Master's Requirements

Requirements for a Master's Degree in Anthropology at UC Davis

Admissions Requirements

Information for Applicants

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the PhD program, as there are relatively small numbers of students accepted into the MA-only program (primarily in the subdiscipline of Archaeology). Admission to the program in Anthropology requires a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA in any area from an accredited college or university. New students are accepted for the fall quarter only. Each student is admitted to either the Evolutionary Wing or the Sociocultural Wing. The Evolutionary Wing provides instruction in the subdisciplines of archaeology, human behavioral ecology, molecular anthropology, paleoanthropology and primatology (subsequently termed concentrations); and the Sociocultural Wing in linguistic and sociocultural anthropology.

Applicants are required to submit the following with Graduate Studies online application:

  • three letters of recommendation
  • a resume/CV
  • a writing sample (e.g., class paper, thesis, published article of no more that 7 pages)
  • Graduate Record Examination scores
  • other application materials required by Graduate Studies, such as TOEFL or IELP scores if relevant

Official transcripts from each school attended are sent to the department. The priority application deadline is December 15.

Master's Plan

The Anthropology program offers an MA, Plan II. This plan requires the successful completion of 36 units and a comprehensive exam. No thesis is required.

Course Requirements

36 units of upper division or graduate coursework is required; of these, 18 units must be in graduate courses (numbered in the 200s) and no more than 9 units may be for research (299).

A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be maintained to remain in good standing, and student must enroll in 12 units per quarter. The student must be in residence for a minimum of three quarters and must pass the Preliminary and Comprehensive/Capstone exams described in Section 8 below.

ANT 270 (the department colloquium) each quarter of the first year 3 ANT 270 (the department colloquium) each quarter of the first year 3

Any three of the following:

  • ANT 200 (History and Theory of Anthropology) *
  • ANT 201 (Critical Readings in Ethnography)
  • ANT 202 (History of and Theory of Biological Anthropology)*
  • ANT 203 (History and Theory of Archaeology)*
  • ANT 204 (Contemporary Issues in Anthropological Theory)
  • ANT 205 (History and Theory in Anthropological Linguistics)



Two anthropology graduate seminars (numbered at ANT 200 or above), designated by the Graduate Adviser as theoretical seminars. 




Any TWO of the following:

  • ANT 122A (Economic Anthropology)
  • ANT 128A (Kinship & Social Organization)
  • ANT 152 (Human Evolution) or ANT 156 (Human Osteology)

Human Behavioral Ecology/Molecular Anthropology/Primatology/Paleoanthropology

Appropriate courses, selected in consultation with the student’s Major Professor, relating to general theory, topical specialization, methodology and statistics. 


Two narrative evaluations from additional graduate courses taken during the first three quarters in residence—any graduate seminar or reading course may be used.

Students request a written assessment of 50-100 words in addition to the normal grading method.



There is NO formal requirement in the evolutionary wing, a student may elect to take a language when it is determined it would be helpful in the field. 


This requirement is satisfied by taking 15 units of a second language at UC Davis OR by demonstrating commensurate competence by examination.

A full year of one foreign language taken as an undergraduate satisfies this requirement.

If by examination, a faculty member, either in the appropriate language department or within anthropology (with sufficient fluency in the language), confirms the student’s competency.



Committees that guide our graduate program include:

Admissions Committee

The Graduate Committees (one for each wing) are responsible for making recommendations to the Department Chair regarding admission to the graduate program, and student financial support. Admission spreadsheets are assembled or updated by the Graduate Program Coordinator. Committee members read the application material and together rank the candidates in order of potential success in the program. On the basis of ranking the committees recommend students for admission and, selectively, for campus-based fellowships, graduate research fellowship (block grant) support, teaching assistantships and graduate student researcher positions. Recommendations for admission are forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval of admission. Notification of admissions decisions will be sent by Graduate Studies.

Advising Committee

The Advising Committee will be composed of the student’s major professor, the Graduate Adviser (Wing Chair) and selected faculty in the student’s concentration and the department chair. Upon entering the graduate program, students will meet with the (Interim) Major Professor, to discuss their goals, their previous training, needed training in the general field of anthropology, specific requirements of the graduate program, and available and desirable training within their concentration. Based on these discussions, the student and the (Interim) Major Professor fill out the Entry Evaluation Form, which is signed by the student, the (Interim) Major Professor, and the Graduate Advisor/Wing Chair. The student and the (Interim) Major Professor meet in the first week of each quarter to determine progress based on the entry evaluation form. They also are expected to meet annually in late spring to review the previous year’s work and to propose a tentative program for the year following, thus assuring progress to degree. Full-time students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units per quarter, including enrollment in sections of 299 and 396 courses.

Comprehensive (Preliminary and Capstone) Exam Committee

Evolutionary Wing: The Wing Chair (Graduate Advisor) asks the entire faculty of each concentration to submit questions for the written comprehensive exam. They, in turn, review answers to their concentration-specific questions. In addition, the entire wing faculty reviews answers to the general questions at a full wing meeting.

Sociocultural Wing: The student works with selected faculty in the preparation of a capstone paper related to their research interest, which is reviewed by randomly selected faculty. In questionable or borderline instances, the entire faculty reads and evaluates the exam. All papers will be discussed at a full wing meeting.

Advising Structure and Mentoring

The (Interim) Major Professor and the Wing Graduate Adviser hold the primary responsibility for advising and mentoring graduate students. All entering students are assigned an (interim) major professor, usually one working in the student’s area of interest. The Graduate Program Coordinator is a further advising resource. The student formally selects the Major Professor by October 1 of the second year of study, again with the approval of the Graduate Adviser (Wing Chair). Faculty mentors are expected to follow the Office of Graduate Studies Mentorship Guidelines and the Principles of Community.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students can file to advance to candidacy when at least half of their coursework is completed and at least on quarter before they have attempted the Comprehensive/Capstone exam. 

Every student must file an official application for Candidacy for the Degree Master of “__”. The Candidacy for the Degree of “__” forms can be found online at: A completed form includes a list of courses the student will take to complete the degree requirements. If changes must be made to the student’s course plan after s/he has advanced to candidacy, the Graduate Adviser must recommend these changes to Graduate Studies. Students must have their Graduate Adviser and Major Professor sign the candidacy form before it is submitted to Graduate Studies. If the Candidacy is approved, the Office of Graduate Studies will send a copy to: the Major Professor (Committee Chair), the Graduate Program Coordinator, and the student. If the Office of Graduate Studies determines that a student is no eligible for advancement, the department and the student will be told the reasons for the application’s deferral. Some reasons for deferring an application include: GPA below 3.0, outstanding “I” grades in required courses, or insufficient units.

Preliminary and Comprehensive/Capstone Examinations

This section describes the timing and requirements for exams.

Preliminary Exam

Evolutionary Wing

In spring quarter of the first year, each student takes a written preliminary examination that is based on courses taken during the student’s first year. The exam is comprised of two questions from the student’s primary concentration, one question from the student’s secondary concentration, and one general evolutionary question. The exam is evaluated by the Evolutionary Wing faculty. Outcomes for this exam include: High Pass, Pass, Marginal Pass, and Fail. Marginal Pass generally requires follow-up coursework or submission of a research paper(s). Students may no repeat this exam. Should a student fail the exam, s/he is recommended for disqualification from the graduate program. 

Sociocultural Wing

At the end of spring quarter of their first year, each student takes a written preliminary exam in the form of a paper in which they must grapple with key concepts and themes within the discipline. Each student defines the topic in coordination with the Interim Major Professor and the Graduate Advisor. Two randomly selected faculty evaluate the paper on the basis of pass/potential fail. In potential fail cases, the entire faculty reads and evaluates the exam. All papers will be discussed at a Sociocultural Wing faculty meeting. Students may not repeat the exam. Should a student fail the exam, s/he is recommended for disqualification from the graduate program. 


Comprehensive/Capstone Exam

Evolutionary Wing

By spring quarter of the second year (6th quarter), each student will give a formal comprehensive/capstone presentation, and prepare a written report.

Students choose the topic of this presentation in consultation with their adviser(s).

The presentation and accompanying document will first be reviewed by subfield faculty associated with the student’s major emphasis, and evaluated according to subdisciplinary standards and categories of pass, no pass, fail.

All Evolutionary Wing faculty will have the opportunity to observe and evaluate the capstone presentation, and written report, and will discuss the results at a later wing meeting that takes place in June, where a final decision will be made and grade assigned.

Should a student receive a “no pass”, they can reattempt by the end of Fall quarter of their third year of study. Students who fail a second time are recommended for disqualification from the graduate program. 

Sociocultural Wing

At the end of spring quarter of the second year (6th quarter), each student will complete a capstone written report in the form of a proposal on a theoretically and methodologically comprehensive topic, supported by their core course work.

The two-stage exam process (a preliminary written exam and a capstone written report) offers students the coursework and faculty feedback necessary to grasp the theoretical, methodological, and empirical embrace of the subdiscipline of Sociocultural Anthropology

Students develop their capstone proposal in conjunction with their Major Professor and two other faculty members. These three faculty members and the Graduate Advisor evaluate the proposal on the basis of pass/fail. Should a student fail, the student can redo this report by the end of Fall quarter of their third year of study. Students who fail a second time are recommended for disqualification from the graduate program.