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 in anthropology who prefer to pursue a program leading to a specialization in, for example, linguistic anthropology, may elect to take a joint degree. 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 human and nonhuman primate skeletal biology, wet lab facilities, and computational laboratory with 3D printing and morphometrics, in addition to two large teaching laboratories.

Concentrations within the major are available in archaeology, social and cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, or an intersectional degree track (see description below).

All programs assume that candidates have had general undergraduate training in the discipline equivalent to that required of an undergraduate major at UW–Madison. See Anthropology.


Occasionally students have special interests that can be pursued only through a combined program involving two or more of the subdisciplines within the program. Examples might include paleoanthropology, ethnoarchaeology, or biocultural anthropology. The department offers an intersectional degree track as an option for these special cases. Interested students should write a carefully prepared statement of intent at the time of application to graduate school. This area of study may take longer to complete, and it is strongly suggested that students who are interested in an intersectional program begin in one of the three major sections prior to making this commitment. Admission to the intersectional program requires prior approval by faculty in each section, and students should contact appropriate faculty before writing their statement.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.*
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applicants are not required to submit their GRE scores. Applicants can submit their GRE scores as supplemental materials.

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.

graduate study

Students interested in pursuing degrees in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison will find themselves members of a vibrant intellectual community. The university is an important crossroads where a diversity of debate and intellectual exchange can be found. The department is actively involved in this diverse community and regularly invites renowned scholars from all over the world to give talks and hold seminars. When a new student is admitted to the department, that student also becomes a colleague to a diverse group of scholars.

The department recognizes that the methods, perspectives, and theoretical orientation originating in anthropology have now invigorated many other disciplines. This blurring of the borders between disciplines has created a cross-fertilization that is unprecedented in the history of Western academics. The department encourages students to take part in this process, as it relates both to intradisciplinary relationships within the sections and to interdisciplinary relationships between departments.

The primary focus of the Department of Anthropology is on 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.

The Department of Anthropology offers prospective graduate students the opportunity to pursue study within one of three major subfields of contemporary anthropology: archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology plus an intersectional eegree (see below for more information on these programs).


The anthropology department offers three major fields of study in contemporary anthropology: archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology, or within the intersectional degree program.

The primary focus of the Department of Anthropology is the doctoral degree. A master’s degree is awarded in the process of pursuing the Ph.D.; students are not admitted for the sole purpose of obtaining a master’s degree.

Contact the Anthropology Graduate Advisor for information on your specific interests in anthropology. Connect with current anthropology graduate students through the UW student organization AnthroCircle to learn about their experience in our program.

Application for graduate study in Anthropology

The application deadline is December 1 for the following fall semester.

All documents and test scores must be complete and submitted by December 1 for your application to be deemed complete for review and consideration. Please keep in mind that December 1 is the deadline for all anthropology admissions. Although the Graduate School will process your application, the department has a December 1 deadline, and may not process your application without supporting documentation. Please contact the graduate coordinator prior to sending your application if after December 1.


Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

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 UW–Madison are encouraged to contact the relevant Area Studies Program to explore the possibilities for a (FLAS) Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship.

More information can be found here.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework 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 (https://registrar.wisc.edu/course-guide/).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement A GPA of 3.50. No less than 3.0 during the first year; must have a 3.50 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.
Assessments and Examinations Ph.D. qualifying examinations must be taken no later than the fourth semester and must be passed no later than the sixth semester. Students must take preliminary examinations no later than the third semester after passage of the qualifying examinations, and pass no later than the fifth semester after qualifying examinations.
Language Requirements Language requirements are determined on an individual basis with the major professor and will depend on the area concentration within the department.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate.

Required COURSES

Students choose from one of four concentrations/tracks (also referred to as "sections") in the department. Students earn an M.A. or M.S. on the way to the Ph.D. and should refer to the requirements on those pages for information about specific courses required.

All concentrations (archaeology, biological, cultural, intersectional) require one 300-level or above course in one of the other concentrations.

Archaeology Concentration Pathway1

21 additional credits to the master's degree, including two seminars in anthropology/archaeology.


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Biological Concentration Pathway1

21 additional credits to the master's degree, including coursework relevant to field of specialization.


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Cultural Concentration Pathway1

21 additional credits to the master's degree, including at least one graduate seminar above the 900 level in addition to ANTHRO 860 and ANTHRO 900 in the Department of Anthropology. In addition, students must also take ANTHRO 909, which may be taken as a directed study when it is not offered as a course by the department, and it affects a student’s progress.. Substitutions for 900 level courses can only be made by petition to the Cultural Section.


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Intersectional Concentration Pathway1

There are no specific courses required; students choose courses in consultation with their advisor.


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

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.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

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

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.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

  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.


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 from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies.


15 credits

Time Limits

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 be required 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.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


We have a limited amount of graduate student support through teaching assistantships and fellowships. These are awarded competitively, and are only awarded to those applicants who have all their materials in by the December 1 deadline.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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; and teach effectively as assistants to professors in the department.
  4. Communicate complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  5. Follows ethical principles of the discipline including respect and sensitivity to host cultures and communities, inclusiveness and diversity, civility and colleagiality, and zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

Faculty: See Anthropology.