Things to Consider


  • Why should you pursue a fieldwork or internship opportunity? What can such experiences offer you? Let’s talk about fieldwork first. To speak in realistic terms, if you plan on pursuing an academic career in anthropology, such experiences—especially in the field—are not only viewed favorably by, say, graduate schools, they are often required for admission. This is mostly because fieldwork is not for everyone. As you may know, fieldwork in anthropology can be strenuous and taxing, requiring long hours and meticulous work. To be able to handle the strains of fieldwork, you must be adaptable, hard-working, and patient. When the admissions board of a graduate program sees that you have attended a field school, for instance, they immediately know that [1] you possess a certain level of aptitude with certain anthropological methods and techniques and [2] you possess the motivation to be able to survive and thrive under stressful conditions that would have tested the will of the typical individual. You may, for example, have to camp out in the deserts of New Mexico, working in 100°F+ temperatures, or deal with a multitude of potentially deadly creatures in the jungles of the Amazon, or put up with the lack of constant running water and electricity in remote or underdeveloped areas of many countries in the world. While it can be fun and educational to undertake the challenges of living in less-than-luxurious circumstances with a small group of people for some time, it can also test the bounds of your sanity.
  • Which brings us to our next point—how does one go about the nigh impossible task of choosing a fieldwork opportunity out of the hundreds listed in this directory? It all boils down to the individual. What do YOU want to do? Are you interested in archaeology, physical anthropology, or sociocultural/linguistic anthropology? Or are you interested in more than one? Some of these opportunities combine multiple aspects of anthropology. You can work, for example, with human fossils and artifacts at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, or learn about rock art and the plight of aboriginal peoples in Australia. Next, is there a specific region/culture that you are interested in? This is often one of the biggest deciding factors for field school participants. Furthermore, are there certain working conditions that you cannot tolerate? Some people, for example, prefer more comfortable living circumstances. Others cannot work in extreme heat or cold, or would not do well in areas of the world where meat is prevalent part of the diet. We suggest that you research the region that you are looking at and check the websites to get a sense of what the room and board situation is like.
  • Another huge factor is cost—field schools tend to be expensive (though receiving credit through them can often be cheaper than paying tuition at certain universities). If cost is a significant issue for you, try looking for field schools with lesser room, board, and tuition fees, or look to volunteer (at some field schools, you can still participate and not pay the tuition fee—meaning you are completing the course without credit). To reduce the cost of travel, try working someplace closer to home. There are a few opportunities in this guide that offer a stipend—most often these are funded through National Science Foundation—Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU). Also, you could try turning your experience into a research project by applying for funding. See our Funding section for more information.
  • After you consider all these points, try researching the field program(s) itself. Has it been running for a significant amount of time? Who is running it? Ask your professors if they know anything about the program directors or course instructors of the specific field schools—they can offer you valuable advice. Lastly, don’t be afraid to contact the program directors about any questions or concerns that you may have. Failure to respond in a reasonable amount of time is a surefire indication that the program is not set up so much to train you, but instead to obtain some cheap labor! Remember, many of these deadlines are fast approaching and some of these programs have limited space and accept applicants on a first-come-first-serve basis. So get cracking!
  • What about internships? Internships and other opportunities that offer practical experience are also very valuable, especially if you’re looking to obtain specialized skills. Have you always wanted to work in conservation or archives? Did you ever wonder what it was like to manage a museum’s collection or how research is conducted in a zoo setting? Completing an internship can allow you to become familiar with how anthropology is relevant in the “real world”. Choose from opportunities to work at museums, cultural institutions, research institutes, or NGOs. Some internships are available for the summer only; others are available during the typical school year. For students at urban universities, you may have access to a plethora of fantastic local institutions; otherwise some travel may be required. Check with internship programs to see if they help subsidize travel costs. You might even be lucky enough to snag a paid internship! Visit our Internships section for more information.
  • For those of you who are interested in cultural anthropology, you might also consider a study abroad stint or a volunteer program abroad. Unlike in archaeology or physical anthropology, undergraduate fieldwork experience is not required for graduate programs in cultural anthropology. Rather, many programs are looking for life experiences. These can include studying abroad, doing volunteer work, or working for NGOs or other related groups. For you, there are infinite possibilities. So while we suggest you use this guide to see if there is anything that interests you, we also suggest that you do some research yourself (see Additional Resources) and talk to your professors to see what other options are available out there for you before you make your decision. Best of luck!!
  • So how do you know if field school is right for you? Field schools are programs that are set up to give what is probably your first taste of life and work in the field—all while providing the necessary guidance and instruction. If you are new to the field of the anthropology or feel that you have a modest background in your discipline, the resources that field schools exclusively offer can be invaluable. Some students find while attending field school that the subject area or field conditions are not for them. It is much better to discover this while attending a field school than, say, while working as a field assistant, where the pressure can be much greater. That being said, there are some distinct advantages to jumping straight into a position as a field worker or assistant without first attending field school. First, this opens up a wider variety of projects suited to your specific interests. A position as a field worker also allows you to work more closely with researchers of your choice. Perhaps you have a professor or supervisor with whom you would like to work. These sorts of positions can foster collaborative relationships that lead to future projects. Finally, while a position as a field worker is almost certainly more grueling than as a field school student, it is also more rewarding for those same reasons. The bottom line? Unless you are certain that you possess the necessary will and skills to work as a field worker now, look to attend a field school. Who knows, after field school, you may decide that you want to become a field worker! Note: The fieldwork section of this guide mainly indexes information on field schools. There are simply too many fieldwork opportunities to find and verify. If you are looking to work as a field assistant, you may want to do some extra research, search for listings, and begin contacting the people involved. You may also want to check out some of the links in the Additional Resources section of the guide. Good luck!
thingstoconsider.txt · Last modified: 2010/10/27 16:03 by kchiou