Skip to main content

PhD Degree Requirements

At least 90 total credit hours are required to complete the PhD program, including coursework and research credit hours. PhD program students will take at least a total of 48 semester hours of graduate-level courses beyond the Bachelor’s degree (including MS and PhD level courses).

This includes a minimum of 48 course credit hours beyond the Bachelor’s, including at least 18 course credit hours beyond the master’s, plus up to 30 master's credit hours. The remaining 42 credit hours to reach the 90 total credit hours required may be taken as additional courses in combination with dissertation hours. For students with an external master’s, the first two years of the sequence will be identical to the MS. The student in conjunction with their major professor and advisory committee will develop a Plan of Study with considerable depth in selected areas of specialization using courses within and outside the department.

PhD coursework will include at least two 600-level courses in the department (students should check with their major professor to determine if an external course substitution is appropriate) supplemented with elective graduate offerings and reading courses within or outside the department. Students are encouraged to take advantage of any and all 600-level departmental seminars that are appropriate for their programs. Students are required to meet a non-English language requirement using existing departmental guidelines.

Students admitted directly into the PhD program will need to enroll in the core subfield and theory courses needed to meet our standards of broad proficiency and in order to take the qualifying examination during their first year in our program.

In Anthropology, language competency is often needed for reading global scholarly literature and may be necessary for successful completion of field research in anthropology. Language coursework or demonstrated proficiency is normally required as part of the student’s progress in the doctoral program.

Non-English language competency requirements should be satisfied concurrently with or prior to the completion of the preliminary examination and before students embark on a main phase of dissertation data collection.

For a student whose advisory committee determines that non-English language competency is not needed for completion of research, specialized training in a particular skill may be substituted. Any substitution must be approved by the Graduate Committee. Two courses at the graduate level may be taken to fulfill this requirement.

Students who have completed a master's degree or professional doctoral degree from another accredited institution need to pass the qualifying examination by the end of their first year to be fully prepared for more specialized study towards the PhD degree. The exam will include a 10-day written examination and an oral defense. A passing qualifying examination demonstrates competency in the literature of (an) anthropological subfield(s) and the ability to communicate that knowledge effectively. The goal of the qualifying exam is to assess the student’s general sub-disciplinary expertise. The options on the Qualifying Exam will be “Pass”, “Pass with distinction,” or "Fail". A student who passes with distinction will have satisfied one of the requirements for admission to the PhD program. Students continuing from the MS will not be required to retake the qualifying exam.


The exam is intended to demonstrate mastery of the student’s anticipated anthropological research program and to certify that the student is competent to work on the dissertation. It should also demonstrate achievement of competency in the Graduate School Learning Objective areas (these include critical thinking skills, effective written and oral communication, knowledge of scholarship in area, and appropriate ethics and responsible research).

To become eligible to take the examination, the student must have an approved PhD Plan of Study, satisfactorily completed most of their formal study, show proof that they will take three credits of Anth 590 (see below) in the semester prior to taking the exam, and show proof that they will satisfy any Non-English Language Requirements by the end of the same session they are registered for the exam.

To initiate the process, the student should register for three credits of ANTH 590 (suggested title: PhD prelim preparation) as P/NP with their major professor the semester before they wish to take their preliminary exams. In consultation with the committee, the student and major professor will create a syllabus for the 590 course that is designed around a preliminary exam reading list, the submission of a draft PhD proposal by the end of the semester, and a plan for when the student will take the preliminary exam in the following semester. The student will be given the semester to produce the draft proposal, as outlined in the syllabus. The proposal must be approximately 40-50 pages total, excluding bibliography, double-spaced, one-inch margins, using 12 pt. font. At the end of the semester, the major professor will enter the P/NP grade for the course.

In the semester immediately following the 590 course, the student will schedule the written and oral defense of their preliminary examination with their committee and communicate the approved time and date to the Academic Program Manager and Director of Graduate Studies. The PhD proposal will be reviewed by the advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Studies and will be followed by a closed-door oral defense with the full committee.

Students are required to make a public presentation of their PhD Proposal prior to beginning data collection. For the public presentation portion, the student must conduct a 30-minute departmental presentation followed by a discussion of the proposal. The presentation is not part of the preliminary exam and will be publicly announced and open to all who wish to attend. The final version of the written proposal must receive the formal written approval of the major professor and advisory committee before data collection begins (form to be filed with the graduate program office). That and any necessary IRB, IACUC, or other approvals are required before commencing dissertation data collection.

Following the approval of the written proposal and the completion of the public presentation, the student will research and complete a dissertation in their area of specialization under the direction of the major professor and their committee. There will be a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

A complete draft of the dissertation, which has already been approved by the major professor, should be in the hands of the committee at least four weeks before the final exam, which should be minimally six weeks before the final deposit. Students who do not meet these deadlines will delay their graduation from the program.


In consultation with and approval from their major professor and advisory committee, graduate students complete a dissertation in one of the following formats: monograph, scholarly article-style dissertation, or a student can submit a scholarly multimodal component with their dissertation, which we will refer to as the multimodal dissertation. The dissertation style format requires organization and careful front-end planning by the student. Intent to use any of these formats must be stated at the student’s dissertation proposal presentation, and by completing the Dissertation Format Option form. Current Department of Anthropology graduate students are permitted to adopt any of these formats retroactively, with explicit permission from their major professor and advisory committee.


Students should work with their committee on the date the final full dissertation draft should be submitted. Once the full dissertation draft is submitted to and approved by the full committee, the student will provide a public presentation of the dissertation and defend it in an oral examination conducted by the members of the dissertation committee. The presentation and examination will be publicly announced two weeks prior to the defense.

The presentation should present an overview of the dissertation fieldwork and research questions as informed by theory, methods, and results. The Graduate Council has recommended that oral examinations not last more than two hours. If additional time is needed, the examination may be continued at a later date.

The final oral examination is a defense of the dissertation and is taken at least two semesters after successful completion of the preliminary examination.


Applied Practicing Anthropology
African American Studies
Ecological Sciences and Engineering (ESE) 
Ingestive Behavior
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 

Anthropology and Gerontology


AMAP Interdisciplinary Methods Certificate
Geospatial Information Science Certificate
Inclusive Excellence Graduate Certificate Program

*Detailed requirements are available in the Anthropology Graduate Student Manual.