Ph.D. Requirements

Requirements for a Ph.D. in Anthropology at UC Davis

Admissions Requirements

Requirements for Admission to the Doctoral Degree Program in Anthropology

Admission to the doctoral degree 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.

The Department of Anthropology requires applicants to submit the following with the on-line 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 application deadline is December 15.

Dissertation Plan

The dissertation in anthropology is to be completed under Plan B (see Davis Division, Academic Senate Regulations, section 520). The student must be in residence a minimum of 6 quarters. Plan B calls for a three member (minimum) dissertation committee, an optional final oral examination (made on an individual student basis by the dissertation committee), and an exit seminar.

Course Requirements

A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be maintained to remain in good standing, and students must enroll in 12 units per quarter. Students who have advanced to candidacy may take courses on an S/U basis; S/U petitions must be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies by the end of the 5th week of the quarter. All students who have advanced to candidacy may enroll in 12 units of ANT 299D (dissertation research). Students may not be part- time.

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.



An upper division or graduate level course in statistics (with a grade of "B-" or better) must be completed before the Qualifying Examination can be scheduled. "S" grades are not sufficient.


ANT 206 (Research Design and Method in Social Anthropology)

Must be taken by the spring quarter of the second year.



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.


Special Requirements

Note that a minimum course load is 12 units each academic quarter. Students may be employed in academic positions for up to nine quarters before advancing to candidacy, after which they must petition for additional quarters of employment until they've advanced.


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, and appropriate advisor. On the basis of ranking the committees recommend students for admission and, selectively, for campus-based fellowships, graduate research fellowship (formerly 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 wing graduate 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.

Qualifying Examination Committee

The QE Committee consists of a minimum of five faculty members, nominated by the student and the graduate advisor (wing chair) to the Dean of Graduate Studies for formal appointment in accordance with Graduate Council policy. The student's major professor may not serve as Chair of the committee. There must be one member from outside the graduate program.

Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee consists of three members, and is chaired by the student's Major Professor. The Committee is appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The Dissertation Committee guides the dissertation work, and approves the completed dissertation.

Advising and Mentoring

The Graduate Adviser: The Evolutionary Wing (E-Wing) and Sociocultural Wing (S- Wing) have separate Graduate Advisers. Graduate advisers are appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies as the official liaisons between students, the department, and Graduate Studies. Ultimate responsibility for graduation education rests with the Graduate Council of the Academic Senate, but students should regard the departmental wing graduate adviser (wing chair) and the Department Chair as the primary authorities on all matters pertaining to their degree requirements. The graduate advisers must sign applications for examinations, candidacy for degrees, etc. and, together with the Graduate Program Coordinator, are responsible for maintaining accurate records of each student's progress.

The Major Professor: A student's Major Professor is normally the chair of the student's Dissertation Committee and is therefore the faculty member who is most closely involved in the student's preparation for research and writing. The Major Professor is to be aware of the student's progress in the program and to confer with the student regularly to discuss their progress. When it is clear that one faculty member suits the academic goals of an entering student, that faculty member may be designated the student's Major Professor upon matriculation. Otherwise, the wing chair assigns an Interim Major Professor with whom the student meets for the entry evaluation and initial course goals. The Major Professor is to be identified by October of the second year. Mentoring guidelines are found on the Office of Graduate Studies web page .

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are expected to advance to candidacy at the end of their third year (9th quarter) after completing program requirements and passing the Qualifying Examination. Students must file the appropriate paperwork with the Office of Graduate Studies and pay the candidacy fee in order to be officially advanced to candidacy. Students may be employed in academic positions for up to nine quarters before advancing to candidacy, after which they must petition for additional quarters of employment until they've advanced.

Examination and Dissertation Requirements

Preliminary Examination

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 Examination

Students who do not already have a master’s in anthropology may choose to complete the requirements for the MA degree en route to the PhD; in addition to the coursework, the MA also requires successful completion of the preliminary exam and the comprehensive/capstone examination. Students should refer to the MA requirements for details.

Qualifying Examination (QE)

Written Research Proposal

The written research proposal is prepared prior to the qualifying exam, and students are examined on the proposal as part of the exam. 

Evolutionary Wing

Prior to taking the qualifying exam, students must submit a research proposal to their qualifying exam committee members. Graduate students write their dissertation research proposal in coordination with members of their qualifying exam committee. Dissertation research proposals contain a clear statement of the research question and background, an analytical framework and literature review, and a detailed methodology. There is no required length, but typically these proposals range between 10 and 25 pages. Once the proposal is approved by the QE Committee the front page is signed by the Major Professor and the proposal is placed in the student's departmental file.

Sociocultural Wing

Over the course of the third year of study, graduate students write their dissertation research proposal in coordination with members of their qualifying exam committee. Dissertation research proposals contain a clear statement of the research question and background, an analytical framework and literature review, a detailed methodology, an in depth budget, and time-table for conducting research. Students must submit an expanded version of their research proposal to their committee as part of their Qualifying Examination in the Spring Quarter of their third year of study.

Qualifying Examination

The QE is intended to test a student's depth and breadth of knowledge that is required to undertake the dissertation research and writing. The QE should be scheduled by the 9th quarter of study.

The results of the qualifying exam are Pass, Not Pass, and Fail. Student who receive a Not Pass or Fail may take the examination one additional time, but only if the adviser agrees. A student who fails the exam on the second try, will be recommended for dismissal from the program. Students who receive a Pass on the qualifying exam submit to the Office of Graduate Studies a request for Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (after paying a fee), and naming their requested Dissertation Committee.

Evolutionary Wing

  • Research proposal: Prepared and submitted to the QE committee prior to the exam.
  • Written exam: Consists of nine hours of written responses to questions solicited from the committee members, usually taken over a three- day period. Students are examined in research methodology and at least two other topical fields related to their proposed research.
  • Oral Exam: a three-hour oral examination is scheduled following the written exam (by 1-3 weeks). Students present their research and then are examined on research methodology, at least two other topical fields, and their research proposal. Topics for the questions are chosen based on consultation between the student, adviser, and committee chair and are normally related to the research proposal.

Sociocultural Wing

  • Essays: The student assembles bibliographies in three fields and prepares two qualification essays (20-25 pages each) for the committee. Each essay is based on one of the critical theoretical and area concerns represented in the bibliography. These themes and issues may coincide with the student’s research interests and, together with members of her/his qualifying exam committee the student designs her/his bibliographies and writes her/his essays over the course of the Fall and Winter quarters of their third year of study. Final versions of the essays must be submitted to the student’s exam committee by the end of Winter Quarter.
  • Research Proposal: The student finalizes her/his research proposal. This final version extends the theoretical and methodological dimensions of the proposal. Extended proposals must be submitted to the student’s exam committee two weeks before the student's Oral Exam.
  • Oral Exam: The student is examined orally for a three-hour time period. During this time, exam committee members evaluate the student’s facility to delve deeper and extend beyond the material presented to date in her/his bibliographies, essays, and research proposal. Exams must be taken by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year of study.

Dissertation Requirements

There are no program specific dissertation requirements. Dissertations must be submitted in written format with a copy provided for the department. See Graduate Studies for specific graduate school dissertation requirements.

Normative Time to Degree

The time to degree is determined by the field work time required for the student's study, followed by data analysis and writing. Anthropology students/researchers often need to go to the field for an extended period, and sometimes more than once. Eight to ten years is not unusual, though due to the nature of their study, some students can finish in five to eight years.

Typical Timeline and Sequence of Events


YearFall quarter*Winter quarter*Spring quarter*Summer
1 ANT 270 (Colloquium) Graduate seminar course ANT 270 Graduate seminar course Research paper (S-wing) ANT 270 Graduate seminar course Preliminary Exam Field work/ research (Graduate Research Fellowship support)
2 Courses Courses Courses MA Capstone Exam Research
3 Courses Courses Courses PhD Qualifying Exam Research
4 Field work/ research Field work/ research Field work/ research Research
5 ANT 299D ** (dissertation research) or continued Field work/ research ANT 299D ** or continued Field work/ research Filing Fee: Turn in dissertation to Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) If dissertation is not completed by the end of the 5th year, data collection and writing continues
6 ANT 299D ** ANT 299D ** ANT 299D **
7 ANT 299D ** ANT 299D ** ANT 299D **
8 Turn in dissertation to OGS

*Students are expected, when registered, to be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units.
** Recommended

Sources of Funding

There are two principal forms of support for graduate students: fellowships (internal and external) and teaching assistantships.

The other forms of financial support include research assistantships (at times through the work-study program) and readerships. A limited number of Summer Sessions courses for which the student is the instructor of record are available for those who have completed a Master's degree. Graduate Research Fellowships (block grant) are distributed by the department. Faculty members assist the students in applying for external fellowships (e.g., Boren, Charlotte Newcombe, Fulbright, Fulbight-Hayes, Leakey Foundation, National Science Foundation, Pacific Rim Social Science Research Council, Wenner Gren).

Planned Educational Leave, In Absentia, and Filing Fee Information

Information about the Planned Educational Leave Plan (PELP), In Absentia (reduced fees when researching out of state), and Filing Fee status can be found in the Graduate Student Guide:

Students may participate in the Planned Educational Leave Program (PELP). This affords the opportunity to suspend registration for a specified length of time. Leave of one year or less does not affect the student's individual financial support, but after that point, the student loses a quarter of financial aid for each quarter of leave taken. For more information on PELP, visit

Filing fee status (see is available to students who have completed all dissertation work and are doing final revisions of their dissertation with the expectation of finishing within two quarters. Students pay a greatly reduced one-time fee to go on filing status. In return, they are not eligible to use campus resources.

Intercampus Exchange Program

Students, who have completed at least one quarter in residence at Davis and want to take a course at another UC campus, may apply through the Intercampus Exchange Program. Fees are paid at Davis and registration packets are completed at both campuses. The student will have library, health center and other student privileges on the host campus, but is considered a student in residence at Davis. Grades are transferred to Davis and will appear on the regular transcript. Applications for IEP may be obtained at the Office of Graduate Studies and should be filed three weeks prior to the beginning of the quarter in which the student wishes to participate. A separate application is required each quarter the student attends another campus.