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Anthropology Master's Degree

IntroductionGrad Class

The master's program is designed to be completed in two years. The degree is awarded upon successful completion of required coursework and a passing grade on the master's qualifying examination. A thesis is not required, but independent research is strongly encouraged, especially for students who intend to pursue the doctorate. There are both general University requirements and department-specific requirements. These are described separately below. 

University Requirements

The Graduate School has requirements concerning hours of coursework, GPA, continuous registration, and language proficiency. These requirements include the following: (a) minimum of 30 credit hours in graduate courses (5000 or above), (b) 3.0 or higher GPA, and (c) continuous registration (3 credit hours minimum) fall and spring until graduation. Please consult the Graduate Catalog for a complete description of these requirements.

There is a University (not departmental) language requirement for the MA (not MS) degree. The student's committee must approve the choice of language, and standard proficiency must be certified by the Department of Languages and Literature. There is no language requirement for the MS degree. 

You need to fill out a Supervisory Committee form and an Application for Admission to Candidacy. The latter must be submitted to the graduate school no later than one semester before you anticipate graduating. Please see Graduate Catalog for the exact deadlines.

Departmental Requirements

Supervisory Committees

Close contact with your supervisory committee is essential to success in the program.

Required Coursework

Proseminar Series (Anthropology 6100, 6200, 6300, 6400), to be taken in the first year (students who have previously taken 6161 are exempt).

Statistics. All graduate students are expected to have basic proficiency in statistics. Most graduate students will be expected to gain additional statistical expertise, as determined by the student's supervisory committee.

Program-specific requirements: In addition to the department-wide courses above, masters students are required to take one of the following sets of courses. Courses in addition to these may be required by a student's supervisory committee.

Evolutionary Ecology

ANTH 5471 - Quantitative Models in Evolutionary Ecology
ANTH 6461 - Behavioral Ecology and Anthropology
ANTH 5169 - Ethnographic Methods
ANTH 6498 - Problems in Evolutionary Anthropology (Journal Club)


ANTH 6461 - Behavioral Ecology and Anthropology
ANTH 6361 - Behavioral Ecology and Archaeology
ANTH 6345 - Cultural Resources Management 
Electives - 5 to 9 courses (15-27 credit hours)

Biological Anthropology

ANTH 6291 - Evolution of Human Health
ANTH 6261 - Paleoanthropology
ANTH 5221 - Human Evolutionary Genetics (4 credit hours)
Electives - 6 to 9 courses (15-27 credit hours)

Evolution of Culture, Cognition, and Behavior

ANTH 6855 - Exploring Human Behavior, Culture, and Cognition: Evolutionary Perspectives (6 credit hours)
ANTH 5169 - Ethnographic Methods
Approved Statistics Course (4 credit hours)
Elective courses in Anthropology: 3 from 5471, 6134, 6150, 6185, 6186, 6187, 6481, 6501, 6502 (9 credit hours)
Additional elective courses: 3 to 9 (9-27 credit hours)

Masters Qualifying Examination

All students are required to complete a qualifying exercise by the end of their fourth FTE (full-time effort) semester in this department. Students may choose: a)  a written exam (6-8 essays written in two four-hour sessions), or b) a non-thesis project. Students are also required to pass an oral examination focusing on the project or written examination, which should take place within 10 days of completion of the written portion of the exercise. It is generally expected that all required courses will be completed prior to the examination. The exercise can be completed either in late spring semester or late fall semester, depending on the student’s admission date.

Written Exam

Students in their second year should study with other students taking the same exam, and are strongly encouraged to enroll with them for an hour of independent study with a faculty member in that sub-discipline to enhance their preparation.

The six to eight essay questions will be selected by the student's supervisory committee from the posted list established for the student's particular program. General guidance is provided for preparing for the exam. Click on the program names below to find the list a list of questions for each:

Biological Anthropology
Evolution of Culture, Cognition, and Behavior
Evolutionary Ecology

Non-Thesis Project  

Students should identify and agree on a non-thesis project with their Chair and on the advice of their supervisory committee.  Students are encouraged to choose, and produce, a project that likely results in a publishable paper. A written draft of the project should be circulated to the supervisory committee no later than March 15 (or by the end of the 8th week of the graduating semester).

Oral Exam

The oral exam is conducted by the supervisory committee. The committee will usually ask the student to elaborate on areas within the written exam or the non-thesis project they feel deserves further attention, but other topics may be raised as well.


The student's supervisory committee will evaluate the exam or project, and discuss the result with the student immediately following the oral exam. Examinations will be assigned one of three grades: 1) high pass, 2) low pass, or 3) fail. Students earning a "high pass" grade will be awarded the MA/MS degree and be encouraged to proceed to the Ph.D program. A "low pass" grade will satisfy the requirement for the MA/MS but the student will not be permitted to continue into the Ph.D program. No degree will be awarded for a failing grade. Students receiving low pass and failing grades may retake the exam only once.

No thesis is required for the MA/MS degree. However, students interested in an academic career are encouraged to begin research likely to result in a publishable paper.

Last Updated: 11/22/17