA Career Development Committee



The Committee consists of a range of physical anthropologists, including: individuals in traditional university teaching positions and clinical- and medical-oriented professionals. The individuals on Career Development Committee are:


Committee Chair:


Dr. Joel D. Irish

Professor and Chair

Curator of Biological Anthropology

Department of Anthropology

310 Eielson Building

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks, AK 99775-7720

(907) 474-6755


Committee Members:


Dr. Daniel Antoine

Curator of Physical Anthropology

Institute for Bioarchaeology

Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan

The British Museum

Great Russell Street

London WC1B 3DG, UK

+44 20 7323 8876


Dr. Brenda J. Baker

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ

(480) 965-2087


Dr. Scott E. Burnett

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Eckerd College

St. Petersburg, FL  33711

(727) 864-8932


Dr. D. Troy Case

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Dept of Sociology & Anthropology

Box 8107

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC 27695

(919) 515-9024


Dr. Loren Lease

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Youngstown State University

Youngstown, OH  44555

(330) 941-1686


Marilyn R. London


Department of Anthropology

1111Woods Hall

University of Maryland

College Park, MD 20742

(301) 933-1973


Dr. Elizabeth Miller

Associate Professor

California State University, LA

Dept of Anthropology

5151 State University Dr

Los Angeles, CA 90032

(323) 343-2442


Dr. Julienne N. Rutherford

Assistant Professor

Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry

Comparative Primate Biology Laboratory

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

University of Illinois at Chicago

801 S. Paulina Street  MC 690

Chicago, Illinois 60612

(312) 413-3363


Dr. Alan S. Ryan

Executive Director of Clinical Research

Martek Biosciences Corp

6480 Dobbin Road

Columbia, MD 21045

(443) 542-2591

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