Graduate Study

Students interested in pursuing degrees in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will find themselves members of a vibrant intellectual community. The university is an important crossroads where a diversity of debate and intellectual exchange can be found. The department is actively involved in this diverse community and regularly invites renowned scholars from all over the world to give talks and hold seminars. When a new student is admitted to the department that student also becomes a colleague to a diverse group of scholars. The department recognizes that the methods, perspectives, and theoretical orientation originating in anthropology have now invigorated many other disciplines. This blurring of the borders between disciplines has created a rich cross- fertilization. The department encourages students to take part in this process, by taking courses and attending talks offered by other sections within the department and by finding intellectual community, scholarly events, and coursework in other departments.

The primary focus of the Department of Anthropology is on the doctoral degree. A master’s degree is awarded in the process of pursuing the Ph.D., but students are not admitted for the sole purpose of obtaining a master’s degree. The Department of Anthropology offers prospective graduate students the opportunity to pursue study within one of three major subfields of contemporary anthropology: archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Students may also pursue an intersectional degree in any two sections.

The Anthropology Graduate Program Handbook summarizes the degree and course requirements and departmental policies and procedures for the PhD program. The Anthropology graduate handbook is updated on a regular basis with program updates and any policy changes implemented by the Anthropology Program or the Graduate School. Anthropology Program information and requirement details are also at the Anthropology Graduate Guide Pages.

*The handbook table of contents is clickable and will navigate you to a specific section of the document. 

Department of Anthropology Grad Studies Handbook — Version 2 of AY2023-2024 — published October 2023

Department of Anthropology Grad Studies Handbook — Version 1 of AY2023-2024 — published September 2023

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The Department of Anthropology offers three major fields of study in contemporary Anthropology: Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, and Cultural Anthropology, or within the Intersectional Degree Program. The primary focus of the Department of Anthropology is the doctoral degree. A master’s degree is awarded in the process of pursuing the Ph.D.; students are not admitted for the sole purpose of obtaining a master’s degree. Contact the Anthropology Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Amy Stambach by email at, for information on connecting to your specific interests in Anthropology.  Connect with current Anthropology graduate students to learn about their experience in our program.

Application for Graduate Study in Anthropology

Apply here

Current UW Graduate Students Apply here

The application deadline is December 1 for the following fall semester. All documents and test scores must be complete and submitted by December 1 for your application to be deemed complete for review and consideration. Please keep in mind that December 1 is the deadline for all Anthropology admissions. Although the Graduate School will process your application, the Department has a December 1 deadline, and may not process your application without supporting documentationPlease contact the Graduate Program Manager prior to sending your application if after December 1. WE DO NOT ACCEPT APPLICATIONS FOR SPRING OR SUMMER ADMISSIONS

Things to Submit Online for Graduate Admissions

Transcripts Undergraduate grade point averages (GPA), one transcript (may be unofficial for purposes of departmental review for admissions) from each previously attended university with the application. Applicants accepted to a Department’s program must also submit one official transcript to the Graduate School in order to finalize the admission decision. Official transcripts must arrive in the originating institution’s original, sealed envelope bearing the registrar’s signature/seal.  Transcripts that do not meet these requirements will be considered UNOFFICIAL.

Statement of Purpose This statement should identify your specific areas of interest and reasons why they are of interest. Also, explain how and why you aspire to advance knowledge in the field of Anthropology. An explanation of why you feel our department is the best place for you to pursue these interests.

Three (3) Letters of Recommendation When applying online through the graduate school a recommendation request can be sent by email to each of your references. The email will include your name with a link to each department’s electronic recommendation form. The request can be sent at any time providing you meet department deadlines. You can change references or send a reminder through your application. We recommend that you contact your references ahead of time, so that they can expect your request for recommendation. After you have submitted your application, you and your department can view receipt of your recommendations through the online status system. When you submit your application, you will be prompted to enter payment information.

  • Supplemental Application Materials – Complete and submit electronically as supplement during online applicationDownload the supplemental application checklist. Indicate the faculty that you are interested in working with and your major interests within anthropology. Use the faculty specialty listing to inform your selection. Be as specific as possible in your selection and list three or four options. Include a list of anthropology and cognate courses you have taken or will take before attending UW-Madison.
  • Official GRE scores Applicants are not required to submit their GRE scores. Applicants can submit their GRE scores as supplemental materials. If you wish to submit your scores, they are requested by the applicant and submitted electronically to UW-Madison institution code 1846 by Educational Testing Service. Copies, faxes and PDFs are considered unofficial.
  • International students:  Official TOEFL Scores are requested by the applicant and submitted electronically to UW-Madison institution code 1846 by Educational Testing Service. Copies are considered unofficial. The English proficiency test (TOEFL, IELTS, MELAB) is required by the UW-Madison Graduate School. Scores must be less than two years old, as of the start of the admission term. The required minimum scores are found online.

Test Scores:  GRE and TOEFL scores are sent electronically from Educational Testing Service. Use ETS institution code 1846. TOEFL/IELTS/MELAB scores are required of all applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English.


  • A list of any honors gained as an undergraduate, such as Phi Beta Kappa membership, scholarships, etc., include with your online application.
  • Curriculum vitae, include with your online application.
  • Writing Samples such as research-based papers or other documents relevant to your credentials; reprints of any professional publications; include with your online application.
  • Applicants can submit their GRE scores as supplemental materials.

For questions about the Graduate School admissions process call: 608.262.2433. For program specific questions, contact: Graduate Program Manager, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1180 Observatory Drive, 5243 Social Sciences Building, Madison, WI  53706

For International Students

International Student Services

Visa Information

International Financial Information

Graduate Program Manager

5243 Wm. Sewell Social Sciences
(608) 262-2869

Fields of Study at the UW-Madison Department of Anthropology

General Course of Study

The goal of our graduate program is to produce scholars and educators of the highest professional caliber in the general field of anthropology. To achieve that goal students are required to complete a series of steps whose general progress is much the same for each of our three sections. Following are the broad outlines of these steps.

  1. Incoming graduate students are expected to take courses within the department, and on occasion with their advisor’s guidance, outside the department. The aim of these courses is threefold: to prepare students for their qualifying exams; dissertation research and writing; and for their future career.
  2. Students must meet the qualifying exam requirements of their chosen area within Anthropology. Successful completion of these exams would advance a student to the next stage of graduate study, which is the preparation of a dissertation topic.
  3. Students must prepare and be examined upon preliminary proposals for their dissertation research. Successful completion of the Preliminary Examination, minor requirements, graduate school requirements and section requirements, advances the students to candidacy as dissertators.
  4. Students must conduct dissertation research and write their dissertations. The conduct of these endeavors, the time spent, data collected, and drafts critiqued, will vary greatly from section to section and from student to student. To be acceptable as a dissertation, the research must constitute an original contribution to that field of scholarship.
  5. Students will defend their dissertation before a faculty committee. By university regulation, “A Ph.D. final examination committee must have at least five current graduate faculty members, and at least one of these must represent a graduate field outside your major”. The Cultural and Archaeology sections have additional requirements (see individual areas for more information).

* A student’s program arranges a committee with appropriate expertise to afford the breadth and depth needed in degree examinations. The responsibilities of individual committee members are determined by the program. The executive committee (or its equivalent) of a program/department is responsible for approving the composition of all graduate committees. Non UW-Madison committee members must be reviewed and approved by the student’s section and the Anthropology Executive Committee. To have this reviewed, submit a CV of the non UW-Madison committee member to your section.

Graduate Student Forms

UW Graduate School Policies and Procedures

Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures (GAPP)

Additional Resources for Graduate Students

Grievance Procedure

The Department of Anthropology had developed a grievance procedure through which you may register comments or complaints about a course, an instructor, or a teaching assistant. The Department continues to provide a course evaluation each semester in every class. If you wish to make anonymous complaints to an instructor or teaching assistant, the appropriate vehicle is the course evaluation. If you have a disagreement with an instructor or teaching assistant, we strongly encourage you to try to resolve the dispute with them directly. The grievance procedure is designed for situations where neither of these channels is appropriate.

If you wish to file a grievance, use this Course Comment Sheet and then submit the completed form to the Department Chair or Department Administrator. When completing the comment sheet, you will need to provide a detailed statement that describes what aspects of the course you find unsatisfactory. You will need to sign the sheet and provide your student identification number, your address, and a phone number where you can be reached. The department will investigate comments fully and will respond in writing to complaints.

Your name, address, phone number, and student ID number will not be revealed to the instructor or teaching assistant involved and will be treated as confidential. The Department needs this information because it may become necessary for a commenting student to have a meeting with the department chair or a nominee to gather additional information. Name and addresses are also necessary for providing a written response.

In addition to the Department of Anthropology’s procedure, the following UW-Madison Offices and Centers have procedures and resources available for addressing various concerns:

McBurney Disability Resource Center

University Health Services

Graduate School Grievances and Appeals Process

Dean of Students Office

Bias or Hate Reporting