The primary focus of the anthropology graduate program is 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.

Programs for the master's degree in anthropology are intended to build professional competence in the field of concentration. Thorough undergraduate preparation is assumed. Basic training in archaeology, biological anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology, taken as an undergraduate major in anthropology, is recommended. Specific requirements vary for each concentration. Students are encouraged to consult Graduate Studies in Anthropology for details on requirements for each concentration.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master's degrees

M.A., M.S.

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

30 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Degree coursework must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirement: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Contact the department for a list of required courses in each area of concentration.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

A GPA of 3.5. No less than 3.0 during the first year; must have a 3.5 thereafter.

Other Grade Requirements

Candidates may not have a GPA lower than 3.0 during the first year and must maintain a 3.5 GPA every year thereafter. Candidates may not carry more than 4 credits of Incomplete at any one time; credits of Incomplete over this limit are counted as grades of F for purposes of the GPA until removed.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

Progress criteria may be waived in special circumstances which must be stated in writing and approved by the appropriate section and signed by the department chair. Candidates not making satisfactory progress will be dropped from the program.

Advisor / Committee

Every graduate student will be assigned an advisor and a co-advisor. To ensure they are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects that students meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.

Assessments and Examinations

Successful completion of a comprehensive master's exam or a Ph.D. qualifying examination is required.

Time Constraints

Ph.D. qualifying examinations must be taken no later than the fourth semester and must be passed no later than the sixth semester.

Master's degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

This master's program is offered for work leading to the Ph.D. Students may not apply directly for the master's, and should instead see the admissions information for the Ph.D.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates, critiques, or elaborates the theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry or schools of practice in either biological, archaeological, or cultural anthropology.
  • Identifies relevant data and assembles evidence pertaining to questions or challenges in one of the three subfields of anthropology taught in this department.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the primary field of study in a historical, social, or global/transnational contexts as revealed in the qualifying exam.
  • Selects and/or utilizes the most appropriate methodologies and practices in the sub-discipline.
  • Evaluates or synthesizes information pertaining to questions or challenges in one of the three subfields of anthropology taught in this department.

Professional Conduct

  • Communicates clearly in ways appropriate to the field of study.