Anthropology Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study


Program Description

Graduate training in the Field of Anthropology emphasizes sociocultural anthropology, with an additional concentration in archaeological anthropology. Biological anthropology is primarily an undergraduate program. Substantively, the Field of Anthropology combines humanistic and social scientific approaches in innovative ethnographic research, emphasizing culture as a productive process and anthropologists as engaged in understanding and defending cultural diversity. Geographically, our greatest depth is in Asia (East, South, and Southeast), but the Americas, Europe, and Africa all also figure importantly. The Field of Anthropology has strong ties with all the geographic area programs, as well as faculty active in many other interdisciplinary programs, including joint appointments with Asian American Studies, Latina/o Studies, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

The graduate program in anthropology is highly individualized and interdisciplinary. Only four courses and a field research proposal are required; thus, the bulk of students' work in language, area studies, or other training is individually designed in consultation with the Special Committee. Individually-tailored examinations occur after approximately the first year of course work (the Qualifying Exam), the second or third year (the Admission to Candidacy, or A Exam), and after completion of the thesis (the Defense or B Exam). Most graduate students in the Field of Anthropology complete one to two years of intensive field research. All doctoral candidates are also expected to teach at some point: most students first get experience as assistants in both introductory and mid-level courses; later, many design and teach courses of their own in the Knight Writing Program. A vigorous colloquium series enriches the intellectual environment for both students and faculty.

Program Description

The Field of Anthropology primarily admits candidates seeking a Ph.D. because of the lack of funding for, and employment with, only an M.A. With very rare exceptions, every student admitted to the Ph.D. program receives funding to support five years of on-campus study. Graduate students apply for additional funding from Cornell or from major external sources such as NSF, Fulbright, SSRC, and Wenner-Gren to conduct both preliminary and dissertation field research. Most students complete the Ph.D. within seven years and most have gone on to find academic employment at major colleges and universities in the U.S. or abroad.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-6768

266 McGraw Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • archaeological anthropology
  • socio-cultural anthropology


Visit the Graduate School's Tuition Rates page.

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 15; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

A committee, chaired by the director of graduate studies and consisting of three additional faculty members, evaluates all applications for admission and financial support. Applications should also include a writing sample such as a term paper, an honors thesis, or a research report. The deadline for receipt of completed applications is December 15.

Learning Outcomes

Make an original, substantial, and publishable contribution to Anthropology

  • Identify and pursue new research opportunities within one's field
  • Think originally and independently to develop concepts and methods

Demonstrate advanced Anthropological research skills

  • Create new knowledge through the generation, analysis, and synthesis of primary and secondary source materials
  • Identify and access appropriate sources of relevant information
  • Critically analyze and evaluate one's own findings and those of others
  • Master application of relevant research methods, technical skills, and languages

Demonstrate commitment to advancing Anthropological scholarship

  • Show understanding of the history of Anthropology and the development of current theoretical debates
  • Keep abreast of current advances within one's field and related areas
  • Show commitment to professional development through engagement in professional societies, publication, applied, and/or outreach activities
  • Teach effectively by presenting and disseminating knowledge in the field to students, professionals, and members of the public

Demonstrate professional skills

  • Adhere to ethical standards of the discipline for using sources, artifacts, and remains; interacting with human subjects; and working with colleagues
  • Write and speak effectively to professional and lay audiences about issues in the field
  • Actively compete for major intramural and extramural research grants