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Program Description

The PhD Program in Anthropology provides doctoral training in each of the discipline's subfields: cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. The program is committed to excellence in training students for careers in research and teaching, as well as non-academic occupations. We cultivate a supportive and creative atmosphere that encourages transdisciplinary engagement and innovative research from a solid grounding in disciplinary foundations, including basic knowledge of all subfields.

In addition to course work, students have opportunities for early fieldwork experience through faculty directed projects and summer research funding. With close faculty guidance, students in the program receive outside funding for their research at an exceptionally high rate. Students also acquire significant undergraduate teaching experience at the various colleges of the CUNY system and other colleges in the area while completing their degrees. Through the Graduate Center's consortial arrangement with other institutions in the area, doctoral students can take courses at Fordham, The New School, Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers, Stony Brook, and New York Universities. In pursuing their research, they are also able to tap the rich resources of the city itself, from the nearby New York Public Library to the American Museum of Natural History and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The Program is committed to diversity among its students in terms of both research interests and backgrounds.  Enrollment of students of African and Hispanic/Latino descent remains well above the national average. This committment, combined with the investments of the Graduate Center administration and the expansive resources of the larger CUNY system have allowed us to craft a uniquely hybrid program of high quality and palpable energy.

Interdisciplinary Study and Certificate Programs

Students in the PhD Program in Anthropology benefit from several interdisciplinary centers, academic concentrations, and certificate programs at the Graduate Center. Interdisciplinary concentrations include: European Union Studies, Fashion Studies, Food Studies, Language and Literacy, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Lesbian/Gay/Queer Studies, Public Policy and Urban Studies, and Urban Health and Society. Certificate Programs are available in Africana Studies, American Studies, Demography, Medieval Studies, Women’s Studies, and Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. In addition, over 40 research centers and institutes provide a nexus for students interested in transdisciplinary topics, including LGBT Studies (CLAGS was the first such research center in the United States), Western Hemisphere Affairs (The Bildner Center), Jewish Studies, European Union Studies, Middle East and Middle Eastern American Studies, Human Ecodynamics Research, Philanthropy and Civil Society, Place, Culture and Politics, Culture, Technology and Work, and Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, among others.

Requirements for the Doctorate

A minimum of 60 credits of approved course work is required for a PhD. The student's course of study must be designed in consultation with an advisor and the Executive Officer. The first level provides grounding in general anthropology, theory, and the basic concepts and methods of the student's subfield. At the second level, students pursue advanced work within the subfield, selected from the broad range of specialties represented in the faculty. The third level, after completion of 60 credits, is devoted to research for the dissertation. All students are required to complete a core course or similar basic study in each of the subfields other than their own, preferably before the completion of 45 credits. Students who have a strong background in other subfields may be exempted from part or all of the requirement. Students are also required to complete three credits worth of course work in research methodologies/statistics. For archaeology and physical anthropology, one course in statistics, to be approved by the student's advisor and the Executive Officer, must be completed with a grade of B or better. Students in linguistic anthropology may present a second language (which may be a field language) instead of statistics. In cultural anthropology, students may take research methods courses in lieu of statistics. At least 15 credits of advanced level seminars or courses are required, unless exempted by the Executive Officer. In cultural anthropology, students are also required to take two area courses.
First Examination: The First Examination, a general qualifying examination in the student's subfield, consists of a six-hour written portion and a one-hour oral portion with the examining committee, and includes a general evaluation of the student's progress in the program. The student will normally take the First Examination in the semester following completion of 18-24 credits, although an extension may be granted by the Executive Officer to no later than the semester following the one in which the student is registered for the 36th credit. Students may elect to take a First Examination that combines two or more subfields. All students are required to take the First Examination.
LanguageExamination: The student must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one foreign language appropriate to his or her field of specialization. The foreign language examination must be passed before the student is advanced to candidacy.
Second Examination: The Second Examination is an oral exam in which the student must demonstrate thorough knowledge of two areas of specialization within the subfield (generally one topical and one area specialty), and defend a proposal for dissertation research. Normally, the Second Examination takes place upon completion of 60 credits. A four-member faculty advisory committee is appointed to assist the student in preparing for the Second Examination, which includes the preparation of selective bibliographies for the two specialties. During the exam the committee questions the student on his/her command of the previously approved bibliographies. If the student performs satisfactorily he/she may present and defend a research proposal.

Research Proposal Defense: With the assistance of the advisory committee, the student prepares a research proposal setting forth the proposed dissertation research. The proposal must be defended before, and approved by, the committee for the Second Examination, usually at the time of the examination or within three months after the specialties portion is taken.
Upon completion of all the above requirements, the student will be advanced to doctoral candidacy.
Dissertation Defense: The candidate must write and defend a dissertation on an approved subject, under the supervision of a dissertation committee composed of the student's principal advisor, two other faculty members, and an outside reader. Approval by a majority of the committee constitutes successful completion of the dissertation requirement.


Detailed descriptions of various aspects of the Program, including structure, governance and the course of study, are provided in the Program Handbook. It serves as the resource of record for most questions regarding the program and supplements the more general information contained in both the Bulletin of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, (especially that which appears in the section designated "Anthropology"), and the Graduate Center Student Handbook. Ideas for making the Program Handbook more useful, as well as suggestions for changes in program policy or practice described therein, should be directed to the Executive Officer, subfield coordinator, or the relevant committee.

Handbook for the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology (May 2021) (PDF)

Anthropology at CUNY

The activities and personnel of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology at the Graduate Center represent only part of the anthropological resources available at CUNY, all of which enrich the Doctoral Program directly and indirectly. For additional anthropological resources in the CUNY system, check out the websites of other CUNY anthropology departments: