Criminal Justice School Info

Cultural Anthropology Degree

Cultural Anthropology is the study of human diversity across the world and time. It delves into how place, government, organizations and lifestyles shape a particular society. You can pursue a Cultural Anthropology Degree as a Bachelors, Masters or PhD. It is an interdisciplinary field that crosses paths with sociology, psychology, history, linguistics, religion and political science disciplines. Ethnography is an important sub-discipline of cultural anthropology; it is the process of directly observing a population and recording qualitative observations.

Depending on which university you decide to attend, an undergraduate Cultural Anthropology Degree may be offered or a broader degree in Anthropology may be offered. In the latter case, you will most likely cover the four branches of anthropology (cultural, linguistics, physical/biological and archeological) with the option of selecting a specialization.

Forensics and Cultural Anthropology

Physical/biological anthropology has long been known to be a part of the forensics process. Anthropologists that have a background in osteology (the study of bones) have lent their expertise through examining boney remains and being able to determine the cause, and sometimes time, of death.

How about forensics and cultural anthropology? Criminal profiling, analyzing psychological factors and knowledge of cultural factors are becoming more important in forensic investigations. For example, knowing the burial customs of a particular society may determine if found remains belong to a murder victim or someone that was interred after dying of natural causes. Knowing the routines of gangs of a particular neighborhood may help investigators identify the motive behind an assault or killing. Cultural anthropologists, due to their understanding of societal backgrounds, customs and ethnicities, also make ideal candidates for interviewing witnesses and those potentially affiliated with a particular crime. Finally, if a law enforcement/judicial agency were to conduct investigations in a country they are not familiar with, a cultural anthropologist would make a valuable asset to their forensic team.

Cultural Anthropology FAQ's

Why is a cultural anthropology degree useful in forensics and forensic psychology?

In terms of forensics (investigating to solve a crime and present evidence in court), a cultural anthropology degree is indeed useful. A deep understanding of culture and lifestyle may determine the motive behind a crime and the cultural practices of the perpetrator which helps narrow down the suspect pool.

Forensic psychologists tend to use their expertise to determine whether a suspect is fit to stand trial or legally insane, as well as to try and explain the motives behind a crime or whether someone charged will reoffend. Psychological factors are not only biologically based but also influenced by the environment and culture a person is immersed in. This blends a perfect marriage between forensic psychology and cultural anthropology: together the two fields may be able to analyze the mental state and motive of suspects, but also determine the best environment for a parolee to go during his or her time of rehabilitation.

I want to be a forensic psychologist. Should I pursue a cultural anthropology bachelor’s degree?

Yes you could choose to take a Bachelor of Cultural Anthropology degree and then specialize in Forensic Psychology at the graduate level. (Note that some states also require a PhD for you to practice as a forensic psychologist). Alternatively, an undergraduate degree in psychology, forensics, criminal justice or behavior sciences are other options before pursuing a Masters in Forensic Psychology.