The graduate program in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University is a PhD program designed to educate and develop scholars and researchers who study the human condition through time and across cultures. Our graduates apply these skills to academics, business, government and nongovernmental jobs and careers. Although candidates may receive an AM degree during the course of their study, the department does not admit students seeking a terminal master's degree. The anthropology department has a strong tradition of graduate student satisfaction and close mentoring by faculty advisers. In addition, graduates of the Washington University anthropology PhD program have a solid history of placement in highly desirable academic and nonacademic positions.
The department has a strong three-field approach, with active programs in archaeology, sociocultural anthropology, and biological anthropology. Program strengths in archaeology include the origins of agriculture and pastoralism, paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, geoarchaeology, landscape archaeology and environmental archaeology. Sociocultural anthropology foci include politics, pluralism and religion, indigenous political movements, the politics of gender and sexuality, fertility and population, global health and the environment, and medical anthropology. Program strengths in biological anthropology include human and primate evolution, the ecology and conservation of modern primates, human physiology, biological variation in living human populations, quantitative studies of morphology and genetics, and human life history.
Phone: 314-935-7770 or 314-935-5252
Universal Departmental Requirements
The following is an abbreviated list of requirements for the PhD in anthropology. Each subdiscipline also has its own additional guidelines and requirements. A more complete description of the requirements (including additional subdisciplinary requirements) can be found on the Department of Anthropology website. All students in the PhD program are expected to satisfy the academic performance requirements of the Graduate School, which can be found in the General Requirements section of this Bulletin. Similarly, all subdisciplinary requirements are in addition to those set out here for the department as a whole.
Degree Length and Course Units
Students are expected to complete the degree in six years. All students must earn a minimum of 60 units of graduate-level course work credit for the PhD, but they must not exceed 72 units of credit. A typical semester course load for the first year of study is 12 units (i.e., four 3-credit courses per semester). The semester course load for the second and third years is typically 9 units. Graduate students must take a minimum of 9 units of credit to be considered full-time by the Graduate School. Most students will meet the 60-unit requirement by the end of the third year, but they must still maintain full-time status throughout the PhD program.
Students are expected to receive their master of arts (MA) degree by the end of their second year or fourth semester of full-time study. The requirements for the MA in anthropology are as follows:
- Theory requirement. All students are required to take Anthro 472 Social Theory and Anthropology during their first year. Under special circumstances, this requirement may be delayed or waived by petitioning the departmental faculty. This request should be initiated through the student’s adviser.
- Two subdisciplinary course requirements. Graduate students earning a PhD in anthropology are expected to have familiarity across the subdisciplines of anthropology. To this end, all students must complete at least one course taught by a faculty member of the anthropology department in each of the two subdisciplines other than their own; Anthro 472 may satisfy the sociocultural requirement. Courses taken in other subdisciplines should strengthen the student’s understanding of the subfield, complement their research, and, ideally, enhance their ability to teach across subfields. Students with good cause to substitute prior extensive course work in the subdiscipline — especially in the context of a master’s degree from another university — for one or both of the other subdisciplinary requirements may petition the relevant subdisciplinary faculty to do so.
- Courses with six faculty. All graduate students are required to have had courses with at least six different departmental faculty members. Team-taught courses may count for both faculty members.
- Credit units. The anthropology department requires 36 credit units for the award of an MA degree without a thesis.
- Petition for the award of the master’s degree. Once a student has completed all requirements for the MA degree, the student and their adviser submit a petition to the chair; the chair circulates the petition to the entire faculty and forwards it to the Graduate School. This petition should include documentation of the satisfactory completion of all of the Graduate School requirements (including cumulative credits, thesis [if applicable], and grade-point average), of the other requirements in this list, and of any special requirements set by the student’s subdiscipline.
Although the Department of Anthropology only accepts students who wish to pursue the PhD, students are not officially admitted to candidacy for the PhD immediately upon entry into the program. Admittance to candidacy for the PhD program requires the successful completion of the requirements of the MA degree as well as the of requirements listed below. Continuation for the PhD requires that the student be advanced to doctoral candidacy. Proposal defenses and admission to doctoral candidacy are expected by the end of the third year.
- Credit units. Students must have completed 48 units before filing the petition to advance to candidacy.
- Forming the Doctoral Research Advisory Committee. Students are encouraged to work with a variety of faculty while shaping their dissertation proposal. Prior to scheduling their dissertation proposal defense during their third year, students should formally assemble a Doctoral Research Advisory Committee (i.e., a Doctoral Committee) in consultation with their adviser. This committee must consist of a minimum of three full-time tenured or tenure-track members of the anthropology faculty, who must approve the dissertation proposal defense and also sign — along with the department chair — the Notice of Title, Scope, and Procedure of Dissertation. This committee typically forms the basis of the Dissertation Defense Committee.
- Student-specific requirements for doctoral candidacy. Prior to admission to candidacy, students may be asked by their committees to fulfill additional requirements that are directly relevant to their doctoral dissertation research. These may include a foreign language or specialized training outside of the anthropology department in areas such as statistics, computer programming or laboratory techniques. Students will be formally notified by their adviser of such additional requirements.
- Defense of the doctoral proposal. All students must defend a doctoral proposal prior to admission to PhD candidacy. PhD proposal defenses should be carried out by December 15 of the student's third year, and they must be carried out no later than the end of the third year. Proposals must be defended before a faculty committee consisting of a minimum of three full-time tenured or tenure-track members of the anthropology faculty (refer to "Forming the Doctoral Research Advisory Committee" above).
- Petition for admission to doctoral candidacy. After a student’s doctoral proposal has been successfully defended and after all other requirements set by the Graduate School, the Department of Anthropology, the subdiscipline, and the student’s committee have been met, the student and their adviser should submit a petition to the chair for advancement to candidacy; the chair will then inform the entire faculty and forward the petition to the Graduate School.
Mentored Teaching Experience
As part of the training and professionalization of graduate students in anthropology, the department requires all students to participate in a minimum of five Mentored Teaching Experiences (MTEs). All students participating in the MTEs are required to attend the teaching orientation offered by the Washington University Teaching Center during the summer after their first year of graduate study. First-year students will not participate in an MTE, but they subsequently will complete at least five MTEs during years two through six. All teaching for the MTEs must be done in the anthropology department, and students will register under LGS 600 during the semesters in which they complete MTEs.
The Doctoral Dissertation
In addition to the general guidelines below, specific details about timelines for each subdiscipline can be found on the Department of Anthropology website.
In all cases, the dissertation must constitute an integrated, coherent work, with parts that are logically connected. It must have a written introductory chapter that sets forth the general theme and core questions of the dissertation research and that explains the relationship among the constituent chapters or parts. The introduction will typically include, as is appropriate to the discipline, a review of the literature relevant to the dissertation; an explanation of theories, methods and/or procedures utilized by the author; and a summary discussion of the contribution of the dissertation project to knowledge in the field. In its final deposited form, the dissertation must constitute an archivable product that meets the standards prescribed by the university.
The dissertation may consist (in whole or in part) of co-authored chapters and articles, but the candidate must be a major contributor to the research and writing of any such papers and must describe their ideas, individual efforts, and contributions to the larger work. To be in compliance with the university’s policy on plagiarism and academic integrity, a dissertation that incorporates co-authored work must also include in its introduction an explanation of the role of the candidate in the research and in the writing of the co-authored work.
Whether this dissertation format is appropriate for a given dissertation in the Department of Anthropology (within a subdiscipline that accepts such a dissertation) must be determined a priori by the student and their doctoral committee. Should it be deemed appropriate, the dissertation must have an introductory chapter that provides the theme and core questions of the dissertation research and that explains the relationships between the constituent chapters and parts; it must also have a concluding chapter that brings together the information and ideas expressed in the thesis, relates them to the introduction, and shows how they constitute a coherent whole.
If a dissertation includes previously published materials (authored or co-authored), the candidate must provide a full referencing of when and where individual papers have been published. Because prior publication and multiple authorship have implications with respect to copyright, PhD candidates should discuss copyright with advisers and obtain copyright clearance from any co-authors well in advance of defending the dissertation. Written permission must be obtained in order to include articles copyrighted by others within the dissertation.
It is the responsibility of the student and the student’s dissertation committee to ensure that the dissertation meets all requirements regarding authorship, academic integrity, and copyright, as here outlined.
The Dissertation Defense
Prior to submitting the final dissertation to the Graduate School, the student must successfully defend their dissertation in an oral examination before a committee approved by the Graduate School.
In addition to the general guidelines below, specific details about timelines and procedures for each subdiscipline can be found on the Department of Anthropology website.
Committee approval. The examining committee consists of at least five members, who normally meet two independent criteria:
- Four of the five must be tenured or tenure-track Washington University faculty; one of these four may be a member of the emeritus faculty. The fifth member must have a doctoral degree and an active research program, whether at Washington University, at another university, in government or in industry.
- Three of the five must come from the student's degree program (i.e., anthropology); at least one of the five must not.
All committees must be approved by the dean of the Graduate School or by their designee.
Procedure. Attendance by a minimum of four members of the Dissertation Defense Committee, including the committee chair and an outside member, is required for the defense to take place. This provision is designed to permit the defense to proceed in case of a situation that unexpectedly prevents one of the five members from attending. Students should not plan in advance to have only four members in attendance; if one of those four cannot attend, the defense must be rescheduled. Note that the absence of all outside members or of the committee chair would necessitate rescheduling the defense.
Submission of the Dissertation
Students who defend their dissertations successfully have not completed their PhD requirements; they finish earning the degree only when their dissertation submission has been accepted by the Graduate School. The exact dates for the deadline to submit the dissertation to the Graduate School are set yearly.
Specific Subdiscipline Requirements
Please visit the following websites for more information regarding specific subfield requirements: