Graduate study in anthropology is open to individuals with varied undergraduate majors and training backgrounds.

Graduate students normally are admitted under the assumption that they intend to pursue the Ph.D. degree. The department also offers a terminal M.A. degree, with a focus on cultural resource management—archaeology (CRM), which provides academic preparation for a professional career in that field.

Ph.D. students who enter the program with a bachelor’s degree are typically awarded a master’s degree upon fulfilling program requirements at the end of their second year. The M.A. portion of the Ph.D. program features coursework across all four subfields of anthropology. Students also are strongly encouraged to conduct independent summer research, which is often supported by departmental and other university-based funding sources.

For additional information, view the Graduate Programs web page and the current Graduate Student Guidebook on the Department of Anthropology website.

The Master of Arts program in anthropology requires 30-36 s.h. of graduate credit, depending on a student's previous anthropological training. Students may count a maximum of 9 s.h. earned in courses outside anthropology toward the M.A. in anthropology. It is expected that a full-time student will complete all M.A. requirements by the end of the second year in the program. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00.

Master's degree students who choose to focus on cultural resource management—archaeology (CRM) normally do not go on to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology.

By the end of their first semester, each student must select an M.A. committee, consisting of an advisor and two additional professors. Each year, students compile, in consultation with their advisor, the three strongest papers written for anthropology courses, conferences, or journals; an annotated bibliography; their current curriculum vitae; and a three-page narrative to describe their intellectual trajectory in the M.A. program to date.

Master's degree students who intend to earn a doctorate should consider taking ANTH:5110 Anthropological Data Analysis or another statistics course during their M.A. study.

General Coursework

M.A. students not pursing the cultural resource management—archaeology focus must complete core seminars in all four subfields (total of 12 s.h.).

All of these:
ANTH:5101Seminar Sociocultural Anthropology3
ANTH:5201Seminar: Archaeological Theory and Method3
ANTH:5301Seminar: Biological Anthropology3
ANTH:5401Seminar: Linguistic Anthropology3


In consultation with the advisor and committee members, a student selects a minimum of 18 s.h. of additional coursework to complete the remaining semester hours required for the M.A. Elective work may include courses in other disciplines, directed study, and up to 6 s.h. of M.A. thesis credit for students who choose the thesis option.

Cultural Resource Management—Archaeology Focus

Most archaeological excavations and surveys are conducted as cultural resource management (CRM), so it is essential that all researchers who work with archaeological data and individuals committed to site preservation have a basic understanding of CRM. Students who select this focus area learn about the field and how to address related ethical issues as well as technical and theoretical challenges.

Students must complete the archaeological core graduate seminar. They also must complete a research paper, which is an archaeological study with a substantive data analysis directed toward an explicit archaeological research problem, suitable to meet the section three requirement for the Registry of Professional Archaeologist application form.

The cultural resource management—archaeology focus requires a total of 30 s.h., including 24 s.h. of coursework and 6 s.h. of independent research or thesis credit.

Required Coursework

Both of these:
ANTH:3240Cultural Resources Management Archaeology: Practice and Practicalities3
ANTH:5201Seminar: Archaeological Theory and Method3

Area Electives

Two of these:
ANTH:3243Archaeology of the American Midcontinent3
ANTH:3257North American Archaeology3
ANTH:3258Southwestern Archaeology3
ANTH:3260Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas3
ANTH:3265Archaeology of the Great Plains3

Technical Electives

Four of these:
ANTH:3207Animal Bones in Archaeology3
ANTH:3208Archaeological Methods3
ANTH:3237Politics of the Archaeological Past3
ANTH:3241Lithic Analysis in Archaeology3
ANTH:3255Introduction to Archaeological Ceramics3
ANTH:3295Field Research in Archaeology3
ANTH:3305Human Osteology3
ANTH:4207Seminar: Zooarchaeology3

Independent Research or Thesis

6 s.h. from these:
ANTH:6005Independent Study: Anthropologyarr.
ANTH:6010Research: Anthropologyarr.

Applicants for admission to the graduate program in anthropology are considered regardless of their previous field of training. Students without previous training in anthropology are expected to perform additional work as necessary to achieve competence expected for their degree objective.

Students normally are admitted under the assumption that they intend to pursue the Ph.D. degree. Students without an M.A. in anthropology devote the first two years fulfilling the M.A. requirements. After those requirements are completed, the student's committee may award the M.A. with admittance to the Ph.D. program.

Students with an M.A. in anthropology from another institution may proceed directly into a Ph.D. program organized around their special research interests. If they lack any of the requirements of the graduate program at the University of Iowa, they are informed of those requirements when admitted. Acceptance of credit hours from other institutions will follow UI regulations.

Applicants for admission to the graduate program must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

Anthropology graduate program applicants are required to upload the following documentation to the University of Iowa Graduate Admissions online application:

  • official academic records/transcripts from previous institutions attended;
  • a brief statement of interest or intent regarding why graduate study in the Department of Anthropology is desired;
  • three letters of recommendation;
  • a writing sample (preferably a research paper);
  • an application for graduate funding; and
  • official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores taken within the past five years from the Educational Testing Service (University of Iowa institution code 6681).

Applicants whose first language is not English must submit official test scores to verify English proficiency. Applicants can verify English proficiency by submitting official test scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Duolingo English Test (DET). Once recommended for admission, international students also must complete several additional requirements.

For more information concerning the required application elements, see Admissions Process on the Department of Anthropology website.

When completing the online Graduate College Application for Admission for Degree, applicants currently without a M.A. or M.S. in anthropology should enter "M.A." regardless of whether they intend to continue on to the doctoral program. Students at the M.A. level do not write a thesis, so "M.A. (thesis)" is not an option. This designation refers to the initial program students enter upon admission and in no way limits prospects for continuing on to the Ph.D. program. For questions about which degree option to choose, contact the Department of Anthropology.

Financial assistance, usually in the form of teaching and research assistantships, may be offered to doctoral and potential doctoral students in good standing for up to four years. Students making satisfactory and timely progress through the graduate program are in good standing. Eligibility for financial aid is reduced after two years in the M.A. program. The amount and types of aid depend on departmental needs.

Students are notified in writing of a provisional financial award before the semester or summer session for which the award has been granted. Although awards are made before the end of the previous semester, each award is contingent upon satisfactory completion of that semester's work by the awardee.

Graduates establish careers at universities, colleges, museums, health care institutions, and a diverse range of governmental and nongovernmental agencies. For more information, see Careers and Opportunities on the Department of Anthropology website.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans represent one way to complete a program of study. Actual course selection and sequence will vary and should be discussed with an academic advisor. For additional sample plans, see MyUI.

Anthropology, M.A.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
30 s.h. must be graduate level coursework; graduate transfer credits allowed upon approval. More information is included in the General Catalog and on department website. a, b, c, d  
Students who are first-time teaching assistants must also complete ANTH:5001 Graduate Teaching Pro-Seminar.  
First Year
Establish Master's Committee e  
Seek Internal Review Board (IRB) Approval f  
ANTH:5101 Seminar Sociocultural Anthropology 3
Elective course g 3
Elective course g 3
Master's Portfolio h  
ANTH:5201 Seminar: Archaeological Theory and Method 3
ANTH:5301 Seminar: Biological Anthropology 3
Elective course g 3
Second Year
ANTH:5401 Seminar: Linguistic Anthropology 3
Elective course g 3
Master's Portfolio i  
Elective course g 3
Elective course g 3
Final Exam j  
 Total Hours30