Anthropology PhD

The anthropology doctoral program in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University invites excellent, ambitious students to join in cutting-edge research in archaeology, bioarchaeology, evolutionary anthropology and sociocultural anthropology. Graduate students in anthropology receive one of a kind training to be transdisciplinary social and natural scientists via:

1. Routinely engaging in intensive, collaborative training with other disciplines in SHESC (applied mathematics for the life and social sciences, environmental social science, global health, museum studies) and across the university (School of Life Sciences, Complex Adaptive Systems, Sustainability, Justice Studies, Religious Studies, Geology, etc.). This fosters critical research on key questions in anthropology and across the social sciences, producing work that is ethical, tangible, accessible and beneficial for all humanity.

2. Undertaking research that covers the world — throughout the Americas; northern, Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa; Europe; Asia; Indonesia; Melanesia; and Polynesia — and extends from the deep past of human origins to contemporary communities.

3. Access to more than 20 on-campus laboratories, 12 field stations, and additional international fieldwork projects.

4. A program faculty who take pride in mentoring and supporting students.

Together only this program offers unparalleled training opportunities that utilize holistic methodological approaches to answer research questions on:

  • The behavior of living primates and the evolutionary origins of human uniqueness.
  • The ecology and beginning of farming
  • The sustainability of social and political institutions
  • The development of institutionalized social inequality
  • The origin and dynamism of cities
  • The role of language, technology and material culture in identity negotiation
  • The evolution of cultural learning
  • The causes and consequences of cooperation and conflict.
  • The long-term reciprocal impacts between people and their environment
  • The biological and biocultural bases for health and disease throughout time.
  • Global health disparities and health development programs, including solutions to obesity, and food and water security.
  • Cultural heritage, museums and cultural representation.
  • The impact of environmental, economic and technological changes on local and indigenous peoples
  • Immigration, immigrant youth and return migration

As a program, we are also committed to fostering an inclusive, diverse, healthy and safe working environment where students can thrive. Current job titles held by alumni include cultural resources manager, state parks archaeologist, heritage specialist and assistant professor.

Top image courtesy of Benjamin Reed Photography

#1 for research
60+ faculty
4 fields of study

Degree Overview

Through annual travel grants, research fellowships and workshop support, students build the field, lab and analytical skills necessary for their research, undertake pilot work and participate in conferences. Through Proposal Writing and Ethnographic Field Methods classes students receive mentoring in grant writing with exceptional success. Through Dissertation Completion Fellowships, faculty help advanced students focus on writing up their dissertations. This program also offers training in effective teaching practices, as well as opportunities for all but dissertation (ABD) students to teach a variety of classes.

First-year graduate students are required to take a seminar on professionalism that sets the values and mission of SHESC and facilitates cohort building. Each student, in collaboration with their mentoring committee, builds their own course of study through a flexible curriculum that emphasizes interdisciplinary breadth and disciplinary depth.

When beginning the program, you will first select which of our “approaches” will be your core intellectual home: archaeology, bioarchaeology, evolutionary anthropology or sociocultural anthropology.


Students in this program may include the following optional concentration in their coursework and should consult the graduate advisor for more information.

Complex Adaptive Systems Science

This concentration trains the next generation of scientists in advanced concepts and methods needed for approaching diverse phenomena in the social and life sciences. The program is tightly integrated with diverse, ongoing, university-wide research on complex adaptive systems science and emphasizes the value of this perspective to give better insight and a more active role in seeking solutions to a broad array of critical issues facing our society today. Students will be fluent in the common language of complexity while also receiving a solid foundation in the domain knowledge of existing academic disciplines. Students will select 15 credits from an approved list of applicable courses.

How to apply


Prospective students must submit an application for graduate admission, the application fee and the following required materials:

  • official transcripts
  • personal statement outlining educational and professional goals
  • current curriculum vitae or resume
  • three letters of recommendation
  • proof of English proficiency

Applicants may also submit an optional scholarly writing sample not to exceed 20-30 double-spaced pages. More information on submitting your materials is available from the Graduate College.

To be considered, prospective students must have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of a student's first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

    Undergraduate coursework in anthropology is not a prerequisite for admission but is generally advisable. Students may be admitted without such a background and may be required to acquire knowledge of general anthropology in a manner to be specified at the time of admission.

    Our program is ranked first in the nation for anthropology research expenditures by the National Science Foundation.


    84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation are required.

    Students entering with a master's degree in a related field may be granted up to 30 credit hours toward the 84 credit hours required for the doctorate. This leaves 30 credit hours of coursework, 12 credit hours of research and 12 credit hours of dissertation (54 credit hours total) to be earned post-admission.

    Students entering without a master's degree must earn an additional 30 hours of graduate credit, produce a research portfolio which is formally evaluated by a faculty committee, and present that research in a public forum before continuing on in the later stage of the doctorate.

    All students must maintain a 3.20 (scale is 4.00 = "A") average GPA in their courses and complete degree requirements per the program's satisfactory progress policy.


    Core courses


    Masters research paper


    Approach-specific elective courses*






         Total credits


    * See additional information for your chosen approach: archaeology, bioarchaeology, evolutionary anthropology or sociocultural anthropology.

    Courses and electives

    Students entering the PhD in anthropology do so with diverse backgrounds and with varied career goals, so we recognize the need to be flexible in planning the most appropriate path for each student. Curricular tracks vary based on your chosen approach, and final determination of the most appropriate course of study or how each requirement should most appropriately be met is made by a student’s advisory committee in consideration of the research and career goals of the student.

    All students will take the following courses:

    ASB 591 Professionalism (1 credit)
    ASM 579 Proposal Writing (3 credits)

    The student writes one publishable research paper that demonstrates the ability to develop a research question, and to gather, analyze, and interpret data systematically to address that question. The paper could be inspired by coursework, but will ultimately derive from the Readings and Conference and/or Research work with the supervisor. Students present the research paper as an oral presentation in a school-wide research symposium, held in the latter part of each spring semester.

    ASB 590 Research and Conference (1-6 credits)
    ASB 592 Research (1-6 credits)

    Students will choose the courses that best fit their needs in consultation with their committee (50 credits). See additional information for each approach: archaeology, bioarchaeology, evolutionary anthropology or sociocultural anthropology.

    Doctoral Examinations
    Prior to advancing to candidacy, the student completes a written doctoral examination and prepares and orally defends a dissertation proposal (oral examination). The written examination can take the form that most suits the approach, such as a comprehensive exam developed by the committee, a field statement, or a pre-proposal background statement.

    Students write a dissertation, which must be approved by their supervisory committee. The format of the dissertation must be in accordance with ASU Graduate College guidelines. The ASU Graduate College accepts either three published (or publishable) papers or a dissertation format. The culmination is the public presentation and oral defense of the dissertation. Possible formats for the public presentation include a summary (approximately 20 minutes) of the most important points in the dissertation, or a longer (approximately 40 minutes) talk, based on the dissertation, of the kind that would be expected in the research portion of a job interview.

    ASB 792 Research (12 credits)
    ASB 799 Dissertation (12 credits)