The Department of Anthropology’s PhD program provides students with solid foundations in all four sub-fields of the discipline--and supports their advanced specialization in one or more of the four, as they work with faculty mentors to complete an independent dissertation research project.  PhD students are typically awarded a master’s degree upon fulfilling program requirements at the end of their second year in the doctoral program.  In addition to our PhD program, we offer a master’s program specializing in Cultural Resource Management.  Our graduate programs train professional anthropologists who go on to work at universities, colleges, museums, and a variety of governmental and non-governmental agencies.

Students applying for admission to a graduate program in anthropology will be considered regardless of the field of their previous training. However, students without previous training in anthropology may be asked to perform additional work as needed to achieve the knowledge and skills expected for the degree desired. Applicants with a master's degree in another discipline are normally admitted as a first-year graduate student.

Our graduate admissions process prioritizes investing in a smaller number of students who will best benefit from the department’s intellectual and material resources, rather than admitting many students who are then forced to compete under conditions of scarcity.  Since campus resources and individual faculty workloads constantly shift over time, our incoming cohorts of graduate students fluctuate in size from year to year.  Given these variables, we are not able to admit and support all of the qualified students who apply to our graduate programs each year.

Candidates for admission to the graduate program are required to submit the following documentation:

  • a completed university application form
  • transcripts of all previous undergraduate and graduate work
  • three letters of recommendation from individuals competent to judge the candidate’s potential for graduate training
  • scores from the aptitude portion of the Graduate Record Examination (taken within the past 5 years)
  • at least one example of your previous work (e.g., a term paper or an original experiment)
  • a statement of research interest describing why you would like to undertake graduate study in our program

To be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program at Iowa, applicants with an M.A. degree from another university are required to submit a copy of their Master’s thesis; in cases where the M.A. has been granted without thesis or where the Master’s thesis is not yet complete, copies of three papers completed in graduate school should be submitted instead.

Application documents are evaluated as follows:

Statement of interest/intended research project: Strong statements of interest provide a focused description of your educational goals and career objectives, and clearly describe how these goals and objectives would be served by faculty mentoring and other resources available through our department and campus.  We therefore encourage prospective applicants to examine the faculty profiles available at , and to contact faculty with relevant interests.  Applicants whose goals include a PhD should describe a potential research project: What topic do you plan to study?  What are specific examples of existing scholarship about this topic, in anthropology and/or closely related fields?  Where do you plan to conduct this research, and why is that setting a good place for you to do so?  While project plans are normally preliminary and subject to change at this early stage, your responses to these questions will help us to evaluate your application.” 

Transcripts: Earning strong grades in anthropology and related courses, and earning progressively stronger grades over the course of one’s academic career to date, indicate good potential for success in graduate study.  If there are lapses or gaps in your academic record, your statement of interest and/or letters of recommendation will ideally help to explain these.

Letters of recommendation: Three letters of recommendation should come from professionals who know you well enough to evaluate your potential for success in graduate study. Professors with whom you have taken multiple courses, who have supervised you in an independent study or honors research course, or with whom you have worked in a field school or laboratory setting are often ideal people to ask.  One letter could also come from an employer or supervisor who can speak to characteristics such as work ethic, maturity, and focus. When requesting a letter of recommendation, including your resume/CV and a copy of your statement of interest will help the recommender to write a more detailed and personalized letter.

GRE scores: We do not set specific standards for scores, but consider how they relate to other elements of an application.  We recognize that lower scores may mean little when accompanied by informed and enthusiastic letters of recommendation, for example.  Very low scores do raise questions, however—ideally, these will be addressed in your other application materials.

Writing sample/previous work: Examples of previous work are an important component of the application.  Writing samples should demonstrate good writing and analytical thinking skills.  Term papers from courses or reports from independent research projects, for example, should state a claim or argument and then support it with evidence.

Prospective applicants should visit the Graduate College’s web site to find information about general procedures and application deadlines. To apply online, visit

All potential students are encouraged to visit the Office of Admissions web site. There, you will find general information, a slide show about the campus, and information about the Iowa City/Coralville community and how to arrange a campus visit. You can also ask that more information be sent to you.

International students applying to the program should be aware that scores on either the TOEFL or the IELTS test are accepted for satisfaction of English language proficiency requirements. All IELTS test-takers will be required to take the on-campus English Proficiency Evaluation.