PhD Program in Anthropology at Boston University in USA

PhD Program in Anthropology

(for students entering in 2018 and later)

The PhD program in anthropology is designed to provide a broad background in the field with a primary emphasis on sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, or anthropological archaeology. The degree prepares students for careers in academia, consulting, or other applied professions in the discipline. Major foci of research and instruction in sociocultural anthropology include religion, law and politics, ethnicity, gender, history and anthropology, problems of social change and economic development, culture and the environment, cognition and culture, and medical/psychological anthropology; the faculty has greatest strengths in the study of the Islamic world, East and Southeast Asia, and Africa. Major foci in biological anthropology feature the study of living and fossil human and non-human primates, including their evolutionary morphology, behavior, genomics, and sensory adaptations.  Major foci in anthropological archaeology include human-environment interactions, urbanism, households, and material culture viewed in deep historical perspective; primary regions of study include Mesoamerica, North America, and the Mediterranean.


Each year, The Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers incoming PhD. students Dean’s Fellowships, which include full tuition, a living stipend, and health insurance for five years.  Review the Graduate Admissions Prospective Students webpage for more information on student financial aid.

Graduate Admissions

Applications for the graduate program in anthropology go through the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS). Information on how to apply can be found on the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences admissions page.  The Boston University School of Medicine offers an MA in Medical Anthropology and an MA in Forensic Anthropology. All inquiries regarding these programs should be directed to the GMS admissions office.
Application Deadline: January 15

Applications for the graduate program in anthropology require:

  • Application
  • GRE scores
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Personal Statement
  • Writing Sample
  • TOEFL or IELTS  scores
In your Personal Statement, we hope to learn your area of interest (topic and geographic), what education/experience led you to that interest, what you plan to do upon completion of the degree, and why BU would be the place to study: Which professor(s) would you seek out as advisors? What about our department interests you?
The IELTS minimum requirement is 7.0
If you take the TOEFL, you must pass each section (cumulative scores do not count). The minimum requirements for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences:
  • paper-based test: 550
  • internet-based test
    • Reading section – 21
    • Listening section – 18
    • Speaking section – 23
    • Writing section – 22
Boston University prefers that all application materials be submitted digitally through the application portal when possible.  If circumstances arise that make this impossible, please mail any hard copy materials to the following address:
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Admissions Office
705 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 112
Boston, MA 02215

Frequently Asked Questions

How many students are in your program?

For the 2018–2019 academic year, our program has 49 PhD candidates.

How many students do you accept?

While admission varies year to year, we received 105 applicants for matriculation in 2018. Of those, 13 were accepted and 10 enrolled. In 2013, 8 were accepted and 6 enrolled. In 2012, 5 enrolled. In 2011, 5 enrolled. In 2010, 6 enrolled.

What is the average length of the program?

While the length of the program varies based on the individual student’s research, the average length of time is six to seven years.

What GRE scores do you require?

We cannot offer a definitive answer: GRE scores vary widely, because we have many international candidates (who are at a language disadvantage). Stellar scores are less important than having a focused Personal Statement, strong recommendations, and an accomplished academic record. We consider each case on its individual merits.

What do you want in the Personal Statement?

We look for a focused area of research interest—both topic and geographic area. We are not looking for something as specific as a dissertation topic, but we need to know how well your research interests match our strengths. Also let us know: Who would you choose as a faculty advisor, and why? What aspects of the BU program will help you to achieve your research goal?

Are international students considered for financial aid?

Yes, we consider all accepted applicants for financial aid.

By what date should I receive the admissions decision?

The Admissions Committee of the Department of Anthropology usually makes its decisions by mid-February. If delayed, we will post updates on our website. The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences will send you an e-mail, directing you to a secure website where you can view the decision. If you wish, you may e-mail or call Veronica Little, the Graduate Program Coordinator (617-353-2195; vclittle@bu.edu).

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