PhD in Anthropology

Front of Hortense Amsterdam House

The PhD in Anthropology program empowers students to apply anthropological concepts to contemporary social problems. Through rigorous coursework and independent research, students hone their communication and academic expertise. 

Doctoral students work in small cohorts under faculty mentors. They explore ethnographic questions and complete original research that integrates archaeology, gender studies, ethnography, international affairs, museum studies and more.

The PhD in Anthropology has no formal concentrations but is primarily focused on sociocultural anthropology and the archaeology of biologically modern humans (applicants interested in the study of human evolution should apply instead to the PhD in Human Paleobiology). All students are strongly encouraged to complete an internship at one of Washington, D.C.’s many cultural institutions and museums.

GRE scores are not required for application to the MA, MS and PhD programs and, if submitted with the application, will play no role in our departmental admissions decisions. The department of anthropology values building a thriving intellectual community that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. We do not consider GRE scores to be a valid predictor of intellectual promise —  indeed we believe the GRE often promotes injustices that are contrary to our values.


Admissions and Funding

All students admitted into the program receive a fellowship that provides tuition, a stipend and a teaching assistant salary. These packages provide support for five years, one year of which will be a University Fellowship that does not include teaching responsibilities. Students are expected to apply for external funding to support dissertation research and writing. At least one student may be partially supported through funding from the GW Institute for Ethnographic Research while working as an assistant editor for the journal Anthropological Quarterly.

While the Anthropology Department primarily accepts full-time students into the PhD program, in exceptional circumstances, part-time students may be considered. Please contact the director of graduate studies (DGS) before submitting any application materials. Note that part-time students are not eligible for University funding.

We recommend that students contact faculty with whom they have an interest in working to further discuss whether our PhD program is well suited to their interests. Of the required application materials, the most important component is the statement of purpose. The statement should convey the student’s scholarly interests, intellectual questions and literature with which they engage. The program considers both applicants who have already completed a Masters degree in anthropology as well as those who have only completed an undergraduate degree. Credit transfer for students with an MA is considered on a course by course, and case by case basis.

The PhD program's application deadline for admission in Fall 2024 is December 15.

Questions? Contact the director of graduate studies for the PhD program.


Research Area Highlight


Areas of Interest

The PhD in Anthropology program encourages prospective students with scholarly interests in public life to discuss their research interests in these focus areas during the application process:

  • The social world of public policy, both in centers of power and in the diverse range of places where these policies are formulated, contested and put into practice. Washington, D.C., provides unique access to such institutions.
  • The complex work of governance at global, national and local scales. This research area asks questions about the discourse and practice of scientific, bureaucratic and religious authority.
  • The role of materiality and material culture in the various dimensions of social life. In this focus, students explore how things are made, consumed and circulate through time and space.
  • The role of the digital in our world, and how it constitutes, transforms and disrupts the contemporary human experience. Digital ethnography examines the internet’s role in our lives, as well as how it affects “offline” categories such as kinship, labor, gender, power, mobility and inequality.
  • The social model of disability. In this area, society and not the individual is responsible for disability. Research explores how societies create and classify impairments, and how disability reverberates through kinship, politics, religion and aesthetics. What does one community view as deviant, and another view as expected?

Course Requirements

Requirements for the first phase of the program
Core proseminars
Students are expected to take three of the four offered proseminars; however, students with significant background in a field, as determined through petition to the instructor, may waive one proseminar.
ANTH 6101Proseminar in Biological Anthropology
ANTH 6102Proseminar in Sociocultural Anthropology
ANTH 6103Proseminar in Archaeology
ANTH 6104Proseminar in Linguistic Anthropology
One research methods seminar
ANTH 6531Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology
One professional skills and ethics seminar
Elective courses
Dissertation Research (6-24 credits)
ANTH 8999Dissertation Research

All students must demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language; an additional language may be required if it is needed for fieldwork or archival research. An internship in anthropology and public life at an institution responsible for communicating anthropological knowledge to diverse audiences is recommended.

Requirements for the second phase of the program

In the second phase, students prepare a research proposal that meets funding agency guidelines and take the general examination in at least three major areas (e.g., a general field in anthropological theory, a geographic area, and a thematically defined field). Following successful completion of the general examination, an oral defense of the student’s research proposal is held. Those who pass advance to candidacy for the PhD and engage in completion and defense of the dissertation.