Anthropology PhD

Anthropology FAQ

For information on the application process, deadlines and funding, please see our Graduate Admission FAQs.


Q: What is the anthropology PhD degree? 
A: The School of Human Evolution and Social Change is an excellent choice if you are interested in pursuing a PhD in the traditional fields of anthropology (sociocultural anthropology, evolutionary anthropology or archaeology). It is also an ideal environment if your specific interests and research questions fundamentally integrate with other disciplines.

Q: What makes anthropology at ASU different?
A: Our flexible graduate curricula are designed to encourage you to design innovative programs of study that mesh with your interests while providing the broad underpinnings to train you in key, fundamental areas. Our anthropologists actively engage with faculty in other disciplines, including environmental economics, formal modeling, urban planning, science and technology studies, and sociology. Our numerous and dynamic experiential learning opportunities in laboratories and field sites focus on finding ancient human fossils; unearthing buried cities, villages and hunter-gatherer camps; understanding the development of language; appreciating the cultures of such diverse areas as Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean Basin; disease and medicine; human-environmental interactions; and many other topics that explore humans of the past and present.

Q: Who is the ideal anthropology PhD student? 
A: In this degree you can expect to be trained and professionally mentored, rather than simply supervised. If you are really focused solely on questions of traditional disciplinary interest rather than how disciplinary knowledge can be applied to real-world problems, this may not be the ideal program for you. This entire university is fast-paced, dynamic and demanding, which requires consistently high-quality independent output, collaborative skills and leadership. If your goal is to develop a top-notch professional social science skill set applied to anthropological issues and if you can remain motivated, open-minded and team-oriented, the conditions are right for you to flourish here.

Q: What type of graduate-level training will I receive within the anthropology degree?
A: You need to first select which of our “approaches” will be your core intellectual home: archaeology, bioarchaeology, evolutionary anthropology or sociocultural anthropology. Museum anthropology, medical anthropology and ecological/environmental anthropology students usually join sociocultural anthropology, although other arrangements can be made if it’s in your best interest. Some specific areas of faculty expertise at ASU in which we can provide particularly strong graduate-level training include:

  • Ancient and modern DNA
  • Complexity studies
  • Ecological dynamics of societies
  • Epidemiology
  • Formal ethnographic methods
  • GIS
  • Health and disease
  • Human origins
  • Human osteology
  • Urbanism
  • Modeling

We are very impressed by applicants interested in working in two or more of these areas. With the recent addition of the applied mathematics for the life and social sciences degree to our school, we are also able to offer world-class training in mathematical models and methodologies and their application to anthropological research.

Q: What faculty will I work with?
A: Although this degree is administered by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, we draw our graduate faculty from across ASU to support your academic career. More than 60 Arizona State University faculty are on our graduate faculty due to their broad social science expertise in areas such as human and physical geography; cultural, medical and environmental anthropology; archaeology; community resources; demography; geographic information systems; environmental history; urban planning; public affairs; environmental sociology; mathematical modeling; and science and technology studies. The university’s vibrant community partnerships and core areas of sustainability, complexity and healthcare innovation also offer our students broad research opportunities. You can browse the full list at the link above after selecting anthropology from the drop-down menu.

Q: What careers is this anthropology PhD suited for? 
A: Our students are mainly intent on securing academic careers in transdisciplinary programs like this one, where they can continue to study and teach at a university level. Others are focused on working in the private, public and nonprofits sectors, where leadership and technical consulting positions in NGOs, government agencies, marketing firms, technology and research demand the knowledge and analytic skills you will gain here. Although the possibilities are endless, the American Anthropological Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offer useful data.

Q: What degree will I graduate with?
A: A PhD in anthropology.

Q: What are some of the baccalaureate degrees of current anthropology PhD students? 
A: Anthropology, biological sciences, political science, communications and geography are some of the undergraduate program areas of current anthropology PhD students. You can enter the program with either a master’s degree in a relevant field or enter with your bachelor’s degree. For those with limited social science background, we highly recommend taking some key social sciences and anthropology courses at the graduate level before you apply, such as social theory, social research methodologies, human origins, sociocultural anthropology and archaeological methods.

Q: How long will it take me to complete the degree? 
A: As a full-time student entering with a master’s degree, you can expect to complete the PhD in five years. If you are entering with a BA or BS and will attend full time, it should take you no longer than six years to finish.

Q: Can I talk to someone about the program? 
A: Yes, we have a full-time academic success specialist dedicated to our graduate programs. She can guide you through the process, refer you to others on campus as needed and answer or further research all of your questions. She can be reached at