University of Wisconsin–Madison

Anthropology Master’s & PhD

Masters degree in Anthropology

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.

At the master’s level, it is expected that candidates will begin to gain professional competence in a specialized field and will have the opportunity to explore a wide spectrum of interests within that field. Thorough undergraduate preparation is assumed. Basic training in prehistory, biological anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology, taken as an undergraduate major in anthropology, is required. Specific requirements vary for each concentration. Students are encouraged to continue reviewing this website for details on requirements for each concentration.

Joint Degree consists of one degree with two majors. Joint Degrees are relatively rare. You must be admitted by the second major in order to complete a Joint Degree.

Double Degree is two degrees from two separate graduate majors. This usually occurs at the Master’s level. To receive a Double Degree you must 1) satisfy all of the requirements from both majors, 2) meet the Graduate School credit requirements for both majors, and 3) have no more that 25% overlap.

Dual Degree is two degrees, one which is granted from a graduate major and the other granted from one of the professional schools (Medical School, Law School or the School of Veterinary Medicine). You must be admitted to both programs and must satisfy all requirements for each degree. If you have any questions contact the Graduate Coordinator at 262-2868 or the Graduate School.

Ph.D. Program in Anthropology

General requirements

Because the Ph.D. program is not based on completion of course work alone, the guidance of a prospective Ph.D. candidate and the development of his/her program beyond the point of admission is a matter for mutual arrangement between the student and the personnel of the major field in which s/he is specializing. Students will have completed the Graduate School Ph.D. requirements by the time s/he has reached the Preliminary Examination stage. In some cases, s/he may complete the Preliminary Examination without having completed the minor requirements, but until all requirements have been completed, s/he cannot be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D.

Guidance through the Ph.D. program is provided by the major professor in addition to the Ph.D. Advisory and Reading Committee.

Ph.D. Advisory and Reading Committee

The permanent major professor in consultation with the student will select two additional appropriate faculty members, at least one from the same major field as the major professor, to act as the Ph.D. Advisory Committee for the student. This committee is responsible for the guidance of the student in completion of requirements in the major field, minor field, language competence, and dissertation. It functions as the Reading Committee for the candidate’s dissertation.

Ph.D. Final Oral Exam Committee

The Ph.D. final oral committee must consist of at least 5 current graduate faculty members from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who are of either assistant, associate, or full professorial rank; with at least one of the five from outside the major department.

Joint Major for Ph.D. Degree

At the Ph.D. level, each of the departments concerned must stipulate the required content of its portion of the doctoral program. Passing Preliminary Examinations in both departments is expected. The departments will place on file with the Graduate School the nature of their requirements for those involved in joint programs. The intention to pursue a joint degree should be indicated to the Graduate School no later than the beginning of the second year of graduate study.

Minor Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

Ph.D. candidates in Anthropology must elect a minor subject in a single related field or in various departments which will be selected in consultation with the candidate’s advisor. A GPA of 3.0 must be maintained in the minor. All courses must be 300 level or above, taken after the bachelor’s degree (or equivalent). Ordinarily, only one course (maximum 3 credits) of independent study is allowed (for instance 699, 799, 999). You may not use 990 or 890 (research and thesis) courses for your minor. The number of credits you are allowed to use from prior to admission to the Ph.D. major is decided by the minor department. Courses with grades of S (satisfactory) or CR (credit) are acceptable.

There are two options for completion of the minor. Whether the student selects Option A, or Option B, the minor is designed to represent a coherent body of work, and should not simply be an after-the-fact ratification of a number of courses taken outside the major department. To ensure coherence, a minor program must be approved by the appropriate department no later than half-way through the minor course sequence and a copy of the minor agreement placed on file in the Department.

Credits earned toward a Master’s degree at another university may be used to satisfy some of the requirements for the minor, provided these credits are not in Anthropology.

Explanation of Options

(1) Minor Option A. To satisfy Minor Option A, a student must complete at least 10 credits from a degree program outside his/her major department. Some minor department require more credits, i.e., History Department requires 12 credits. One course cross-listed with the major may be used for the minor so long as it is staffed by the minor department and is not applicable to any requirements of the major. Be sure to check with the minor department on their minor requirements.

(2) Minor Option B. To satisfy Minor Option B, a student must complete at least 10 credits from two or more degree programs outside or from within another field in his/her major department. One course cross-listed with the major may be used for this minor so long as it is staffed by one of the outside programs, and is not applicable to any requirements of the major; or 10 credits of course work from one field (or area of specialization) other than the major area of study. Intersectional students must meet the minor course requirements outside the departmental sections represented on their faculty committee. The Option B distributed minor is approved by the chair of the major department.

Ph.D. Minor for Students in Other Fields

To obtain a Minor in Anthropology, you must complete four courses in the Anthropology Department which provide either (a) a general coverage of the field or (b) concentration in biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, or archaeology. To ensure coherence, your minor program must be approved by your Minor Advisor in the Anthropology Department no later than half-way through the minor course sequence.

Your Minor Advisor may be any faculty member in the Anthropology Department who is willing to serve as your advisor. If you need assistance in choosing an appropriate Minor Advisor, you can contact the Anthropology Department’s Faculty Graduate Advisor to determine which faculty member might best fit your area of interest. You must be working with an Anthropology Minor Advisor in order to complete an Anthropology Minor.

Once a minor advisor is selected and agreed upon, you and your minor advisor will complete the Anthropology Graduate Minor Advisor form. Successful completion of the course program will satisfy the minor requirement. We encourage you to get your minor completion plan in writing to assist you in course selection and to have documentation of the agreed upon plan for your records.

You should consult with your Major Department advisor to determine your major department’s requirements regarding your selected minor. Generally, the major department will provide a form to the student to present to the minor department to certify completion of the minor requirements. This form is signed by the Minor Advisor and/or the Chair of the Anthropology Department.

Criteria for Student Progress

  • Cumulative Grade Point Average. A GPA of 3.5. No less than 3.0 during the 1st year; must have a 3.5 thereafter.
  • Course Load. Full-time course load of 9-12 credits per semester. The full-time course load for Teaching Assistants who are not dissertators has been set at a minimum of 6 credits. Full-time for dissertators is 3 credits.


  • Students are not permitted to carry more than 3 incomplete credits at any one time.
  • Incompletes in excess of 3 credits are counted as “F” for purposes of GPA until removed.
  • Incompletes must be made up by the end of the following semester during which the student is registered. Incompletes not cleared by that time become “unsatisfactory grades.”

Examination Schedule (Please see sectional requirements for further details.)

  1. Graduate students are encouraged to take the Qualifying Examinations no later than the fourth (4th) semester in residence.
  2. They must pass the Qualifying Examinations no later than the sixth (6th) semester in residence.
  3. They will normally take the Preliminary Examinations no later than the third (3rd) semester in residence after passage of Qualifying Examinations.
  4. They must pass the Preliminary Examinations no later than the fifth (5th) semester following passage of the Qualifying Examinations.
  • Dissertation Topic Approval
    Graduate Students must have an approved Ph.D. dissertation proposal no later than the semester following passage of the Preliminary Examination.
  • Dissertation Completion
    Students must complete and defend the doctoral dissertation within five years after passage of the Preliminary Examination.
  • Progress Criteria for students may be waived in special circumstances, such as illness late in the semester. This is to be stated in writing, and approved by the student’s advisor. For Archaeology and Biological Sections, it must also be approved by the section and signed by the Department chair. Students will be notified of progress criteria upon passage of Qualifying and Preliminary Examinations and upon achievement of Dissertator Status.
  • Leaves of Absence
    Per Department policy, students may request a leave of absence for up to one year for predissertators. Dissertators must be registered for exactly three gradual level credits (990) even while doing field work (some exceptions are possible — see the Graduate Coordinator). The written leave of absence guarantees reentry to the program if the student applies to the graduate school for readmission within the specified time period. Students are not guaranteed readmission into the program if requested after the specified time period but within the 5-year time frame offered by the Graduate School. Students will be considered with the new admission pool of students. Students should petition their section for leave approval by sending an email to the section head and their advisor. Check with the Anthropology Graduate Coordinator if you have questions about this process.

The criterion listed above applies equally to all students whether or not they are financially supported. Students are also responsible for meeting all Graduate School regulations. The Department will notify students of relevant progress criteria at appropriate times during graduate study (e.g., after passage of qualifying and preliminary examinations). If a student does not meet appropriate progress criteria, the student will be dropped from the graduate program.