SOAS University of London
Source: SOAS University of London

Embarking on a master’s in anthropology opens the door to a captivating journey of understanding humanity’s diverse tapestry and cultural intricacies. For those seeking to explore the depths of human societies, behaviours, and traditions, specialising in this field discipline promises to be a transformative experience. Whether you’re intrigued by ancient civilisations, inspired by contemporary cultural practices, or find joy in examining the intersections between culture and biology, an anthropology master’s programme provides the knowledge, tools, and experience to satisfy your intellectual curiosities.

You’ll get an edge professionally too. A master’s degree in this subject equips one with invaluable skills such as critical thinking, ethnographic research methodologies, and cross-cultural communication. These competencies are not only academically enriching but also hold immense practical value in various industries. Graduates find roles in academia, international development, healthcare, cultural heritage, nonprofits, and more. To join them, a master’s degree that harnesses the intimate connection between knowledge and experience is a must, like those offered by the universities below:

SOAS University of London

If you seek a sharp, cutting-edge education that deals with real-world issues having to do with migration, race, gender, climate change, and social justice, head to the SOAS University of London’s Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Ranked 10th in the world (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022: Anthropology) and second among anthropology departments in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework (REF), the department’s MA programmes explore the theories and practices of what it is to be human in a complex and changing world, empowering you to understand the diverse perspectives, practices and forms of knowledge that comprise it. 

Along with its renowned MA programmes in Social Anthropology, the Anthropology of Food, the Anthropology of Migration and Diaspora Studies and the Masters of Research (MRes), the department has recently launched two new programmes to tackle the most urgent challenges of our times.  In the MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability students explore climate change, sustainability, global inequalities and alternative lifeways and are equipped with the tools to explore, communicate and address these issues as engaged global citizens. In the MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health students focus on cultures of health and well-being in the Global South, and develop an understanding informed by clinical, psychological, philosophical, biomedical, STS, and anthropological perspectives.

SOAS Anthropology offers students the unique opportunities to expand their MA degree through language learning and real world practice. The MA programmes on Social Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, and Migration and Diaspora Studies, as well as  MRes Social Anthropology can be studied with the UK’s widest variety of languages, from Urdu and Bengali to Kiswahili and Yoruba, making it a two-year programme. The MA Anthropology of Food, MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability, MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health and MA Migration and Diaspora Studies also offer a work placement module, where students can put their academic learning in anthropology into practice by working with an organisation. in either the public or private sector.

What sets these programmes apart is the exceptional regional expertise of its academics in languages, cultures and politics. Unlike other UK Anthropology and Sociology departments, SOAS anthropologists and sociologists are specialists in Asia, Africa or the Middle East, their global interconnections, and their diasporas. In the practice-based and collaborative seminars, lectures, workshops, creative projects, and placements that they lead, you will follow a non-Western-centric approach to teaching and acquire the methods and theories to help understand the world and to make a difference. What you’ll gain is unique to SOAS University of London’s tradition of language-related and practice-oriented work, applied to subjects as varied as gender, environment, political economy, consumption, mental health, medicine and more. 

To enhance your learning, you can flexibly structure your programme by taking option modules in Anthropology and Sociology and/or from other departments in the school, including the opportunity to learn a regional language.

Whether within or beyond campus, you will have support every step of the way. The departmental library, the Helen Kanitkar Library, serves as a social study space where students from different cohorts and levels study together and share knowledge and ideas. The university also strongly believes in peer support and offers a mentoring scheme. To learn more about one of the world’s highest ranking departments, click here.

SOAS University of London

The Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley is ranked among the top five departments in the US. Source: UC Berkeley

UC Berkley

The Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley was founded over 100 years ago by Alfred Kroeber, a student of Franz Boas who founded the relativistic, culture-centred school of American anthropology that became dominant in the 20th century. Today, it is ranked among the top five departments in the US. On the cutting edge theoretically and methodologically in each of the formal subdisciplines — social, cultural, archaeology, biological, and linguistics — this department is consistently a leader in the field. It is also one of the birthplaces of the field of Medical Anthropology. 

No matter the speciality, students are trained to start with the big picture, exploring what it is to be human/nonhuman/post-human/more than human in a world more fragmented by social inequality and climate vulnerability. Research in the Department of Anthropology covers numerous themes, including critical understanding of intersectionalities of the body, materiality and technologies; media, communication and heritage studies; and sustainability in a climate-vulnerable world. 

Graduate programmes in this department include the Anthropology PhD, the Joint UCB/UCSF PhD in Medical Anthropology, one of the pioneering programmes in the discipline both nationally and globally; and the Anthropology PhD. The last option has two specialisations to choose from: biological anthropology, where students can be admitted to work with archaeology or sociocultural faculty, and Sociocultural Anthropology.  

Berkeley graduate students conduct research that spans the globe (a hallmark of graduate training here) — with notable regional strengths in the study of Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Islamic world, and contemporary North America. Further enriching their education here are the many visits from leading anthropologists from around the world. They share their expertise with students through lecture series, workshops, and as visiting faculty. 

Support is available every step of the way. Thanks to its small cohort size, each student need not compete for personalised attention and guidance. There are also departmental grant programmes that enable students to undertake pilot research while mentoring in grant writing eases the process of winning research grants and fellowships elsewhere.

SOAS University of London

NUS’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology has over 35 faculty members. Source: NUS

National University of Singapore

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is consistently ranked among the top Sociology and Anthropology departments in Asia and the world. “We offer a comprehensive PhD programme where students undertake intensive training on the Sociology track or the Anthropology track,” says Graduate Studies Chair and Associate Professor Bussarawan (Puk) Teerawichitchainan. “Our programme emphasises both quantitative and qualitative research and represents diverse theoretical traditions. Your graduate journey will be guided by a professor acting as your thesis supervisor and academic mentor.”

With humble beginnings in 1966 with three staff, the department now has over 35 faculty members. The school offers a wide range of research and teaching expertise by experienced faculty, each an industry leader in their own right and with research skills honed at prestigious universities worldwide. These incredible educators lead two main graduate degree programmes. 

The Master in Social Science (Sociology) trains students in advanced theoretical application and enhances their research capabilities to initiate, conduct and complete independent exploratory research in new knowledge frontiers. The programme advances your disciplinary research training, ideal for returning students after a few years of work experience or current research assistants. The Sociology/Anthropology PhD programme equips students with critical thinking and the ability to conduct in-depth research using multiple methods to advance their knowledge about society and culture. 

Whichever programme they choose, they’re set to gain the know-how to solve increasingly complex challenges plaguing societies and economies. Associate Professor Kelvin Low, Head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at NUS, said that anthropology has a lot to offer in helping to solve these problems, given its long history of learning from societies and cultures the world over.

“What makes anthropology graduates so flexible is not just their disciplinary knowledge, but also how they have been trained to develop a context-rich understanding of the problems at hand — grasping the world from the perspectives of others, being culturally aware and thinking holistically,” he said. “Even businesses are also increasingly tapping on anthropology specialists to tackle the emergence of disruptive technologies to optimise organisational culture, design user-friendly products and interfaces, and even study consumer behaviour in foreign markets.”

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International