What courses? Anthropology; social anthropology; human sciences; archaeology & anthropology; anthropology & sociology; evolutionary anthropology.

What do you come out with? Usually a BA, or a BSc if studying a more scientifically orientated course. You can get a four-year MA in Scotland.

Why do it? “There is no other degree subject that tackles the world's most challenging question - WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN? - by studying all the amazingly varied ways that people live, think and relate to each other in every part of the world. Anthropology gives students the chance to learn about everything from love and family life in England, to how Pacific islanders cope with climate change, how people cure diseases in Africa and what deforestation means to communities in the Amazon. Anthropologists have a passionate belief in the importance of gaining deep first-hand knowledge of their own and other people's cultures, societies and economies. They do this through direct experience of specific ways of life ('fieldwork'). If you do an anthropology degree, you will develop a real and profound appreciation of what all humans have in common as inhabitants of our complex and rapidly changing world, as well as how and why peoples and cultures differ, both in small things like table manners and food choices, and the biggest and most life-and-death of our pressing globalised concerns.” - Dr Susan Bayly, deputy head of department, Cambridge University Department of Social Anthropology

What's it about? The study of humans, in a nutshell. It’s a vast cauldron of biology, cultural studies, health, ethnography, symbolism, sociology, psychology, archaeology and more. It is the study of the exotic, the remote, the “weird and wonderful”, and it is also the study of all of us - comparing human behaviour and social structures across the world. In a sense, you can look at anything and call it anthropology, and therefore courses vary widely. Many focus specifically on the social side of things, whereas others are more biologically-based, and many combine the subject with archaeology. While it is a constantly developing area of academia, with new questions being raised over modern science, the internet society, global migration and religion in the modern world, many scholars believe there is still a lot to be learned from the anthropological ‘greats’ of the past.

Study options: As with most arts and social science courses, anthropology usually requires three years full-time study. There are opportunities to study abroad at most universities, especially if studying alongside a language or the culture of a particular country, although sandwich years in industry are not at all common. In Scotland all courses are four years long, after which you are awarded an MA. Some courses (eg Oxford Brookes) have more assessment than others. Edinburgh splits assessment places emphasis on continuous assessment and fieldwork, and a dissertation in the fourth year. UCL, Durham, LSE, SOAS and Cambridge rely more on exams.

What will I need to do it? Being such a mixed-bag of a subject, courses tend not to ask for specific A-levels, although if you are intending on going into a particular branch, it may be helpful to have studied a related area before (e.g. A-level biology for biological anthropology). As you would expect, Oxford and Cambridge require top grades for their archaeology and anthropology degrees, with Cambridge asking for A*AA at A-level, and advising students to contact individual colleges for information on recommended A-level subjects. Not all universities are so tough with their demands though – the University of East London invites applicants with as little as 200 UCAS points (BB or CDD at A-level).

What are my job prospects? The wide range of skills acquired during an anthropology degree lend themselves to jobs in a plethora of fields, including the media, commerce, management consultancy, diplomacy, advertising and PR. A lot of graduates choose careers which build directly on their discipline, including research and teaching, work for NGOs and development agencies, and in museums, conservation, and heritage management. Those who study biological anthropology may find themselves going into certain branches of medicine and healthcare. According to The Times' Good University 2012 around 30 per cent of students found themselves in graduate-level positions within six months of graduating, with an average starting salary of around £20,200. Further study is also popular, with 25 per cent of graduates choosing this option.

Where’s best to do it? Cambridge came out top overall in the Complete University Guide 2012, closely followed by Oxford, SOAS and LSE. Oxbridge students also said they were most satisfied with their course.

Related degrees: History; biological sciences; sociology; classics and classical civilization; psychology.

Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
REX/Eye Candy
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?