Humans & Behavior


Degrees Offered:

  • BA
  • MA
  • MA/MBA
  • PhD
  • Minor*

Department Website

Degree Requirements 

Sample Four Year Plan

Request Admission Info

* = Minors are not technically a degree, but can be pursued to supplement a bachelor's degree

Anthropology is the study of people, both ancient and modern, in their cultural, biological and environmental contexts. The discipline incorporates a wide range of theoretical and methodological traditions, drawing on and contributing to approaches in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

The diversity of anthropology is the source of both its uniqueness and its greatest strength as a discipline. As the only field to address all aspects of the human experience—cultural, biological, historical—anthropology provides both a broad vision of what it is to be human as well as creative synergies unavailable to other disciplines within the human sciences and humanities.


Did you know that many well-known people in a variety of fields majored in anthropology, including Steven Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble, actors Thandie Newton, Glenn Close, Hugh Laurie and Tea Leoni, authors Kurt Vonnegut and Zora Neale Hurston, musicians Will Champion (Coldplay), Frank Black (The Pixies) and Tracy Chapman?

Anthropology is the study of human groups, both ancient and modern, in their cultural and biological context. The field takes a global look at human cultures from prehistoric times to the present, integrating findings from the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Although anthropology is related to subjects like biology, classics, geography, history, psychology and sociology, the discipline is unique in its attempt to synthesize and compare knowledge about the human experience.

If you are interested in: 

  • Getting to ask the big questions about humanity;
  • Understanding what it means to be human through time, from our earliest ancestors and across the many cultures of the world;
  • Gaining a different perspective of the world and it's citizens; and
  • Hearing the voices of other peoples who share this world with us, but whose lives are often far different from our own

Then Anthropology is the major for you! 

At CU Boulder, there are three possible specializations for undergraduate students:

  • Archaeology
    • The archaeology subdiscipline provides continuous geographic coverage of ancient societies from the Plains of North America  through the Southwest and Mesoamerica to the Intermediate Area. The native societies the department focuses on range from egalitarian hunter-gatherers through middle range societies to the city-states and empires of Mesoamerica. The faculty’s theoretical and topical interests include human ecology, ethnoarchaeology, agency and social theory, lithic and ceramic analyses, remote sensing, disasters in ancient and modern times and geophysical applications in archeology.
  • Biological Anthropology:
    • The biological anthropology—or physical anthropology—subdiscipline focuses on the biological and behavioral aspects of human beings, their related non-human primates and their extinct hominin ancestors. At CU Boulder, the biological anthropology faculty have interests and research strengths that cross sub-disciplinary boundaries and foster collaboration with faculty and graduate students in other disciplines and sub-disciplines. We share an interest in human ecology, the broad integrative area of anthropology that focuses on the interactions of culture, biology and the environment. They also share an interest in the processes of globalization, which are rapidly changing many aspects of the modern world.
  • Cultural Anthropology:
    • The cultural anthropology subdiscipline, on the other hand, is the study of human societies and cultures and their development. Among the topical interests of the cultural anthropology faculty at CU Boulder are gender and sexuality, culture and power, modernity and consumption, kinship and relatedness, tourism and popular culture, medical anthropology, science and technology studies, human and political ecology, pastoralism, conservation and sustainability, museums, semiotics, concepts of “care,” nationalism and ethnic identity, racial constructs, post-colonialism, refugees and citizenship and history and memory. Areas of regional expertise in the department include Latin America and the Caribbean, Native America, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet, East Africa, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Papua New Guinea, as well as their respective diasporas around the world.

And the department is home to a number of excellent and award-winning faculty, including a CU Distinguished Professor, a number of Fulbright scholars and numerous fellows for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Rockefeller, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Council of Learned Societies, as well as numerous book award recipients.

The Department of Anthropology is nationally recognized in several areas of research, focusing broadly in three categories: Archaeology, Biological or Physical Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology.

Their diverse faculty also include several who have joint affiliations with institutes and centers like the Institute for Behavioral Science, including the Natural Hazards Center and the Environment and Society Program, the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, Latin American Studies Center and the CU Museum of Natural History, and other departments like Environmental Studies, Information Science, Sociology, Linguistics, Media Studies, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and History.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in anthropology, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.

  • Anthropology majors may choose to seek honors in their field, which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude at graduation. Honors work involves a senior honors research project.  Look into this program early, as it involves securing a faculty sponsor and developing an individual project.

  • The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for you as an anthropology major. The first-hand experience abroad can provide students with insights into the culture, cultural history, and human biological diversity of another country or world region by allowing them to immerse yourself in another culture and learn about it from the perspective of your host country instructors. The university offers more than 300 programs throughout the world, all of which qualify for course credit and in some cases also fulfill major requirements. Prior language study or other prerequisites are necessary for some programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

  • Students have the opportunity to earn course credit while doing field work in the areas of archaeology, physical anthropology and cultural anthropology. For instance, CU Boulder anthropology students can earn credit over the summer doing the Archaeological Field and Laboratory Research. This field school uses sites throughout the southwestern U.S. and the Great Plains. 

  • The department sponsors other opportunities for students at the undergraduate level such as an anthropology club, internships and earning credit for teaching anthropology.

Anthropology offers students perspectives and knowledge for a variety of careers. As a graduate in anthropology, student's academic background may be useful in positions where it matters to have insights into what makes people tick and where a broad view of the diversity of the world we live in and the ability to communicate effectively are important. Career options include entry-level positions in fields such as software engineering, education, city management, medicine, advertising, market research, foreign affairs, journalism, public relations, library work, law, government service and personnel management.

In the long run, an anthropology background will provide students with the breadth and flexibility required to respond positively to career changes that you may face in your professional life. If students plan to pursue a graduate or professional degree, undergraduate work in anthropology is excellent preparation for advanced degrees in the social sciences, environmental studies, ecology, conservation, law, medicine, dentistry, and business.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2017-18 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital: 

  • the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and 0-5 years of experience is $40,500;
  • median salary for 10-plus years of experience, $63,200.

Copied figure of the projected salary for Anthropology majors

At CU Boulder, anthropology graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $78,476, based on a pool of 1015 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount, however, is lower than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for anthropologists and archaeologists are expected to grow by 3 percent from 2016-2026, slower than the average for all jobs.

The Department of Anthropology has an extensive alumni network working in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Catherine Workman (BA '04) is senior director of wildlife at the National Geographic Society.
  • Chris Kuzawa (BA '93) is a professor of anthropology and faculty fellow at the institute for policy research, Northwestern University.
  • Mark Hamrick (BA '91) is Regents Professor and graduate program director in Cellular Biology and Anatomy at Augusta University (the medical school for the University of Georgia).