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Master’s Degree Programs in Anthropology Overview

Majors Overview November 17, 2015

Anthropology covers the interdisciplinary study of human societies from historical, biological, and cultural perspectives. A Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology is available to students in a 1-2 years format at universities.

Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Anthropology

Many schools offer master’s degree programs in anthropology. Enrollees are required to hold a bachelor’s degree. If it is not in anthropology, students should complete courses in biology and the social sciences. Applicants are also required to be proficient in a language other than English.

Full-time students can complete a master’s degree program within 1-2 years. Archeological theory and methods are in the core coursework. Schools may allow students to choose a focus area such as social, biological, or cultural anthropology, and they may also be able to choose to complete an internship in the field.

A major focus of the program is on developing research skills. Students learn about quantitative reasoning as employed in research as well as in work on research projects. Completion of a thesis may also be a requirement.

Master’s Programs in Anthropology

Program coursework in anthropology programs typically includes core coursework in archeology, augmented by courses in subareas such as medical anthropology, social anthropology, biological anthropology and cultural anthropology. Students learn about the application of research, quantitative reasoning, and laboratory methods to anthropological study. Specific topics can differ by program, and the primary focus might be on Mayan cultures and history, languages, Latin America, Caribbean cultures, tourism, iconography, ethnography, and nutrition. Both non-thesis or thesis track options are available through schools. Conduct of research and completion of a research paper or thesis is expected of thesis-track enrollees while a comprehensive examination may have to be passed instead by those in the non-thesis track.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree and to submit letters of recommendation. Those who majored in an area other than anthropology must have a general background in the social or physical sciences or biology. Applicants must also meet minimum GPA and GRE standards.


Program coursework includes core training and seminars in anthropological methods, research, and theories. Students may choose electives corresponding to concentration options focusing more closely on society, ecology, archeology, or the environment. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Forensic anthropology
•Ethnographic research
•Ecological anthropology
•Archaeology theory
•The Ancient Mayans
•Pedagogy and Culture
•Human prehistory

Career Choices

Program graduates commonly seek careers in government work or academia (American Anthropological Association). They may choose from possible job titles such as:

•Social science researcher
•Archaeology contractor
•Museum staff member

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates may pursue continuing education by earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Anthropology that requires students to complete a dissertation and presents them with advanced research opportunities. Students get the training they would need to pursue careers in higher education and academia.

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