Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology

The applied anthropology degree program is designed for non-anthropologists who are already engaged in, or plan to enter, such fields as medicine, public health, education, journalism, law, environmental management, social services to refugee or immigrant populations, rural development, or public policy evaluation. It is designed to provide the student with basic anthropological training and an appreciation of the significance of a cross-cultural perspective in professional practice. The MAAA is neither required nor encouraged as a stepping-stone to the PhD. Those persons intending to become professional anthropologists should apply directly to the PhD program.

The MAAA program is full-time only—no exceptions.


Applicants must have obtained a degree in some discipline other than anthropology and have an expressed intention to continue working in, or enter, that field. Prospective students should also explain in their Personal Statements how they expect anthropology to enhance their capability or improve their effectiveness in their chosen career. This is important because students who enter the program with well-defined goals derive the most benefit from the resources the Department and the University have to offer. The application deadline is March 1, although under exceptional circumstances, late applications for this program may be considered. The Graduate Record Examination must also be taken by all applicants.

Course Requirements

Students enrolled in the program must successfully complete a minimum of eight semester courses (32 credits) at the 500 level or higher, two of which may be taken outside of the Department of Anthropology. The program requires AN 703 in the Fall term, and either AN 704 or AN 705 in the Spring term. Students are required to achieve an overall grade point average of 3.0 (B) in their coursework. During the last term, students may enroll in a directed study course (GRS AN 902) under the guidance of their major advisor and begin developing a topic for the required research paper. While it is possible to fulfill the program’s requirements in two semesters, many students often need an extra semester of residency to complete their studies.

Language Requirement

Each MAAA candidate is to show proficiency in French, Spanish, German, or another language approved by the student’s advisor or the Graduate Committee of the Department. Certification is based on completing at least four semesters of coursework in the language at the undergraduate level or passing a two-hour written comprehensive examination. Students wishing to take the written examination in a language for which the Department has no fluent examiner among the regular faculty must obtain approval for the examiner from the Graduate Committee.

Research Paper

Each student must write a special research paper under the direction of the major advisor and two other faculty members. One of the latter may be from another department. The project should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to integrate anthropology with his or her own discipline or profession. It should be well conceived but modest in scope and can be based on either library or field research.

Financial Aid

No financial aid is available through the University for students enrolled in the MAAA program. International students are urged to apply for support to their governments or international agencies.

Application Process

Please review the Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences online application checklist and complete a formal application.

Boston University School of Medicine offers an MA in Medical Anthropology and an MA in Forensic Anthropology.