The Ph.D. program assumes previous broad anthropological training in the undergraduate major and competence in a special field at the master's level (see Graduate Studies in Anthropology). Ph.D. programs are flexible in content and are constructed individually within the field of specialization by the candidate, in consultation with the appropriate faculty.

Students working toward the Ph.D. degree with a major in anthropology who prefer to pursue a program leading to a specialization in, for example, linguistic anthropology, may elect to take a joint major. The requirements for such candidates will be determined by the certification committee, which includes members of the participating departments, and must be approved by the Graduate School.

Within the doctoral program, students are expected to seek additional training in areas relating to the field of concentration; in most cases, such related subjects may be taken as the required minor program. The archaeologist, for example, should elect course work in surveying, geology, cartography, zoology, history, and so on, depending on special interests. The biological anthropologist is expected to take work in comparative anatomy, human anatomy, genetics, and other biological sciences. The cultural or social anthropologist are encouraged to take further work in area studies, geography, history, history of science, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology, and related fields.

The university and vicinity provide many opportunities and facilities for training and research including specialized area and language programs, accessible American Indian reservations, significant archaeological sites, and important archaeological collections. Anthropological fieldwork is conducted in various parts of the world, and there is normally an archaeological field school every second summer. The department has major laboratories for biological anthropology and archaeology, and collaborates with the Center for Climatic Research. The archaeology laboratories maintain comparative collections; microscopes; a thin-section lab; a lab of archaeological chemistry; computerized drafting equipment; and modern drafting, computing, and analytical equipment for research and teaching. Facilities for training and research in biological anthropology include well-equipped laboratories for forensic anthropology, human and other primate osteology anatomy, plant chemistry, stable isotope analysis, and bone histomorphometry, in addition to two large teaching laboratories.

A limited number of teaching, research, and project assistantships are available annually, with occasional special research work for qualified individuals in both laboratory and field situations. Students who are planning to study a language taught at the UW–Madison are encouraged to contact the relevant Area Studies Program to explore the possibilities for a (FLAS) Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship.

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.

doctoral degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement


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 ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral 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 ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

All sections (archaeology, biological, cultural) require one 300-level or above course in one of the other sections. Contact the department for a list of required courses in each area concentration.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

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

Pass qualifying examinations no later than the sixth semester; take preliminary examinations no later than the third semester after passage of the qualifying examinations, and passed no later than the fifth semester.

Time Constraints

Approval of a dissertation topic no later than the semester following passage of preliminary examinations is required.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence.

Language Requirements

Language requirements are determined on an individual basis with the major professor and will depend on the area concentration within the department.

The Graduate School sets minimum requirements for admissions. Academic program admission requirements are often more rigorous than those set by the Graduate School. Please check the program's website for details.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within in either biological, archaeological or cultural anthropology in seminar papers and preliminary exam.
  • Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge in one of the three subfields above in the preliminary exam and dissertation.

Professional Conduct

  • We expect our graduate students to carry out original anthropological research and produce publishable work in the field including the writing of a dissertation; have a command of one or more foreign languages suited to their research when appropriate; actively compete for major intra- and extramural research grants; follow ethical principles of the discipline; and teach effectively as assistants to professors in the department.
  • Communicate complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.