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Becca Peixotto examines an artifact with a magnifying glass.
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Pursue Your Passion for Social Justice

In American University’s Master of Arts in Public Anthropology program, you will explore culture, power, and history in everyday life while sharpening your skills in critical inquiry, problem solving, and public communication. Theory, practice, and social justice are at the core of our curriculum. In your coursework and your independent research, you will explore today’s pressing issues, such as healthcare justice, educational equality, militarization, debt resistance, structural violence and migration, gender and sexuality rights, and environmental justice.

Anthropology is about people, and our students are passionate about people, history, culture, and the world around them. They want their work to make a difference. You will graduate prepared for a career in public service, community organizing, or social advocacy. In this program, you will discover ways to inspire change around the issues you care most about and fight for justice on behalf of local and global communities.

Washington, DC

A Flexible Program With Solid Results

Our 33-credit program offers a wide array of courses across the field of anthropology and offers the opportunity to develop a specialized area of expertise. You will build a solid foundation in the craft of anthropology and public anthropology with our core coursework and build on that foundation with coursework in one of two tracks of specialization: cultural/social anthropology or archaeology. In both tracks, you will perform your own original research to complete either a master's thesis or a substantial research project as your capstone experience.

Admissions & Course Requirements

Prominent Scholars Dedicated to Your Success

Theory, practice, and social justice are at the core of our curriculum, and our faculty specializes in issues of race, gender, and social justice in all areas of anthropological research. You will work closely with our public anthropology professors to select a research project that moves you and creates change in your chosen area. Our students have written theses and worked on research projects in areas including healthcare justice, educational equity, environmental justice, and refugee resettlement.

Faculty Listings

Experiential learning in the capital 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.

Anthropology Graduate Student: Jenni Walkup


Anthropology grad student Jenni Walkup shares about their experience in the masters program with AU's Department of Anthropology.

News & Notes

Public Anthropology MA students Elise Ferrer and Madison Shomaker with recent alum Nada Baghat published a four-part series titled "We Are Not Alternative: A Communal Take on Theorization and Canon in Anthropology Theory Courses" in American Anthropologist:

Agricultural workers harvesting crops

Professor Thurka Sangaramoorthy, spent nearly a decade in Eastern Shore communities, interviewing immigrants working in the agriculture, poultry, and seafood industries for her most recent book, Landscapes of Care: Immigration and Health in Rural America (University of North Carolina Press, 2023). Now, with NIH funding, Sangaramoorthy and a team of researchers are seeking to better understand how environmental exposures and related policies and regulations are impacting the respiratory health of migrant seasonal farmworkers. 

Student Spotlight

Becca Peixotto, CAS/MA & PhD

Becca Peixotto 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.

73 percent

of graduates work for government or nonprofit organizations

94 percent

of graduates are working, in grad school, or both within six months of graduation

50 percent

of graduates are earning over 50K annually within six months of graduation

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Still have questions? Send us an email: