Anthro Job In DC?
April 16, 2010 8:16 AM   Subscribe

What are the chances a new phd in anthropology can get a public policy job in DC?

I just submitted my phd thesis and will be a doctor of anthropology at the end of the semester. I have a couple academic articles under by belt and some conference presentations. But, I have no job experience in public policy. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

My SO is a lifetime DCer and I want to move out there to be with them. What are the chances I can find a non-academic job in DC? I am willing to work anywhere, I just want to be in the city. I have no idea how competitive I am to get a job there. I am petrified that I have too much education to be an intern but too little experience to get a job. Obviously there are many places in the city doing work in public policy work, but do they hire new phds?
posted by LudgerLassen to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They do, but public policy jobs in DC are sexy. So whether or not you can get a job in your field is going to depend pretty hugely on 1) where you went to school, and 2) what you did your research in. If you went to a recognizable school and did your research in something interesting and related to public policy your odds are way better than if you went to a third-tier no-name and did your research in prehistoric medicine. If you didn't go to an Ivy, a Big Ten school, or something along those lines (Notre Dame, Berkeley, Stanford, your standard top-25-ish schools), you're going to be competing with a lot of people who did.

In short, without knowing more about your situation it's going to be really difficult to give any kind of good read here.

In general though, the market is pretty tough. Lots of people are looking for work, lots of foundations are hurting for money, and lots of employers in every sector are waiting until the economy bounces back some more before hiring.
posted by valkyryn at 10:30 AM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, what about research jobs for govs, thinktanks and ngos?
posted by LudgerLassen at 10:50 AM on April 16, 2010

Same deal.
posted by valkyryn at 11:14 AM on April 16, 2010

I am willing to work anywhere, I just want to be in the city. I have no idea how competitive I am to get a job there. I am petrified that I have too much education to be an intern but too little experience to get a job.

Unless your research focused specifically on something that is of relevance to public policy, or you can at least pitch it that way, a PhD in anthropology is going to be little if any value-added. The problem is not that you are "too educated" for an internship, its that your particular education simply isn't particularly useful, beyond generally signaling that you are intelligent enough to get an advanced degree. So you may need to start at the bottom, by doing some kind of unpaid internship first, and hoping to develop skills and connections that will get you some paid work.
posted by googly at 11:21 AM on April 16, 2010

I'm completely ignorant about what a phd in anthropology entails, so forgive me if anything I say makes no sense whatsoever.

The bottom line is, anthropology may be difficult to translate into a cut and dry policy position on the Hill or in a lobby shop. The good news for you is that DC has much more to offer than just policy positions.

What many people forget is that DC is home to our nation's infrastructure, not just our political system. Think beyond the Hill. Might your skills be of use to one of the countless federal agencies based in DC? USDA? Commerce? Energy? HUD? Interior? NASA? NSA? State? If I were you, I'd give DOI a serious look. These agencies are HUGE and have staff dealing with all kinds of different issues. Lawyers, scientists, sociologists, policy analysts, you name it, just about every agency probably has it. There's a reason that people talk about a sprawling government bureaucracy. You have your place here, you just need to dig and find it.

A lot of finding a job in DC has to do with rubbing shoulders. You're going to need to get your feet on the ground and meet people, explain your situation. Think about contacting your home state Senators/Reps. They probably won't be able to give you a job, but they may know of openings or might be able to point you in the right direction. You probably won't get time with a Member, but you may run into a friendly staffer (I'd request a meet and greet with a Deputy Chief of Staff) that can help.

You've already mentioned think tanks and NGOs. So I won't delve into that.

Also, don't forget to look beyond government. For example, off the top of my head, National Geographic is DC-based. One of the Smithsonians might be a good fit. The National Museum of Natural History?

In your question, you ask about non-academic jobs. I'm not sure if you're saying that because you do not want to work in academia or if it's because you don't think that it's a possibility. In DC alone you have GWU, Georgetown, AU, Howard, Catholic, UDC, just to name a few...and that's just in DC not even including the areas immediately surrounding the city.

Like I said, this city has a little of everything. You just need to dig.
posted by ASM at 4:21 PM on April 16, 2010

The Defense Department have shown recent interest in anthropologists to help them figure out how to deal with local people in places like Iraq. This has obviously provoked ethical concerns.

However, if your work is relevant, you might be able to find work there. However, they might make you go to Iraq or Afghanistan.
posted by Maias at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2010

There are several policy fellowships based in DC geared towards scientists and engineers. Two notable* programs include those run by the National Academies and AAAS.

I'd google around for the name of some additional programs, particularly those geared to your research area or sponsored by your professional society. Where there is a society, there is a lobby, there is policy, etc. Also, consider some of the more traditional non-science policy fellowships, such as the ones via the White House or Presidential Management programs. And, if you can bear the thought of another degree, consider the policy programs at universities in the DC area.

Hope that helps; best of luck!

*Disclaimer: OK, one is especially notable to me because I'm in one of 'em, but I still think even an unbiased person would describe them as "notable" :)
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:20 PM on April 16, 2010

Also, I want to hug valkyryn because I feel like s/he called my work sexy. HAWT. ;)
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:23 PM on April 16, 2010

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