Graduate School of Social Sciences

Specialization Applied Anthropology

For students who wish to conduct research that has an applied character aimed at solving problems or contributing understanding where this is directly needed, we offer the possibility to specialize in Applied Anthropology. In this kind of research, the methods and theories of anthropological research are used to provide insights and suggestions to practical problems with which non-anthropological parties such as governments, companies, NGOs or other organizations are confronted. Students carry out research in collaboration with such organizations. As part of answering their research questions students study the problem as well as the organization: an in-depth understanding of the organization’s interests, culture and morals is needed to understand how its members perceive the problem they want solved.


Degree programme Language of instruction
MSc Cultural and Social Anthropology English
Type Starts in
Regular study programme September
Mode CROHO code
Full-time 66614
60 ECTS, 12 months  


This specialization offers students a hands-on experience in arguing and displaying the value of their skills to a non-anthropologist and often non-academic audience. Students also learn how to present themselves as anthropological professionals to the world outside academia, and to overcome the modesty many anthropologists have when entering the labor market. Apart from this focus on actual problem solving, a student specializing in Applied Anthropology does what all anthropology students in the Master’s programme do: conducting a well prepared qualitative fieldwork that leads to an ethnographically rich and theoretically informed thesis.


Students who wish to specialize in Applied Anthropology follow the same courses in the first semester as their fellow students in the Msc Cultural and Social Anthropology. Parallel to the courses of the first semester, we offer a series of workshops that support the students in their theoretical, methodological as well as practical preparations for an applied anthropological fieldwork. For students of the applied specialization, the fieldwork is max. 10 weeks (15 ECTS). After the return from fieldwork, students participate in the course Writing Applied Ethnography (6 ECTS). This course supports students in the writing of their thesis and possibly some other final product for the organization (like a report, a presentation, a contribution to an exhibition, policy recommendations, etc). The Applied Anthropology thesis, therefore, can have a more ‘hybrid’ character: It can serve both the academic purposes of the MSc programme in Cultural and Social Anthropology as well as the final product that is required by the collaborating organization.


As we have learned from experience, students prefer to choose their own research topics. That is why students who wish to participate in this specialization need to start thinking of the research project and the organization they wish to work with prior to the start of the programme. It can  be very useful to already contact an organization before your start in the MSc programme Cultural and Social Anthropology.

Student profile

Students need to have the following skills and characteristics:

  • Independent attitude.
  • Intellectual flexibility and eagerness to combine anthropological insights with the views of the people of the collaborating organization.
  • The capability to combine theory and practice in an intelligent and innovative way.
  • Lots of motivation & perseverance.

Examples of research projects

Over the past two years, we have ran the applied anthropology project as a pilot in order to build up a solid teaching and supervision programme. Students participating in this pilot carried out research into a variety of topics, such as:

  • The causes of frictions between different departments of a large construction firm.
  • The position, wishes and legal requirements of transgenders to participate in competition sports for the Dutch Olympic Committee-Dutch Sports Federation.
  • The reasons to engage in corporate responsibility programs for employees of a global accountancy firm.
  • The transition of government-provided care to informal care policies in a Dutch city.
  • The cultural, religious and culinary understanding of Surinamese cooking in the Bijlmer for a Muslim community.


Career perspectives after graduation are quite diverse. Among our alumni are individuals working in municipal government bodies, with non-governmental organizations and as researchers: both as independent agencies or in companies. As we have recently started to offer this specialization, our information about the careers people follow are still limited. This information will be updated in the course of 2016-17.

Academic title

When you graduate with the specialization Applied Anthropology, you receive the degree of the Msc Cultural and Social Anthropology, with the specialization Applied Anthropology mentioned below the degree title.

Published by  GSSS

11 July 2017