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Master’s Degree in

Public Anthropology

Anthropology research in lab

Becca Peixotto, MA ’13, was part of the expedition team that unearthed a new species of human relative, “Homo naledi.” The discovery—which includes more than 1,500 fossils—has shifted the way scientists think about human history.

Public anthropology students like Becca work to understand lived experiences. They explore culture, power, and history in everyday life while sharpening their skills in critical inquiry, problem solving, and public communication—plus the weekly Social Justice Series and annual Public Anthropology Conference.

The Master’s Degree in Public Anthropology prepares students for careers in public service, community organizing, and social advocacy. If you want to make your mark on history, apply now, watch our program video, or keep reading to learn more about our public anthropology graduate program.

In the Classroom

Anthropology Classroom

The public anthropology master's program (MAPA) offers two different tracks: cultural/social anthropology and archaeology. Within each track you can gain expertise in biological and linguistic anthropology as well. No matter which option you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to combine classroom and experiential learning as they relate to your career plans and goals.

Our faculty specialize in issues of race, gender, and social justice in all areas of anthropological research. Previously, AU students have worked on projects in areas including:

  • Women’s and minority health
  • Educational equity
  • Refugee resettlement
  • Human rights
  • Environmental justice
  • Cultual resource management

You’ll work closely with public anthropology faculty to select a project that moves you and creates change in your chosen area.

In the Community

DC Monument in fall.

American balances class time with the many experiential learning opportunities available to students in the city. Washington, DC, offers unlimited resources for practical learning, research, internships, and employment opportunities. Many students find jobs and internships at museums or government and private agencies in the area.

Our students distinguish themselves through their service, leadership, and ability to rethink global and domestic challenges. In DC, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved and make a difference in the world around you.

Latest News

Jeanne Hanna on “Brexit” & Anthropology of “Right-Wing” Groups

October 21, 2016

AU anthropology PhD candidate Jeanne Hanna explores the social, economic, emotional, and political issues motivating people to support the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The Discovery of Homo Naledi

May 4, 2016

AU PhD Student Helps Excavate Ancient Human Relative

Human Rights and Hygiene

December 7, 2015

AU junior runs a successful GoFundMe campaign to help homeless women.


Hundreds of internships are available for students in the DC metro area. In the past, our students have interned for many prominent organizations including the:

  • Smithsonian Institution
  • National Park Service National
  • Center for Environmental Research
  • Institute for Women’s Policy Research
  • US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
  • Center for American Progress

Graduates of the MA in public anthropology program at AU work for a variety of companies and organizations around the world:

  • Maryland National Park and Planning
  • US Department of State
  • Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation
  • State University of New York–Potsdam
  • AIDS and International Development Project

Sadly, the Peace Corps has canceled all of its MA International Programs nationwide. As such, we are no longer able to accept applications for that track.