University of Massachusetts Amherst


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The Graduate Program

Graduate Program Director (GPD)

Elizabeth Krause,,
Office: 205 Machmer, (413) 577-1205

Graduate Admissions Director: (GAD)

Ventura Perez , email:,
Office: W10 Machmer, (413) 577-0662

Deadline to apply is January 2

The graduate program in anthropology enables students to become fully competent anthropologists. This goal is common to all the programs our graduate students in anthropology pursue; yet it is realized differently from one student to another according to the expectations of faculty and students and the notions of what constitutes a competent anthropologist. While there is considerable diversity among our faculty concerning these expectations, there is a general consensus about the vision, making this a distinctive place to become a fully competent anthropologist. So what is that vision?

Traditionally, anthropology has been considered a four-field discipline, one comprised of the study of the cultures of peoples past and present, of human biology, and of language. The merging of these rather disparate concerns arose in the context of the development of the American research university in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The tendency, in the over-specialized late twentieth century, is for each of these sub-fields to be treated as independent of one another. However, we believe that one who is sensitive to the interplay of the past and the present, biology and culture, symbols and action, is most likely to come to a distinctively anthropological understanding of the human condition -- one that appreciates both the holism and the diversity of the ways of being human.

A practical implication of this understanding is that we have designed a set of requirements which embrace a four-field approach to anthropology. In choosing courses and in selecting topics both for statements of field and for the thesis and dissertation, students will find the faculty encouraging the development of breadth as well as particular skill in a chosen sub-field. Students in this program can expect to be regularly asked about the relevance of their work for practitioners in other sub-fields.

In realizing this vision of holism and diversity in educating fully competent anthropologists, we aim to interact with students as colleagues. Colleagues excel at making good presentations at professional meetings, writing interesting research papers and monographs, keeping one another up to date on the field, offering constructively critical commentary of one another's research, writing, and teaching, and participating actively in other ways in the community of anthropologists.

Though course work, theses, and defenses are crucial in fostering some of these collegial abilities, others develop only outside of classroom settings --in informal reading groups, one-on-one conversations, discussions in the lounge (Machmer 201), and regular all-department seminars, or regional or national meetings. These abilities cannot be learned in a simple rote manner, but require continual practice borne out of a substantial commitment on the part of students to craft their own understanding and its practice. As a practical result of this vision, students are expected to take responsibility for their own education and will be expected to do this outside of course work.

The Master's Degree (MA)

The master's degree is the first stage in the development of a professional career in anthropology. The MA degree may lead to admission to a PhD program, to a teaching career at the secondary or junior college level, or to other specialized employment, such as cultural resource management in archaeology or applied work in cultural anthropology in the public interest. Most students should complete the MA program within two years of full-time study.

The goal of the MA program is to enable the student to acquire the intellectual foundation and the skills to pursue a career as a professional anthropologist. To do that the student needs to demonstrate the capabilities to complete an MA thesis. This includes the ability to formulate anthropologically interesting problems, the critical ability to apply an appropriate methodology in linking empirical observations with a theoretically informed generalization, a working familiarity with a body of data (e.g. population, cultural area or period), and the ability to demonstrate these competencies in writing.

MA Requirements:

  1. Must complete a minimum of 30 graduate credits
    1. For those writing a MA thesis, a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 9 credits of Anthropology 699 must be completed.
    2. At least 21 credits must be earned in graduate course work in the department: of these at least 12 must be earned in courses 600-800 series if the student is not writing a thesis; otherwise, at least 6 credits beyond thesis credits must be from the 600-800 series of courses.
    3. The balance of credits may be earned in the 500-800 series of courses, whether in anthropology or in another department. With the specific permission of the advisor, courses in the 400 series outside the department may be included.
    4. Not more than 6 credits may be transferred into a student's degree program from non-degree programs (e.g. Continuing Education graduate credits, non-degree graduate status and credits earned at other universities.) Such transfers take place only after a recommendation from the advisor to the Graduate Program Director, GPD.

The Doctoral Degree (PhD)

PhD Requirements:

  1. Candidates must complete a minimum of 10 credits of Anthropology 899 (dissertation credits)
    1. There are no specific course or credit requirements beyond what may be mandated by the student's guidance committee.
    2. There is no maximum on the cumulative number of dissertation credits that may be earned overall, although not more than 9 credits may be earned in any one semester.
    3. Must fulfill the residency requirement, a minimum of two consecutive semesters (fall/spring, spring/fall) in residence at the University. The student must spend some part of each week physically on campus and may not be employed on more than a one-half time basis.

Graduate Handbook

Graduate Handbook


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