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Why study Anthropology? Alumni Experiences

If you're thinking of applying for a BA or BSc, you may be asking: "What can I do with an anthropology degree from the LSE?"

Many of our students go on to pursue research degrees, and in fact the Department has a long and successful history of producing leading academics, taking up jobs in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Edinburgh, and many other universities within and outside the United Kingdom. But many of our students also go on to do work in other areas, from the arts to politics to the business world. David Lan, for example, the award-winning playwright and Director of the Young Vic, has an LSE PhD. So does Jomo Kenyatta - the first President of Kenya.

We've asked some of our students from the BA/BSc, MSc and PhD programmes to say a few words about what they have been up to since graduating, and to give you a sense of why studying anthropology helped them get there.

Further information on graduate destinations across the LSE can also be found on the Careers Service's Graduate destinations| site and our Alumni News| page.


Elizabeth O'Rourke (Msc Anthropology and Development 2007)

I think my LSE degree differentiates me from others going for the same jobs. I feel it makes me stand out a little and it's always been a talking point in interviews. Studying Anthropology has really helped me work in multicultural settings and understand others' culture and lives. It also gave me great skills, like writing, thinking critically and an ability to understand complicated policy issues.
During my MSc I became interested in trade justice so I worked as a Campaigns and Advocacy Intern in Oxfam Ireland, specifically involved in their Make Trade Fair campaign. It was a small team but my boss was very dynamic - I learned a lot from her and got a good understanding of how NGOs work and the ways they communicate issues to people. I then worked in Trinity College Dublin in the Children's Research Centre as a research assistant on a project called the Trinity Immigration Initiative concerned with children, youth and community relations and I spent most of my time in schools in disadvantaged parts of Dublin doing qualitative research into how Irish and non-Irish kids there were integrating.
My first day in a school was very exciting - after all that reading in the Seligman library I felt like a 'real' anthropologist with my notepad and recorder. Following this I took a few months off and volunteered with an Irish charity in Zambia, working with children with special needs. I lived with a local priest and helped out in the school. When I returned from Zambia I started working in my current job. I'm currently working as an Integration Officer for the Jesuit Refugee Service.
My job is a mix of policy, making contributions to position papers on integration or bills on issues such as immigration, administration, and being on the ground running programmes for refugees and asylum seekers. In addition to this I run programmes in direct provision centres for asylum seekers where we run an English class, a homework-club for kids and capacity building courses for the adults. I also work with schools that have a lot of non-Irish students where we provide resources and try to advise them on issues they face.

Tamara Hale (BSc 2006)

I graduated in 2006 with a BSc (Hons) in Social Anthropology at the LSE and was fortunate to find a job in the field I wanted to work right away. I found out about Ethnographic Social Research (ESRO) through a supervisor at the LSE and got in touch on a speculative basis; my first assignment was an ethnographic study of team working dynamics in IT departments in Mexico. ESRO is a small specialist market and social research consultancy founded by (PhD) anthropologists.
My anthropological knowledge and skills are implemented in a very direct way. Anthropology comes to play in my job even when it isn't apparent to our clients; for me this is because it is a distinctive way of approaching problems that the subject trains you for. An anthropological background enables you to look at peoples lives holistically with the subtlety of cross-cultural awareness.
Anthropologists can tell rich stories which make new connections. It is important to me that we dispel assumptions about certain groups when we are feeding our research back to clients who want to improve services to certain parts of the population. This is always challenging and usually fun. We often receive applications from people with degrees in anthropology to be part of our consultant network and we look out for international experience in challenging settings.
In contrast to my previous academic work my current job is very collaborative intellectually and in the office we spend large amounts of time debating ideas, coming up with models to present our work and inspiring each other. I am starting a PhD in anthropology this year motivated by a long standing interest in a specific geographical region and anthropological theory. Nevertheless, I will keep a foot in the door of applied research because I find it keeps me on my toes and shapes the questions I ask productively.



Tony Lederer (BSc 2006)

I've worked as a PR consultant since I graduated and currently work for Bite Communications, with clients such as Facebook, Samsung and Gallup. Very few people who work in public relations have a degree in PR as there are only a handful of degree courses in the UK. Indeed, it's only really been recognised as a serious profession in the last twenty years or so. But in many ways, anthropology is an ideal grounding for the field of communications.
At its simplest, what we do is advise our clients on the most effective way of communicating exactly what they want to say to their target audience. This requires an ability to understand people, understand what they have in common, and understand how they absorb information. Anthropology teaches us to critically assess human dynamics and so, in many ways, the skills are transferable. It may not teach you the nuts in bolts of what it means to be a PR consultant, but it will take you to the starting point, which is how to empathise with people.



Annika Bosanquet (BSc 1996) 

Annika_BosanquetI graduated with a BSc in Anthropology in 1996. Since then, I've gone into business. While I was at LSE, I took a module on the concept of "giving." The learned underlying principle is, it is not what you give but how you give it. This philosophy was a great inspiration for Wrapology, Ltd., my company in east London that does "presentation packaging" for retailers. In, 2004 I was recognized as Business Entrepreneur of the Year. I was also a 2005 ambassador of the "Make Your Mark" campaign, aimed to encourage more 14-30 year olds to create opportunities and turn their enterprising ideas into a commercial reality.



Jo de Berry (PhD 2000)

Jo_de_BerryMy background in anthropology has been the crucial foundation for the approach I've taken throughout my career in community development. What I've gained from anthropology is the ability to explore, research and understand a situation in a very holisitc way before making any decision on what can be done to address it.

I've worked for international NGOs in Afghanistan and Uganda, for UNICEF in South Asia, and have applied the same skills of community development in poor communities in south London for local government. I am currently working with the World Bank on policy to support community based development programmes.



Rodania Leong (BSc 2005)   

Anthropology managed to satisfy my curious mind and certainly kept me busy by forcing me to challenge what we take to be everyday social norms of our life. Your world, your society diminishes when you realize just how small you are in comparison to the many complex and rich cultures which surround you.
Issues which I had always thought about or questioned were suddenly at the forefront of my mind, ready to be resolved and focused upon. What is gender? Are there different ways of organizing emotion? These are the kinds of questions you as a Social Anthropology student will be answering. The greatest thing about the degree is it forces you to step out of your box--your "world"--and to look at the wider picture where you will be asking the kinds of questions which some time ago would have seemed impossible to ask.



Dana Livne (BSc 2005)

The three years spent at LSE studying anthropology can change how you view the world. Your eyes are opened to different ways of perceiving the world which renders questions of "wrong" and "right" more difficult to answer. Whether you are interested in anthropology and would like to carry on to the PhD, or you are looking for a career elsewhere, this course opens a countless number of opportunities for its graduates. Having graduated in 2005, I was accepted to study for an MPhil in Anthropology at Cambridge University, and many of my peers have gone on to work in charity, business and law.



Bea Richardson (BA 2005)

Bea-RichardsonHaving studied topics from small-scale exchange to the forces of transnational corporations, I would then get the bus home through the City, past the stock exchange and the Bank of England.
Studying Anthropology allowed me to understand the ideas which made the sharp-suited city worker and the young migrant factory workers in Bangkok part of the same process, continually influencing each other.
Certainly none of my flatmates were still thinking about their degree at the end of the day. I'm now working for a mental health charity in Mumbai, India.



Kate Feldschreiber (BA 2005)

There is something about studying anthropology that simply makes you sit back and consider the bigger picture. It is one of the most exciting and satisfying feelings to delve into an initially unfamiliar subject and--just like that-feel you know "what," "why," and "how". Anthropologists are creative and exceptionally critical thinkers, who are well equipped for a variety of professions. Personally, I am pursuing a career on the stage



Claire McGregor (BA Anthropology & Law 2004)

Claire_McGregorAfter graduating from the BA in Law and Anthropology, I volunteered for a year in Cairo with a legal aid NGO for refugees. I spent a year advising refugees on legal matters and helping them present their asylum claims. My training in law was of course very useful, but anthropology was perhaps even more so.
People flee their homes for reasons which can only be understood in the light of socio-cultural and political contexts. Anthropology gave me the tools to unpack these complex situations, and the ability to research them to substantiate the asylum claims of my clients.
It is not an easy feat to square the dynamics of real life into the straightjacket of law - and that is true for any area of the law. Anthropology's unique insight into culture and society assists in that matter, bringing a true sharpness and sophistication to the practice of law.



Alpa Shah (MSc 1998, PhD 2003)

Alpa_ShahAn LSE MSc Social Anthropology degree in 1998 fundamentally engaged my intellectual curiosity, showing me how what I considered normal was actually quite peculiar and how the bizarre could become very familiar. A year later I returned for a doctoral degree.

The LSE Anthropology department's grounded PhD training opened up many doors  in the development sector, civil service, business, community work and academia. In 2003, in my final year as a doctoral student, I was offered a lectureship in anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. I now teach undergraduates and postgraduates anthropology in an engaged and creative department; maintain research links with my colleagues across the river and internationally through seminars, workshops and conferences; collaborate in a more applied context such as the development field; and am writing a book based on my thesis whilst planning new research projects.