Earn Your PhD in Anthropology

Our Ph.D. program in anthropology is designed to provide a broad background in the field with a primary emphasis on sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, or archaeology. The degree prepares students for careers in academia, consulting, or other applied professions in the discipline. 

The GRE is not required. However, if you feel that your scores will strengthen your application, you are welcome to submit them. The admissions committee fully recognizes that there are many components to your application and that GRE scores have a limited scope of predictive power in the evaluation of a candidate for their long-term success as a student. 

Ph.D. Application Requirements

  • Online application form (includes: subfield of interest, world region of interest)
  • Resume/CV
  • Transcripts
  • Personal statement/statement of purpose (A statement –of no fewer than 200 words and no more than 5 pages — describing your qualifications and the objectives of your educational program. Report any research activities, publications, independent studies, and memberships in academic, professional, or honorary societies. Account for time that has elapsed between formal studies.)
  • Writing sample
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL or IELTS  scores (minimum requirements listed here)
  • A $95 application fee must be paid in order for your application to be considered complete. This fee is non-refundable. Information on fee waivers for PhD applicants is available on the GRS website.
  • Deadline: December 1

The 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 study of the Islamic world, East and Southeast Asia, and Africa are the greatest strengths among our sociocultural faculty and students. 

In biological anthropology, our faculty and students primarily study living and fossil human and non-human primates, including their evolutionary morphology, behavior, genomics, and sensory adaptations. For more information on ongoing research in biological anthropology, visit our laboratories page

Finally, the major foci in archaeology include human-environment interactions, urbanism, households, and material culture viewed in deep historical perspective. Faculty and students are primarily interested in Mesoamerica, North America, and the Mediterranean. To learn more about research and fieldwork in archaeology, click here.

PhD 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.

Boston University prefers that all application materials be submitted digitally through the online application portal when possible.  If circumstances arise that make this impossible, please mail any hard copy materials to the following address:

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Admissions Office
705 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 112
Boston, M.A. 02215


Each year, Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GRS) offers incoming Ph.D. students Dean’s Fellowships, which include full tuition, a living stipend, and health insurance for five years; along with a new summer stipend beginning in 2021.

For more information on financial aid for doctoral students, visit the GRS page on fellowship aid.

No financial aid is available through the University for students enrolled in the M.A.P.A. program. For information on federal and private educational loans, please visit the GRS page on aid for M.A. students. International students are urged to apply for support to their governments or international agencies.