University of Wisconsin–Madison

Biological Anthropology: Master’s Requirements

 Admission Requirements

Students are normally expected to have undergraduate training in the basic biological sciences and anthropology. Applications for admittance to the Biological Anthropology Program are evaluated by the section’s faculty. Applicants must possess a B.A. or B.S. degree from an accredited institution. No restriction exists as to the undergraduate major field, although it usually will have been in one of the natural or physical sciences or in anthropology. Applicants are expected to have accumulated at least a 3.0 grade point average (4.0 system), in addition to scores above the 75th percentile on both the verbal and quantitative parts of the Graduate Record Examination. At least three letters of recommendation are required.

Biological Anthropology Faculty: Bunn, Hawks, McFarland, Pickering, Strier

Requirements for the Master’s program

  1. A minimum of 30 credits of graduate course work is required for the Master’s degree.
  2. Qualifying Exam. Students who enter the program with a bachelor’s degree will normally be required to take the Qualifying Examination after the end of the fourth full semester of graduate study. This deadline may be extended only by approval of a written petition to the section chair, but in no instance will a postponement be allowed to exceed one year.

Students who are admitted into the Biological Anthropology Program with master’s degrees from other institutions may take the Qualifying Examination within the first two semesters of graduate study. Upon successful completion of this examination, the master’s degree from the other institution may be accepted in lieu of additional requirements at this level and the student may proceed directly toward the doctoral prospectus and the Preliminary Examination.

The Qualifying Examination is compiled by all faculty members in the Biological Anthropology Section and is administered over a two day period (up to 8 hours per day) at the beginning of each Fall semester. The examination may be written by hand or using a computer. On the first day, students are expected to provide in depth knowledge of general principles and theory in modern biological anthropology, including past and present developments in:

  • Primate biology, behavior and human evolution (diverse aspects of human and non human paleontology; bio behavioral ecology).
  • Genetics and population systems (population structure of human and non human primate species; distribution and patterning of variation; Mendelian, population and evolutionary genetics).
  • Morphology, physiology and human ecology (human and non human primate anatomy; skeletal anatomy; adaptive physiology).

This phase of the Qualifying Examination is based primarily on required and recommended course work and the Graduate Reading List, and is designed to ensure that all students have a comparable and firm background in the sub-discipline. The following courses are strongly recommended in preparation for the general section of the Qualifying Examination:

Evolutionary Theory
Primate Anatomy

Functional and Evolutionary
Human Variation

Biology of Primates
Evolution of Human Diet

Hominid Evolution
Primate Behavioral Ecology

Hominoid Evolution
Proseminar in Biological

Genetics 466
Human Skeletal Anatomy

Pro-seminar in Biological Anthropology or Equivalent

Consultation with your advisor will determine whether or not Statistics should be taken in preparation for the Qualifying Examination. In the event that these courses are not taught in a particular two-year cycle, graduate students will be provided with reading lists, course syllabi, and faculty guidance in preparation for Qualifying Exams.

The second part of the Qualifying Examination is tailored toward the particular research interests of each student, who is expected to display detailed knowledge of these more restricted areas.

The anonymous exams are evaluated by the departmental biological faculty in residence. Each exam is ranked as 1) fail; 2) master’s pass with no retake; 3) master’s pass with retake; or 4) Ph.D. pass.

3. There is no Master’s thesis requirement. In lieu of a thesis, two term papers from graduate seminars in biological anthropology are to be submitted at the time of the Qualifying Examination. These papers are for the approval of the biological faculty as evidence of research ability and will be archived with the student’s records.The recommendation to the student will be based on past performance in (a) course work, (b) the results of the Qualifying Examination, and (c) seminar reports and independent research, and will be made no later than one month after completion of the Qualifying Examination. A report, in the form of a letter signed by the Chair of the Biological Anthropology Section, will be sent to the student with a copy to their departmental file.