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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 preliminary examination is intended to demonstrate mastery of the student’s anticipated research problem 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 Plan of Study, satisfactorily completed most of the formal study, and satisfied any non-English language requirements.

Exams take two weeks (14 days). Other arrangements can be made if a student needs accommodations.

As one of the requirements to be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree, each full-time student must pass a preliminary examination in the Department of Anthropology which is to be taken typically during the second semester of course registration for the PhD degree, but no later than the end of the fourth semester of course registration in the PhD program. The examination includes both written and oral sections and will include (besides method and theory) other areas from within the specialty declared by the student in consultation with their committee. In the Department of Anthropology, the preliminary examination is usually formulated in consultation with a draft of the preliminary PhD research proposal, in order to resonate with topics relevant to the student’s specialty and research project. Preliminary exam questions should be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies before they are sent to the student. Exams are primarily evaluated by the student's advisory committee, but the consent of the Director of Graduate Studies or Graduate Committee will be necessary in order to report the exam as "Fail" or "Pass."

A student must prepare a PhD proposal in consultation with their major professor and advisory committee; a formal committee meeting to discuss a complete draft of the proposal is strongly advised before it is finalized. 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). In addition, the student is required to conduct a 30-minute departmental presentation and discussion of the proposal. The presentation will be publicly announced and open to all faculty and others who wish to attend, but the presentation itself does not require formal written approval of the major professor and advisory committee. 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.