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Program Requirements

Program Descriptions

Graduate Advising

One member of the departmental faculty functions as the graduate adviser and referred to as the Director of Graduate Studies. The role of graduate adviser is to inform students about the graduate program, approve individual registration forms, and give assistance with respect to general administrative matters.

First Year Mentors

Each first year student is assigned a faculty Mentor in the student's subdiscipline. Students are encouraged to meet regularly with their Mentors for course planning and guidance in meeting specific requirements and recommendations for their subdiscipline. After completion of the requirements for the master's degree, the chair of the student's doctoral committee serves as the student's major adviser.


In the spring of each year, the faculty evaluate each student's overall performance in course work, apprentice teaching, and in research progress. A written assessment is given to the student after the evaluation. If a student's work is found to be inadequate, the faculty may determine that the student should not continue in the graduate program.

The Master of Arts Degree

Students entering the doctoral program must complete a master's degree before continuing toward the doctorate. Entering students who already have a master's degree in anthropology are not permitted by university regulations to receive a second social science or related field master's degree, but are required by the department to complete the requirements for the master's degree. Rare exceptions may be made on a case by case basis by the consent of the majority of the faculty and approval of the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.

Requirements for Master's Degree

Required Courses:

  • ANTH 230: Departmental Colloquium (4 quarters, 1 unit each)
  • ANTH 281A-B: Introductory Seminars (1 unit each)
  • ANTH 295: Master's Thesis Preparation (1-12 units)
  • Four core courses, as specified in the following sections.

Core Course Offerings

Six core courses are offered in the graduate program in Anthropology:

  • ANTH 280A. Core Seminar in Social Anthropology (4 units)
  • ANTH 280B. Core Seminar in Cultural Anthropology (4 units)
  • ANTH 280C. Core Seminar in Psychological Anthropology (4 units)
  • ANTH 280D. Core Seminar in Anthropological Archaeology (4 units)
  • ANTH 280E. Core Seminar in Biological Anthropology (4 units)
  • ANTH 263. The Anthropology of Language and Discourse (4 units)*

*Although not in the 280 series, ANTH 263 is a core seminar. It is also open to graduate students from other departments, with instructor's permission. It may be offered in alternate years.

All students must take at least four of these six core courses by the end of their second year in the program (and preferably during the first year) as a requirement for receiving the Master's degree or for equivalent advancement in the program. The subfields specify particular choices among these core offerings for the students admitted to their respective tracks, as detailed below. The department strongly encourages all students in all subfields to take additional core courses as elective seminars to complete their program.

Anthropological Archaeology Core Requirements:

280D (Anthropological Archaeology); and

280E (Biological Anthropology); and

Two of the remaining four core courses in Anthropology, selected in consultation with the student's assigned mentor

Biological Anthropology Core Requirements:

280E (Biological Anthropology); and

280D (Anthropological Archaeology); and

Two of the remaining four core courses in Anthropology, selected in consultation with the student's assigned mentor.

Sociocultural Anthropology, Psychological Anthropology, and Linguistic Anthropology Core Requirements:

All students in Sociocultural Anthropology and its allied fields of Psychological and Linguistic Anthropology will take at least four core courses, selected as follows and with the consent of the individual student's faculty mentor. Students identifying two or more areas of concentration must satisfy the requirements of each of these areas.

Core requirements for students in the General Sociocultural track:

  • 280A (Social Anthropology); and
  • 280B (Cultural Anthropology); and
  • 280C (Psychological Anthropology) or 263 (The Anthropology of Language); and
  • 280D (Anthropological Archaeology) or 280E (Biological Anthropology).

Core requirements for students in the Psychological Anthropology track:

  • 280C (Psychological Anthropology); and
  • 280D (Anthropological Archaeology) or 280E (Biological Anthropology); and
  • Two of the following:
    • 280A (Social Anthropology)
    • 280B (Cultural Anthropology)
    • 263 (Anthropology of Language and Discourse).

Core requirements for students in the Linguistic Anthropology track:

  • 263 (Anthropology of Language and Discourse); and
  • 280D (Anthropological Archaeology) or 280E (Biological Anthropology); and
  • Two of the following:
    • 280A (Social Anthropology)
    • 280B (Cultural Anthropology)
    • 280C (Psychological Anthropology).

Elective Courses

Four elective, letter grade courses are required. These courses can be undergraduate or graduate seminars.  At least two of these elective courses must be within the anthropology department. Other electives may be taken outside of the department with the approval of the department chair or the graduate adviser.

Master's Thesis

Students must complete a master's thesis of roughly sixty pages which will be due on the first day of the winter quarter of the student's second year. They must have completed three quarters of coursework in order to begin writing a master's thesis. By the end of the spring quarter of the student's first year, he/she will have a master's committee in consultation with whom he/she will design the thesis. The graduate adviser will be responsible for organizing the masters' committees. The thesis will be literature based but will have its own argument, and will not simply be a review of the literature.

An option open only to anthropological archaeology and biological anthropology students is to make the literature-based thesis (defended by the beginning of the winter quarter of the second year) one component of a larger project involving the collection of original data. Data collection could begin in the summer after the student's first year and analysis of it could continue after the master's thesis has been defended. If the thesis includes the analysis of original data which must be shipped back from the field, the student would write the thesis during the winter quarter and hand it in on the first day of the spring quarter.

The Doctoral Degree

Continuation in the doctoral program is granted to students who have satisfactorily completed the master's program and who have completed courses and the master's thesis at a level of excellence which indicates promise of professional achievement in anthropology.

Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

Required Courses

In order to achieve candidacy, students must complete two additional letter grade electives beyond the four required for the Master's.

Research Methods

Students are required to develop a plan for their training in research methods and present it to the anthropology department faculty on their proposed dissertation committee in the spring quarter of their second year.

Apprentice Teaching

In order to acquire teaching experience, each student is required to serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one quarter anytime during the first four years of residency. This experience may take place either in our department or in any teaching program on campus. The relevant course in the Anthropology Department is ANTH 500: Apprentice Teaching, taken for 4 units and S/U grade. Upon petition, this requirement may be waived by the Anthropology Faculty.

Foreign Language

Unless a student is planning on fieldwork in English-speaking areas, knowledge of one or more foreign languages may be essential for the successful completion of a Ph.D. in anthropology at UCSD. Students will determine specific language requirements for their degree in consultation with the faculty and their doctoral committee.

Formation of the Doctoral Committee

All students must choose the chair of their doctoral committee by the end of their second year. They must choose two more internal members of the doctoral committee by the end of the fall quarter of their third year. In consultation with the chair of the doctoral committee, two faculty members from outside the department (one of whom must be tenured) should be added to the committee by the end of the winter quarter of the third year.

Anthropologists in other departments who are identified by the faculty may serve as either inside members or outside members of the committee. However, there must be at least two inside members from within the department, and only one outside member may be an anthropologist. The final composition of the committee is approved by the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.

The chair of the doctoral committee serves as the student's adviser for the remainder of the student's program.

The Fieldwork Proposal

Advancement to candidacy will be based on the submission of two to three position papers and a research proposal.

The position papers are intended as a way for students to demonstrate competence in particular areas of theory, methods, and/or regional studies that are significant to the dissertation research project. The number of the position papers and the specific topics they address is to be formulated in consultation with the student's committee chair and, as appropriate, withother members of the student's dissertation committee. It is expected that the position papers will amount to some 50-60 pages and that the research proposal will be in the 20-30 page range. Students should enroll in directed reading courses (ANTH 298) during the quarters in which they are writing the position papers. Additionally, students should also enroll in ANTH 296A-B during the quarters in which they are writing their dissertation research proposal.

A maximum of three quarters is allowed for the preparation of both the position papers and proposal. The position papers, research proposal, and the oral examination for advancement to candidacy must be completed no later than the end of the spring quarter of the student's fourth year.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to doctoral candidacy must take place no later than the end of the spring quarter of the fourth year. This requires the successful completion of all coursework requirements, the position papers, the dissertation research proposal, and an oral qualifying examination administered by the student's committee. The proposal and position papers must be turned into the student's committee at least three weeks prior to the examination.

Upon petition, students may advance to candidacy as early as the spring quarter of the third year, if all candidacy requirements noted earlier have been satisfied by that time. This requires the agreement of the graduate adviser, the student's dissertation adviser, and other members of his/her committee.

Successful completion of this examination marks the student's advancement to doctoral candidacy. These exams will be open to the extent that university regulations allow.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation research project, the student writes a dissertation which must be successfully defended in an oral examination conducted by the doctoral committee and open to the public. This examination may not be conducted earlier than three quarters after the date of advancement to doctoral candidacy.

A full copy of the student's dissertation must be in the hands of each of the student's doctoral committee members four weeks before the dissertation hearing. An abstract of the student's dissertation must be in the hands of all faculty members ten days before the dissertation defense.

It is understood that the edition of the dissertation given to committee members will not be the final form, and that the committee members may suggest changes in the text at the defense. Revisions may be indicated, requiring this examination to be taken more than once.

Acceptance of the dissertation by the university librarian represents the final step in completion of all requirements for the Ph.D.

Time Limits

Pre-candidacy status is limited to four years.

Candidates for the doctorate remain eligible for university support for eight years.

Instructional support (teaching assistantships) is limited to six years (eighteen quarters).

The doctoral dissertation must be submitted and defended within nine years. This is in accordance with university policy.

The expected time to complete and defend doctoral dissertation research for the Ph.D. for anthropology students is six years, also known as normative time.

Introduction to Required Core Courses


Core Seminar in Social Anthropology. First-year core seminar focuses on individual action and social institutions.


Core Seminar in Cultural Anthropology. First-year core seminar focuses on personal consciousness and cultural experience.


Core Seminar in Psychological Anthropology. First-year core seminar focuses on motives, values, cognition, and qualities of personal experience.


Core Seminar in Anthropological Archaeology. Integral part of the training for graduate students focusing on Anthropological Archaeology. It is one of a set of core anthropology courses available to graduate students; required of first-year anthropological archaeology students but open for students in other sub-fields.


Core Seminar in Biological Anthropology. This seminar will examine the central problems and concepts of biological anthropology, laying the foundation for first-year graduate students in Biological Anthropology as well as providing an overview of the field for graduate students in other areas of anthropology.

ANTH 281 A-B

Introductory Seminars. These seminars are held in the first two quarters of the first year of graduate study. Faculty members will present an account of their current research and interests. When appropriate a short preliminary reading list will be given for the particular lecture.

ANTH 263

Anthropology of Language and Discourse. Examines the theoretical and methodological foundations and principal research questions of Linguistic Anthropology, providing the fundamentals for graduate study in this area. (Required for students specializing in Linguistic Anthropology, as one of their four core courses. Open as an elective course to others.) Prerequisite: Graduate standing.

NOTE: Not all anthropology courses are offered every year. Please check the quarterly UCSD Schedule of Classes issued each fall, winter, and spring, for specific courses.