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Graduate Program Requirements


The Department of Anthropology offers a Doctoral degree in Anthropology.  We offer training in archaeology, biological, sociocultural, psychological/medical and linguistic anthropology.  The program is designed to provide theoretical background and methodological skills necessary for a career in research and teaching anthropology at the university level, and for the application of anthropological knowledge to contemporary problems.

Students chose one program (archaeology, biological, sociocultural, psychological/medical or linguistic) to specialize in. Despite the small variations in requirements for each program, the only degree title is "Anthropology." To learn more about each program visit:

Program Descriptions
To learn more about the different research and fieldwork our students are participating in, visit their profiles
Time to degree

The first two to three years are devoted to coursework, including completing the first year core courses, MA requirements, and pre-candidacy requirements. Many of our students conduct fieldwork or laboratory research in the summers and as doctoral candidates during their fourth or fifth years, most often supported by a combination of external and departmental funding. The final year(s) in the program should be devoted to analyzing and writing up the results for their dissertation. The expected time to complete and defend doctoral dissertation research for the Ph.D is six to eight years. 

First Year Mentors

Each first year student is assigned a faculty mentor based upon their program interest.  Students meet regularly with their mentors for course planning and guidance. To learn more about Anthropology's faculty and their interests, visit the Faculty page


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 UC San Diego. Students will determine specific language requirements for their degree in consultation with the faculty and their doctoral committee.

Master of Arts Degree

Program Requirements for the Masters of Arts Degree

The Anthropology Department does not offer a Master's degree as a terminal degree.  Our students receive a Master's degree en route to their doctoral 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 are not permitted by university regulations to receive a second Masters degree but are required by the department to complete the requirements for our Master's degree. 

Required Courses:

  • ANTH 230: Departmental Colloquium (4 quarters, 1 unit each)

  • ANTH 281A (4 units) or B and C (2 units each): ProSeminar 

  • ANTH 295: Master's Thesis Preparation (2 quarters, 4 units each)

  • Four core courses from the following, as specified for your subdiscipline:

    • 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 280F. Core Seminar in Linguistic Anthropology (4 units)

  • Four electives, letter grade courses are required (4 units each). They can be undergraduate and/or graduate courses.  They must be upper division courses (courses numbered 100-293).  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 student's faculty advisor, as long as they meet the requirements of 4 units and upper division.

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. 


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/Medical Anthropology, and Linguistic Anthropology Core Requirements:

All students in Sociocultural Anthropology and its allied fields of Psychological/Medical 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 Sociocultural track:

  • 280A (Social Anthropology); and

  • 280B (Cultural Anthropology); and

  • 280C (Psychological Anthropology) or 280F (Linguistic Anthropology); and

  • 280D (Anthropological Archaeology) or 280E (Biological Anthropology)


Core requirements for students in the Psychological/Medical Anthropology track:

  • 280C (Psychological Anthropology); and

  • 280D (Anthropological Archaeology) or 280E (Biological Anthropology); and

  • Two of the following:

    • 280A (Social Anthropology)

    • 280B (Cultural Anthropology)

    • 280F (Linguistic Anthropology)


Core requirements for students in the Linguistic Anthropology track:

  • 280F (Linguistic Anthropology); and
  • 280D (Anthropological Archaeology) or 280E (Biological Anthropology); and

  • Two of the following:

    • 280A (Social Anthropology)

    • 280B (Cultural Anthropology)

    • 280C (Psychological Anthropology)

Master's Thesis

In the second year, students complete a master's degree/thesis equivalent en route to their doctoral degree. For students who enter the program without a master's degree, they will receive an MA upon completion and approval of their thesis. University regulations prohibit students who already have a master's degree in Anthropology or a related field from receiving an Anthropology MA degree. However, they are required by the department to complete an MA equivalency; these students should consult with their advisors to determine the most useful MA equivalency project to support their graduate trajectory. 

Students must complete a master's thesis or master's thesis equivalency project of a length, format, and scope to be approved  by the student's MA committee. Generally, the MA thesis should not exceed 10,000 words. Examples of a project that would fulfill the MA include:

  • A theoretically oriented article-length argument based on your own or your lab's research (typically 5,000-10,000 words depending on subfield)
  • An empirically oriented article-length manuscript based on analysis of original or secondary data (typically 5,000-10,000)
  • A literature review of bodies of literature you and your advisers deem relevant to your dissertation project (typically around 10,000 words)
  • A "research prospectus" consisting of  (a) 7-10 pages of preliminary dissertation research questions/argument and research design and (b) two well-researched reading lists of 50-100 works each, developed in conversation with your mentors, to serve as the basis for your position papers and qualifying exams

Students must register for ANTH 295: Master's Thesis Preparation (4 units each) during Fall and Winter quarter of their second year. Students will submit a draft of the master's thesis or master's thesis equivalency by the first day of the 5th week of the Winter quarter of their second year. Students revise their master's thesis or master's thesis equivalency project during Winter quarter. Successful and timely completion of the master's thesis or master's thesis equivalency by the end of the Winter quarter will determine whether an MA degree is awarded, where applicable, and weighs significantly in second year student evaluations. 

The final draft must conform to formatting and procedures outlined in The Preparation and Submission of Doctoral Dissertations and Masters Theses

Doctoral Degree

Program Requirements for 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.

Required Courses

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

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. Completed committee form must be electronically submitted to the Graduate Division no later than two weeks prior to the date of the scheduled qualifying examination or doctoral defense. 

Formation of the Doctoral Committees must be abide by the Graduate Division's requirements:

Membership of the Ph.D. Committee must comply with the Manual of the San Diego Division, Academic Senate, Regulation 715:

  • Minimum of 4 members with UC San Diego Faculty appointments
  • At least 1 member must have a primary appointment in a different department than the chair's primary department (Doctoral committee Co-Chairs from different departments or programs satisfy this requirement; note that, even with evenly split appointments, faculty are primary in one department)
  • At least 2 members must be from the student's home department or program
  • At least 1 member must be tenured or emeritus
  • Proposed members from other UC campuses, other universities, or industry are exceptions and must be requested in writing

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, with other 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.


Apprentice Teaching

In order to obtain teaching experience, each student is required to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Reader for at least one quarter anytime during the first four years in the program, unless an exemption is approved. This experience may take place either in Anthropology or any department/program at UCSD. Students who TA a course in the Department of Anthropology typically enroll in ANTH 500: Apprentice Teaching for 4 units and select the S/U grade option. All new TA/Readers are required to complete the New Academic Student Employee Orientation before they can teach. International students who are non-native English Speakers must satisfy the oral English proficiency requirement before they TA either by earning a score of 28-30 on the TOEFL exam, a score of 8.5-9 on the IELTS, a score of 83-90 on the Pearson Test of English, or by taking the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) at UCSD.  Please see our Graduate Student Handbook for more information. 


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.