PhD in Anthropology

The PhD program in Anthropology is designed to provide a broad background in the field with a primary emphasis on Sociocultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, or Anthropological Archaeology. The degree prepares students for careers in academia, consulting, or other applied professions in the discipline. Major foci of research and instruction in Sociocultural Anthropology include religion, law and politics, ethnicity, gender, history and anthropology, problems of social change and economic development, culture and the environment, cognition and culture, and medical/psychological anthropology; the faculty has greatest strengths in the study of the Islamic world, East and Southeast Asia, and Africa. Major foci in Biological Anthropology feature the study of living and fossil human and nonhuman primates, including their evolutionary morphology, behavior, genomics, and sensory adaptations. Major foci in Anthropological Archaeology include human-environment interactions, urbanism, households, and material culture viewed in deep historical perspective; primary regions of study include Mesoamerica, North America, and the Mediterranean.

Applicants should have obtained the BA or MA degree in anthropology or show evidence of equivalent preparation in relevant subject matter.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate mastery of the fundamentals of the traditional four subfields of American anthropology (social/cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology) sufficiently to make them effective and competent teachers of introductory undergraduate courses in general anthropology, social/cultural anthropology, and/or biological anthropology.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conceive, plan, propose, carry out, and write up a major piece of anthropological research, related to current theoretical discourse in their chosen subfield and constituting a significant contribution to the discipline.
  • Be able to make compelling and interesting presentations of their ideas and findings to audiences of professional anthropologists in several forms—oral, written, and graphic.
  • Carry out all these tasks in a manner consonant with the highest prevailing standards of ethical and professional conduct in research and teaching.

Course Requirements

Students entering the program must successfully complete at least 16 graduate semester courses (64 credits) for the PhD. Course requirements are as follows:

Core Course Requirements (for all students)

  • GRS AN 701 Anthropology Across Sub-Disciplines
  • Two of the following:
    • GRS AN 703 Anthropological Theory: History and Practice
    • GRS AN 704 Sociocultural Theory: Contemporary Currents
    • GRS AN 705 Theory in Evolutionary Anthropology: The Biological and Historical Past
    • GRS AN 751 Seminar in Linguistic Anthropology
    • GRS AN 791 Contemporary Theory in Archaeology
  • One course in relevant research methods

Track Requirements

Sociocultural Anthropology

  • Three core courses are required: GRS AN 703, GRS AN 704, and GRS AN 751
  • The methodology course should normally be GRS AN 590
  • One anthropology course focusing on the ethnography of a specific geographical region outside the student’s ethnographic area of specialization

Biological Anthropology

  • The core courses must include GRS AN 705
  • The methodology course should normally be GRS AN 595
  • One graduate-level statistics course, such as GRS AN 588
  • Students are expected to take at least one course or directed reading/research course in each of the Biological Anthropology subfields: Primatology; Human Biology; Genetics/Genomics; Paleoanthropology/Morphology

Anthropological Archaeology

  • The core courses must include GRS AN 791
  • The methodology course should be GRS AN 794 Scientific Methods in Archaeology
  • A second methods course in archaeology, such as GRS AR 516 or 518, or a graduate-level statistics course, such as GRS AN 588
  • GRS AN 793 World Archaeology

The remaining coursework should be chosen in consultation with the student’s academic advisor to create a coherent program of study, which may include courses from other departments. Note that substitutions can be made for specific track requirements with permission of the advisor and petition to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Committee.

Language Requirement

All students pursuing a PhD in anthropology are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in one foreign language that is relevant to their proposed area of research before taking the comprehensive examination. If the only such language is English, any other major foreign language can meet the requirement. Students undertaking social, cultural, or archaeological fieldwork are generally expected to master the local language of their field site; this may be the same as the scholarly language in some cases. Students in Biological Anthropology can appeal to the Graduate Committee for exceptions.

Language proficiency can be demonstrated either through a language examination or the equivalent of three years of undergraduate study of the language (more may be required, depending on the specific language).

Qualifying Examination

Each student must pass both a written and an oral PhD Qualifying Examination given by members of the advisory committee. The examination covers (1) general anthropological method and theory (Social Anthropology), evolutionary theory (Biological Anthropology), general anthropological and evolutionary theory as relevant (Anthropological Archaeology); (2) a subdisciplinary research topic or methodological specialization; and (3) at least one geographical area (Social Anthropology), a species or research specialization (Biological Anthropology), or culture-historical context (Anthropological Archaeology). The purpose of the examination is to determine whether a student will be recommended to continue working toward the PhD.


Not more than one semester after passing the comprehensive examination just described, students present their dissertation proposals to the faculty in the form of a prospectus. The student’s advisory committee guides the development of the prospectus and participates in an oral defense, which is open to the entire department.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Department Chair/Program Director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation.

All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Any PhD student who has fulfilled the requirements of the master’s degree program, as stated here, can be awarded a master’s degree.