What is Anthropology?
Anthropologists are concerned with the origin, history, and future of the human species. Our mission is to further our understanding of past and present human societies in their cultural, biological, and environmental contexts. The discipline provides students the knowledge and skills they will need to navigate these complex, multicultural, and rapidly changing worlds. Because we study what it is to be human, the field is one of the most wide-ranging of the academic disciplines.
There are four main subdisciplines of anthropology. Three are currently taught in our department: Archaeology is concerned with studying the human past based on the material culture left behind. Biological anthropology is concerned with human evolution and variation. Sociocultural anthropology is concerned with the many ways humans organize themselves and create, reproduce, and reject meaningful patters of life in changing local and global circumstances. Anthropologists across all of the subdisciplines apply holistic, comparative, and evolutionary perspectives and a range of methodologies in their research. We are committed to fieldwork and the application of this knowledge to helping people better understand one another.
Why Study Anthropology?
Students have many reasons for pursuing graduate degrees in anthropology. Some are curious about the origins of the human species. Others are fascinated the diversity of human experiences in ancient and modern periods. Some students intend to pursue international careers, where they will use languages and work in cultural contexts very different from those in which they were raised. Others plan to work in museums collecting and curating human cultural resources. Some wish to pursue graduate training in one of the field’s subdisciplines, while others seek to use their anthropological training as preparation for professional schools, including law, medicine, public health, journalism, business, and engineering. There are many professions where the broad scientific, humanistic, and multicultural knowledge available through the study of anthropology can be useful, such as education, healthcare, law, social work, business, human resources, public affairs, cultural resource management, or laboratory research.
The Anthropology Department at the University of Kansas maintains a holistic and integrative approach to studying human beings. Our world-class program has particular strengths in the Americas in all three subdisciplines, and is committed to engaged research with community partners.
We are committed to fully funding all PhD students for at least four years.
Anthropological Research Opportunities at KU
KU Anthropological Genetics
The KU Anthropological Genetics group maintains three laboratories and computing resources for graduate and undergraduate students wishing to incorporate genetics into their research.
- The Anthropological Genetics Research Facility has laboratory spaces for contemporary genomic analyses, as well as post-PCR and NGS library purification.
- The Ancient DNA Laboratory consists of cleanroom facilities and equipment for working with ancient DNA.
- Laboratory of Biological Anthropology (LBA): Founded in 1975, the LBA was established as a research center of the University of Kansas. The LBA currently houses DNA samples and training facilities for undergraduates.
The Archaeology program at KU has a number of resources for graduate students.
- Field Schools: Anthropology faculty offer field schools in archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Undergraduates and graduate students have conducted independent and collaborative research in the United States, including Alaska; Mexico, Central, and South America; sub-Saharan Africa; and Asia.
- Archaeological Research Center: Located in historic Spooner Hall on the main campus, the archaeology laboratory offers research space and support to Anthropology faculty and graduate students.
- KU Lab for Applied Archaeological Science (KLAAS). Located in Malott Hall, KLAAS applies experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to traditional questions in archaeology.
- The ODYSSEY Archaeological Research Program is run through the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS). ODYSSEY supports field-and laboratory-based research on the archaeology of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene in the Central Great Plains. ODYSSEY has supported numerous graduate and undergraduate students from the Department of Anthropology.
For specific questions about our program, please contact us:
The University of Kansas
Department of Anthropology
Graduate Program Coordinator
Admission to Graduate Studies
An applicant seeking to pursue graduate study in the College may be admitted as either a degree-seeking or non-degree seeking student. Policies and procedures of Graduate Studies govern the process of Graduate admission. These may be found in the Graduate Studies section of the online catalog.
Please consult the Departments & Programs section of the online catalog for information regarding program-specific admissions criteria and requirements. Special admissions requirements pertain to Interdisciplinary Studies degrees, which may be found in the Graduate Studies section of the online catalog.
Graduate Admission to the Anthropology Program
The anthropology graduate program begins at an advanced level. Preparation for the program through completion of an undergraduate major in anthropology is encouraged but not required. Some undergraduate preparation in fields closely related to anthropology, such as biology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, economics, geography, or geology, is strongly recommended. Undergraduate courses in such subjects as biology, philosophy, genetics, computer science, and history are of considerable value to the graduate student in anthropology.
Proficiency in a modern foreign language and in statistics is of special importance to candidates for graduate work in anthropology and will optimally have been acquired during the undergraduate years.
Submit your graduate application online. Other required application materials are:
- A resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
- A writing sample of your best academic work
- A personal statement describing your academic objectives and professional goals that clearly indicates the disciplinary track of interest (i.e., archaeology, biological anthropology, or sociocultural anthropology), and a description of your planned research
- Applicants who wish to be considered for departmental financial support (GTA or GRA positions, fellowships, etc.) should clearly state this in the personal statement
- Transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate study completed
- Three letters of recommendation from faculty members or others with whom you have worked and who know your work well
- Non-native speakers of English must meet English proficiency requirements set by KU Graduate Studies
Most application materials can be uploaded to the online application. GRE scores are not required.
Applicants who are interested in working with a particular faculty member are encouraged to reach out to them directly via email.
More information about departmental admissions and deadlines are available on the department website.
Students who are interested in enrolling in graduate level coursework in the Department of Anthropology without formal admission to a graduate program at KU are encouraged to apply for graduate non-degree seeking student status. See the department’s website for further details.
Ph.D. Degree Requirements
The Ph.D. in anthropology is awarded to candidates who have demonstrated specialized competence in one or more of the general fields and who have contributed to the body of knowledge and theory in the specialized field through independent, original research.
Ph.D. students in Anthropology must complete 30 credit hours prior to completion of the Ph.D. qualifying exam. No more than 6 hours of independent research or thesis credits (ANTH 896, ANTH 897, ANTH 898, ANTH 899, ANTH 996) may count toward the 30 hour total.
|Code ||Title ||Hours |
|Responsible Research and Scholarship in Anthropology|
|Proseminar I in Anthropology|
|Proseminar II in Anthropology|
In addition to the required courses above, all students must also demonstrate competency in a set of Core Topics, including:
- History/Theory in the Four Fields of Anthropology
- Knowledge in one's Area of Specialization
- Stewardship/Engaged Research
- Research Methods
All courses must be selected in consultation with the student's faculty advisor.
Core competencies may be fulfilled two ways: through completion of relevant courses (with a grade of "B" or better in each), or the submission of research papers deemed satisfactory by their committees. The research paper option could include research papers written outside of regular coursework such as papers for publication, papers written as a GRA, papers written while a graduate student at an outside institution, etc. The papers, collected in a written portfolio, will be evaluated as part of the Qualifying Exam.
Subdisciplines have specific ways for demonstrating Core Competencies, see the Graduate Handbook for details.
Students who complete an M.A. in Anthropology must fulfill their Core Competencies prior to the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam.
Research Skills & Responsible Scholarship Requirement (RSRS)
The University requires that every doctoral student have training in responsible scholarship pertinent to the field of research and obtain research skills pertinent to the doctoral level of research in their field(s). This requirement is satisfied by completion of ANTH 707.
All students seeking a Ph.D. must undergo a Qualifying Exam upon completion of their coursework, ideally in the second semester of their second year of study. The Qualifying Exam is a holistic evaluation of the student's suitability for the Ph.D. program, taking into account the student's overall capacity and preparation for graduate study leading to the Ph.D., the student's intellectual ability, self-application, creativity, portfolio of work, and prior performance in the program.
Students have the option of undergoing the Qualifying Exam in conjunction with or shortly following their M.A. exam. Students who elect not to receive the M.A. will have a standalone oral Qualifying Exam, with exam questions drawn from topics related to the student's written portfolio, administered in a closed session. If the students fails the exam, they may attempt the exam once more in written form.
Following completion of the Qualifying Exam, students complete 18 additional graduate credit hours. Of these 18 hours, no more than 9 may be in independent study (ANTH 896, ANTH 897, ANTH 898, or ANTH 996). Dissertation hours may not count toward this requirement.
From the beginning of doctoral study, the student should plan to conduct a doctoral dissertation project. This is an independent piece of research, usually requiring fieldwork, and leading to a dissertation that contributes to anthropological knowledge. The student's doctoral committee determines the exact form of the dissertation proposal; it may vary by subdiscipline. In the proposal, the student is expected to review the state of knowledge pertinent to the topic, describe the research problem, and explain the methods to be employed in the investigation.
All Ph.D. students must pass an Oral Comprehensive Examination by their fourth semester of post-M.A. enrollment (or completion of the Qualifying Exam). This exam will be based in part upon a dissertation proposal, which must be approved by the doctoral committee at least three weeks before the Oral Comprehensive Examination is scheduled. The exam is administered by the doctoral committee and is closed to the public (see the Graduate Handbook for more details). It may result in a grade of Honors, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory. Upon passing the exam, students are advanced to candidacy. In the case of a grade of Unsatisfactory, a student may repeat the exam a second time only with the approval of the student's Doctoral Committee and the Anthropology Graduate Committee. A third try is not permitted.
Following completion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam, students must continue to enroll in accordance with the Office of Graduate Studies Post-comprehensive Enrollment Policy until all Ph.D. requirements are met.
Defense of the Dissertation
When the dissertation is accepted by the doctoral committee, a final oral examination is held. The final oral examination is open to the public. The exam may be graded Honors, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory. In the case of an unsatisfactory grade, a student may repeat the exam a second time only with the approval of the student's Doctoral Committee and the Anthropology Graduate Committee. A third try is not permitted.
Handbook for Graduate Students
Detailed information, application deadlines, and general information may be found in the Graduate Student Handbook.
University Policies and Requirements
A list of all policies of the Office of Graduate Studies is available online in the in the Policy Library.