Online PhD in Anthropology

Students enrolled in online PhD programs for anthropology usually have the option of choosing a specialization, such as cultural anthropology, urban anthropology, physical anthropology, or archeology. The curriculum of each concentration is designed for students who already have a strong foundation in anthropology, presumably from their previous academic studies. Rather than teaching students about the fundamentals, online PhD programs in anthropology focus on researching and conducting studies in the field. Students are encouraged to study the effect of socioeconomics on their chosen area of study, and may also be asked to learn how governmental policies shape those factors.

Anthropology PhD programs provide students with course work that hones their knowledge of the social and cultural constructs that affect human beings and their cultures. In particular, students will examine how societies develop and the ways in which social constructs evolve. Specialized course work narrows the scope of study to focus on individual cultures, urban environments, or even race and gender. Students will be expected to complete research papers, and will likely have to write dissertations as well. These programs are designed specifically for individuals who hope to become professional anthropologists or who wish to work in academia.

About Online PhD Programs in Anthropology

Online Ph.D. programs in anthropology are conducted almost entirely over the Internet, although some programs have residential symposiums that students must fulfill before graduating. Course work varies depending upon a student's specialization, however all classes are research and reading-intensive. Students typically complete a dissertation — which is a detailed research project related to the field of anthropology — at the culmination of the program, and may also need to visit the campus to present and defend the dissertation. An example of an anthropology Ph.D. program's curriculum can be seen in the list below, which is adapted from American University‘s Ph.D. in anthropology with a concentration in race, gender, and social justice.

Year One:

  • Contemporary Theory: Culture, Power, and History. This class explores the theories behind the roles that culture, political power, and historical events play on social constructs, as well as the ways people have developed over time.
  • Race, Gender, and Social Justice. This class explores race and gender both separately and as joint constructs that affect the criminal justice system and social development.
  • Ethnicity and Nationalism. Ethnicity and nationalism have both played a strong role in developing nations' economies and societal class systems. This class explores those roles, and examines how ethnicity and nationalism have helped — or hindered — the development of societies around the world.

Year Two:

  • Anthropology and State Policy. By looking at laws and initiatives, this class explores how human kind and its cultures have been affected by governmental policies.
  • Topics in Anthropology: Environmental Justice. This class explores biodiversity, ecology, and conservation efforts to see how environmental justice has played a role in human development.
  • Current Issues in Anthropology. A survey class, this course explores current problems and solutions in the field of anthropology.

Before being awarded with a doctorate, students typically need to complete a dissertation. In the anthropology field, dissertations should focus on an area pertaining to the study of people. In the past, anthropology doctoral students have focused on topics like the effect of the oil industry on culture and conflict, the result of a widespread endemic on a society, and how the evolution of medical technology has affected gender identity within a community. Students usually spend their last term taking doctoral dissertation seminars that guide them in the construction and execution of their dissertations.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Anthropology

Earning a doctoral degree in anthropology is a good step for students who wish to forge careers in academia. Similarly, students who want to conduct research into cultures and societies can also benefit from anthropology doctorates. However, students who only wish to work as technical assistants for research projects may want to consider a different path, as doctoral degrees are primarily designed for those who wish to develop careers as academic leaders. For the student who wishes to pursue a professional anthropologist career, job prospects are strong.

Anthropology degrees take a lot of time and dedication. Programs can last anywhere between five and eight years. In addition, the tuition cost of a doctoral education can be lofty, especially when accumulated over multiple years. While scholarships and fellowships can help ease the financial burden, students will likely accumulate other costs as well, such as living and book expenses. Students are therefore encouraged to consider whether they have the time to dedicate to such programs prior to enrolling.

Application & Admission Requirements

Students usually need at least a bachelor's degree before they can apply for an online PhD program in anthropology. Most schools require students to have maintained a high GPA in the college course work they previously completed. In addition, students typically need to take the GRE. Most applications also require students to submit professional and academic references and complete a personal statement. While work experience in the field is not usually required, it can help make an application stand out, and students will likely have to submit their resumes along with their applications. Some schools may also require interviews.

Career Options & Job Market

Students who graduate from online Ph.D. programs in anthropology typically go on to become anthropologists or archaeologists. Though candidates only need a master's degree to fill such positions, having a doctoral degree will improve job prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that anthropologist and archaeologist careers are growing faster than the average. The position also earns about $54,230 annually. However, salary figures vary based on location and employer.

Another possible career for graduates who have their doctorates is that of a professor or college instructor. While some colleges hire candidates who only have a master's degree, doctoral and professional degrees are necessary for instructors who hope to gain tenure. The field of post secondary instruction is growing as fast as the average, the BLS reports. Additionally, college and university instructors earn an average salary of $62,050 annually, depending upon location, employer, and experience.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Many universities offer financial aid opportunities for students, but students are not limited to those options. Professional associations like those listed above sometimes have fellowship and grant programs designed for anthropology graduate students, who much submit an application to be considered. Students also have the option of pursuing scholarships within the field. Finally, students can also pursue federal aid, as listed below.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Offering up to $20,500 annually, this loan offers students low and fixed interest rates.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Based on academic need, this award is for full-time students. It awards around $3,500 annually and the interest rate is fixed at 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Many universities have campus-based financial aid programs, which students can pursue by contacting their financial aid officers. Additionally, accredited institutions participate in most of the aid programs offered by the federal government.

Essential Advice

  • The best way to get a sense of how your needs will be met at a university is to contact faculty members and former students. They can give you insight into the responsibilities you will have while enrolled, as well as offer advice for pursuing your research interests.
  • Professional organizations look excellent on your resume, so consider joining one prior to applying for a doctoral degree program. They also have the added benefit of giving you access to conferences, publications, and fellowship opportunities.
  • If you need help with the admissions process, don't be afraid to contact your school. Admissions officials are there to help you prepare your application packet.
  • Stay current on research trends in the anthropology field so that you'll be prepared for potential admissions interviews.