Is Anthropology a Good Degree to Become a Social Worker?

An anthropology degree lays the foundation for understanding human behaviors and cultures. Keep reading to learn which kind of anthropology degree may help a student become a social worker.

What are the Differences Between Anthropology and Social Work?

Anthropology is the study of the human race from a historical and biological perspective. Anthropology focuses on understanding human development through time and space. Specifically, anthropologists examine the history of humans through the lenses of biology, culture, society and the environment.

Anthropology has three main sub-fields: archeology, physical anthropology and cultural anthropology. A student who wants to become a social worker may benefit from studying cultural anthropology. However, social work is focused on the here and now. The goal of every social worker is to help meet their clients' basic needs while assisting them with their health, mental and financial problems.

Social workers may work in clinical, hospital, treatment or office settings. On one hand, anthropology takes a broader, objective approach to understanding humanity. Conversely, social work takes a focused, subjective approach to working one-on-one with people.

How Can Anthropology Can Benefit a Social Worker?

Besides cultural anthropology, certain schools even offer a degree in social and cultural anthropology. Both of these degrees could benefit a social worker because they deal with diverse clients every single day.

For example, these degree programs will include many fascinating classes about social and cultural organizations, such as the moral, economic, political and kinship systems of different cultures. These classes will be very beneficial to case workers who wish to be involved in community service and outreach programs that target certain demographic groups. In fact, cultural anthropology will teach the student critical observation and note taking skills that will be useful for case work documentation. However, studying archeology or physical anthropology offers very limited benefits for students who wish to pursue a career in social work.

What is Social Work?

The goal of social work is to help clients meet their needs. This will involve providing assessments, detailed plans and referrals to community resources, such as child care or health care programs. Social workers are assigned a consistent number of clients who they support, advocate for and even intervene in crisis situations. Since social workers are employed in a variety of different fields, their specific job duties and required core competencies are very different.

What are the Types of Social Work?

Becoming a social worker will require the student to have specific skills, training and knowledge. Therefore, even a cultural anthropology degree might not be beneficial. For example, health care workers are employed by hospitals and provide patients and families with the necessary support to deal with chronic or terminal diseases. They educate, counsel and support their patient clients and families. They also direct their clients to important community or financial resources. On the other hand, clinical social workers are actually licensed mental health professionals that diagnose and treat psychological problems. Their field of work will require a specific health care related degree. Finally, there are school social workers that coordinate between students, parents and educational professionals to support students. They often deal with students that are struggling with bullying, special needs and problems at home.

In the end, a cultural anthropology degree might be beneficial to a student who wants to be a community outreach coordinator or work for a non-profit that provides culturally specific services. However, most social workers will need an advanced degree in social work or health care related field. Regardless of the degree, becoming a social worker is one of the most rewarding career choices a student can make.