Research Anthropologist

Conduct research to discover new knowledge about humans.

What does a Research Anthropologist do?

Anthropology is the study of human beings. While many Anthropologists work at colleges and universities, where they’re required to teach classes to students, a Research Anthropologist works for museums, nonprofits, and government agencies, where the exclusive focus is – you guessed it – research.

Anthropology is one of the most narcissistic of all social sciences. It’s also one of the most interesting, however – and when you’re a Research Anthropologist, you’re in the thick of it.

Employed by organizations that want to make scholarly contributions to their industries, and to society at large, you’re tasked with conceptualizing and executing anthropological studies of present-day or past societies. That requires you to travel to research sites, such as tribal villages or archaeological digs. There, you build relationships with indigenous communities and observe cultures, taking notes about customs, beliefs, and behaviors. You also gather information, either by conducting interviews or by collecting artifacts.

Specializing in one of several fields, such as archaeology, ethnography, or physical anthropology, you act a lot like a Scientist in the fields of physics, chemistry, and biology. That is, consistent with the classic scientific method, you spend your days as a Research Anthropologist making hypotheses, collecting evidence to prove or disprove them, then writing reports in which you express your conclusions.

Ultimately, those reports are your main objective, as you’re paid not only to conduct research but also to produce research findings that contribute to the cultural canon. As a result, your end goal is to uncover new knowledge about human societies that can be shared in exhibits, articles, and presentations.