The Graduate Program in Anthropology has been changed to accept direct admission to our PhD program, with or without an MA in Anthropology. A brief outline of our new curriculum structure has been posted here

The CU Boulder Anthropology Department trains students in three of the four subdisciplines of Anthropology:

The archaeology subdiscipline provides continuous geographic coverage of ancient societies from the Plains of North America through the Southwest and Mesoamerica to the Intermediate Area. The native societies we focus on range from egalitarian hunter-gatherers through middle range societies to the city-states and empires of Mesoamerica. The faculty’s theoretical and topical interests include human ecology, ethnoarchaeology, agency and social theory, archaeology and language, lithic and ceramic analyses, remote sensing, disasters in ancient and modern times, and geophysical applications in archeology.

The department offers training in several different aspects of ecology: general ecology, early hominin paleoecology, nutritional, community, and evolutionary ecology. Our research foci also include anthropogenic and climatic effects on primate behavior and biology; conservation biology; primate evolution; feeding biology of humans and non-human primates; biogeochemical techniques for studying the diets and habitats of modern and fossil fauna; life history; endocrinology; growth and development; and maternal and infant health. Please note that we do not train students specifically in forensics.

Among the topical interests of the cultural anthropology faculty are gender and sexuality, culture and power, modernity and consumption, kinship and relatedness, tourism and popular culture, medical anthropology, science and technology studies, human and political ecology, pastoralism, conservation and sustainability, museums, semiotics, concepts of “care,” nationalism and ethnic identity, racial constructs, post-colonialism, refugees and citizenship, and history and memory. Areas of regional expertise in the department include Latin America and the Caribbean, Native America, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet, East Africa, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Papua New Guinea, as well as their respective diasporas around the world.

We receive approximately 100 applications each year. Our target for each entering class is approximately 6 (two in each of the three Subdisciplines of Anthropology that our department supports). We reach this target by admitting some students and placing others on a waitlist; we admit students from the waitlist as other students decline the places we have offered them. On average, we offer admission to approximately 15 applicants per year. Although we train students at the MA level to take jobs in their fields, the standards we apply to all PhD applicants have to do with their potential to carry out research of the quality we would expect in doctoral-level research.

Prospective applicants generally have undergraduate degrees in Anthropology, with focused coursework in their chosen subdiscipline. We prefer that applicants with other kinds of backgrounds have sufficient coursework in Anthropology or other relevant background to demonstrate a basic familiarity with all three of the subdisciplines we support, and we may require students with insufficient familiarity to take undergraduate classes to acquire it. Applications will be reviewed by subdisciplinary faculty (that is, applications in Archaeology will be reviewed by the archaeologists, etc.) before they are brought to the full faculty, so please indicate your subdiscipline clearly on your application. We evaluate prospective students holistically: grades and GREs matter, as do letters of recommendation, statements of purpose, and experience outside the classroom (field and laboratory experience can be particularly important). Applicants are permitted, but not required, to submit one (1) example of their best written work. If you choose to submit an example of your work, we cannot return it to you.

We also seek students whose interests are within our areas of expertise. You should look at the interests of our individual faculty members and contact the faculty you might want to work with.

Financial support for our students primarily takes the form of teaching assistantships (TAs), which provide both a stipend and tuition remission. We also have limited fellowship money. In general, we allocate fellowship money to incoming students at both the MA and PhD levels, and preferentially allocate other funds to students at the doctoral level, including some incoming doctoral students. There are additional funds available through university-wide competitions, but we nominate only one incoming student for these competitions We have been successful in most recent years in offering at least some support to all ongoing students who have requested it.

Anthropology Program

Graduate Admissions > Anthropology Program
(last updated for Fall 2018 admissions)

Your Statement of Purpose (Personal Statement) should be tailored to the CU Department of Anthropology Graduate Program, identifying how your academic and career aspirations can be met by the faculty and curriculum of our program. Successful applicants will indicate which faculty member they are interested in working with and why, and will outline a plan that fits with the program offerings of the CU Department of Anthropology. Your statement should clearly indicate your preference for a PhD or a Terminal Master's Degree. Please be concise: one or two pages at most. If you need assistance in preparing a good Personal Statement, there are many options on the Internet. We have found the guidelines of the Berkeley Career Center to be particularly helpful.

List four references and their email addresses on your application. The fourth person need not be a professional reference. We will give full consideration to any applicant with at least three letters of recommendation received by January 10, 2018.

Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology applicants should upload a writing sample no longer than 20 pages such as a term paper or an excerpt from a BA or MA thesis. Writing samples are optional, but helpful, with Biological (Physical) Anthropology applications.

By applying to our graduate program, you will automatically be evaluated for one of our fellowships and may be considered for other funds to support your graduate education. The amount will vary according to residency status and academic promise of the candidate. Students are encouraged to apply for national fellowships such as NSF, Fulbright, SSRC, and Wenner Gren.

English proficiency may be demonstrated through any of the following:
  • TOEFL® PBT: minimum test score of 600 points
  • TOEFL iBT®: minimum test score of 100 points
  • IELTS Academic Module: minimum score of 7.0

You must apply to each program separately and must meet the application requirements and admissions standards for each program. Applicants are urged to have a conversation with the Anthropology faculty member who is most closely aligned with their interests prior to submitting an application. It is important that students clearly indicate their interest in the dual degree program in their Personal Statement to the Department of Anthropology. For more information, see the Dual MA/MBA page.

  1. Review the Application Information section above.
  2. Contact the faculty you might want to work with (optional but encouraged).
  3. Prepare your personal statement and permission from references.
  4. Complete the University of Colorado Graduate School Online Application.
  5. Check the status of your application regularly to make sure that all of your supplementary material has been received by the deadline.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all required materials, including GRE scores, are received in Graduate Admissions by the deadline. Incomplete applications cannot be considered beyond this closing date. (References will be allowed a seven-day grace period.) Applicants should monitor the status of materials through their account on the application portal.

By applying to our graduate program, you will automatically be evaluated for one of our fellowships and may be considered for other funds to support graduate education. Anthropology Department fellowships are competitive and based strictly on academic performance. Because they are limited, we encourage you to visit CU Financial Aid and apply for additional financial aid that you anticipate you might need.

For more information please contact: