With an anthropology degree, you may be wondering how to get started in UX research. Although it is not the only route, a background in anthropology can give you a unique perspective that is highly sought after in the field of user experience. To learn more about how anthropology can contribute to UX, this article will cover these three main points.

  1. The benefits of having an anthropology degree
  2. The research methods commonly used in UX
  3. Tips for getting started in a UX research career

But before we get to those three points, let’s first do a quick overview of UX in case you are new to the topic.

What is User Experience?

User experience, or UX, refers to the overall experience of a person using a product, service, or system. It encompasses the emotions, attitudes, and behaviors of users as they interact with a given product or service and includes elements such as usability, accessibility, and emotional design.

As a discipline, UX encompasses research and design. UX research is the process of studying and understanding the behavior, attitudes, and needs of users to inform the design of products, services, and systems. UX design, or user experience design, is the process of designing products (such as websites, apps, and devices) with the user’s experience in mind.

The main difference between UX research and UX design is that UX research is focused on understanding the behavior, attitudes, and needs of users, while UX design is focused on creating the actual designs for products, services, and systems.

The Benefits of Having an Anthropology Degree

An anthropology degree can benefit a career in UX in several ways. First, anthropology is the study of human culture and behavior, which can provide a strong foundation for understanding the needs, motivations, and behaviors of users. This knowledge can be useful for conducting user research and for designing products that meet the context of use and provides meaning.

Second, anthropology is grounded in research, especially contextual research, which is aligned with the work we do in UX. Contextual research, what we generally would refer to as fieldwork, involves conducting research in the real-world context that people are using a product in. This type of research helps to uncover insights into user behavior, which can inform product design.

Third, anthropology is also focused on understanding culture, diversity, and power dynamics, which can be beneficial for creating inclusive designs that meet the needs of different users. Having a nuanced understanding of culture and applying that to make sense of how people from different groups interact with products and services is a sought-after ability in our global market.

Research Methods Commonly Used in UX

As an anthropologist, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that your research training is very well aligned with the methods used in UX. While this list is not inclusive of all methods, some common research methods used are:

  • Observations: UX researchers may observe users in their natural environments to understand how they interact with products and services.
  • Interviews: UX researchers often conduct interviews with users to learn about their needs, goals, and behaviors.
  • Surveys: Surveys are a useful way to collect data from a large number of users quickly and efficiently.
  • User testing: User testing involves giving users a prototype or a product and asking them to complete specific tasks while the UX researchers observe and collects data.
  • Card sorting: Card sorting is a technique used to understand how users organize and categorize information.

Tips for getting started in a UX research career

If you have an anthropology degree and are interested in getting started in a UX research career, here are a few tips that can help:

  • Start by learning more about UX research and UX design: Both disciplines are complex and multifaceted fields, and there is a lot to learn. Start by reading books, articles, and blogs to gain a better understanding of the field and its principles.
  • Learn about user-centered design: User-centered design is a design philosophy that focuses on creating products that meet the needs and goals of users. It is at the core of UX design, and understanding its principles can be helpful for a career in UX research.
  • Build your skills: UX research involves a range of skills, such as conducting user interviews, observing user behavior, analyzing data, and creating user personas. As an anthropologist, you likely have a grasp on many of these skills, but for some of the more industry-specific skills, you may want to consider taking courses or workshops. Then, as with everything, try practicing them by conducting user research on a product or website. Experience is the best teacher!
  • Network and connect with other UX researchers: Connecting with other UX researchers can be a great way to learn from others, share your own experiences, and find opportunities for collaboration or mentorship. Join UX research groups or organizations, attend UX conferences or meetups, and connect with other UX researchers on social media or LinkedIn.
  • Consider getting certified: While getting certified is not a path to a job, a few select programs can be useful to develop your skills. While you must approach certificate programs with caution, there are several reputable programs available, such as the Certified User Experience Researcher (CXR) certification from the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA).
  • Be persistent and patient: UX research is a competitive field, and getting started in a UX research career can take time and effort. The key is ensuring you have reframed your academic experience for the industryand that you are targeting the right roles.

If you need assistance, Anthro to UX offers career coaching services that can help. Also, check out the Anthro to UX podcast to learn how others made the transition.