two students digging at a siteOverview

The Department of Anthropology has offered an award-winning master’s degree program since the early 1950s. This is a research degree offered in all four fields of anthropology.

With strong training in research methods, application, and theory, our MA program is appropriate both for students intending to continue on to the PhD, and for those who will enter careers that require only the master’s. For this reason, we do not consider our program a “terminal master’s degree.” Roughly half of the students admitted into our PhD program each year are graduates of our own MA program.


A four-field approach is taken in the MA program, embracing archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistics, and cultural anthropology. Each student must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours. All students are required to complete satisfactorily a core curriculum composed of one graduate course in at least three of the four fields of anthropology:

  • ANT 501 (Anthropological Linguistics)
  • ANT 625 (Survey of the History of Archaeology)
  • ANT 636 (Social Structure) or ANT 641 (Culture)
  • ANT 670 (Principles of Physical Anthropology)

Additionally, a seminar in research methodology (ANT 600) is required.

These four core courses should be taken during the student’s first year in residence. Remaining credit hours are based on coursework in the student’s area of interest, and thesis hours for students taking the thesis option (see below).

Additional Requirements

Entering students must provide evidence of having taken introductory-level courses in each of the four fields before taking the graduate courses. A student who has not had an introductory course may be required to take or audit the appropriate undergraduate course before enrolling in the graduate course.

Each student is required to demonstrate competency in either a foreign language or research skill (especially statistics).

Comprehensive Examinations

All students must take and pass comprehensive examinations on their knowledge of the field of anthropology. The student will take three-hour written exams in at least three of the four subdisciplines. The selection of the three areas will be made in collaboration with the faculty advisor. All anthropology faculty will participate in composing the exam questions. The examinations are evaluated by the entire faculty of the department, and performance on the exam is certified by the student’s committee.

Degree Options

All of the preceding requirements apply to the degree in general. There are then two options for completing the degree:

  • In the thesis option, the student writes a thesis based on original research.
  • In the non-thesis options, the student completes additional coursework.

Any student interested in study beyond the master’s level should take the thesis option.


We fund a high proportion of our first and second year MA students on graduate teaching assistantships. There also are university fellowships available to MA students. Contact Dr. Christopher Lynn (, the director of graduate studies, for further information.