Requirements and Contacts

Director of Graduate Studies and first year PhD Advisor, Fall term 2019

Nadia Abu El-Haj

The Ph.D. in anthropology typically requires 3 years of course work, 1 to 2 years of dissertation research, and 1 to 2 years of dissertation write-up. The typical time frame for completion is 7 years, but circumstances vary. All students are awarded 5 years of funding for their graduate study upon admission into the Columbia program with the expectation of satisfactory annual progress toward the Ph.D. degree.

The entering student's program is arranged in consultation with the department's advisers. After the first year, the student chooses a committee in consultation with the department.  Each graduate student's program and progress is annually reviewed by the entire department.

Ph.D. Candidacy in Sociocultural Anthropology

Ph.D. students in sociocultural anthropology must fulfill the following requirements in order to be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy:

(1)  Eight departmental courses for letter grades in Anthropology. These courses must be regular courses; Independent Study courses (GU9000 level) do not count as one of these eight courses.

(2) Proficiency in one language at an advanced (4th year or better) level to be determined by course work and/or examination.  (For students for whom English is not their first language, a high level of English will fulfill the requirement.)

(3) Two advanced examinations on topics relevant to the dissertation proposal.  One exam may focus on the ethnographic area most relevant to the dissertation project (e.g., China) while the other exam may focus on the theoretical area most relevant to one's research (e.g., political anthropology). [Bibliographies of materials to be covered in these exams must be submitted to the faculty readers (two readers for each exam) during the semester prior to the one in which the student takes these exams.]

(4)  Dissertation proposal: A well-developed research proposal will be presented before an Orals committee of at least three faculty members.   Final revisions to the dissertation proposal will be discussed and the committee will recommend to the department whether or not to advance the student to Ph.D. candidacy.  

The dissertation proposal must directly pertain to the dissertation research and must be completed and accepted in advance of dissertation research.

Ph.D. Candidacy in Archaeology

Students specializing in archaeology must fulfill the following requirements to advance to Ph.D. candidacy:

(1) Nine courses in the department: one of those must be a theory course in archaeology, and at least one must be in the sociocultural field.

(2) Proficiency in one language at an advanced level (4th year or better) to be determined by course work and/or examination. (For students for whom English is not their first language, a high level of English will fulfill the requirement.) Proficiency in analytical methods may also be required or substituted for the language exam as the committee determines is necessary for each student's individual program. The analytical methods would be tailored to individual students' needs, but would be broadly construed to include such field as statistics, GIS, computer modeling, remote sensing, and similar fields.

(3)  Two Advanced Certifying Examinations (ACE's): one in Archaeological Method and Theory and one in the student's topical/regional specialty. In a typical program, these should be completed by the end of the third year in residence.

(4) Dissertation proposal on the subject of research for the Ph.D. dissertation, to be defended before an Orals Committee of at least three faculty members, after the ACE's have been approved. On the basis of the proposal and its defense, the Committee will determine whether or not to advance the student to Ph.D. candidacy.

Joint Programs

American Museum of Natural History

Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History have agreed to join their resources in teaching and conducting research in anthropology. Museum curators are appointed adjunct professors of anthropology, teach seminars and lecture courses at Columbia, and advise graduate students. Columbia faculty and students, in turn, have access to the Museum's research facilities, library, archives, laboratories, and photograph and artifact collections. In addition, opportunities for graduate students to work in the field with Museum curators are available. Collectively, this agreement substantially increases the intellectual community at Columbia in all anthropological sub disciplines, giving students a greater chance to exchange ideas and work with faculty whose research spans four continents and many methodological approaches.

The New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology

NYCEP, a consortium of the City University of New York, Columbia, New York University, American Museum of Natural History, and New York Zoological Society, offers a graduate training program, leading to the Ph.D., which emphasizes all aspects of the behavioral, morphological and evolutionary biology of primates. Full tuition and an annual stipend for four or five years are included.  Application is made jointly to NYCEP and to one or more of the cooperating universities. Further information may be obtained from Eric Delson, Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024.

Teachers College

In anthropology and education, an intensive program is offered at Teachers College that trains candidates in anthropology and its relationship to problems in the domain of formal and informal education.

In 1968 Teachers College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Columbia University initiated and implemented a joint program in applied anthropology (Professors Bond, Comitas, and Harrington, program advisers).This Ph.D. program was conceived as a cooperative venture of the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences (Teachers College) and the Department of Anthropology (Graduate School) for the training of graduate students registered at Columbia, either at Teachers College or at the Graduate School. The joint program includes specialization in medical and urban anthropology.

Regional Institutes

The department also participates in the programs of institutes concerned with the various regions of the world, including Africa, East Asia, South America, Middle East, Europe, Harriman Institute, Latin America. For further information, consult the bulletin of the School of International and Public Affairs and the Institutes.

Interdisciplinary Program

Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Division of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, the objective of this interdisciplinary program is to provide in-depth training in both disciplines, enabling Ph.D. students in Anthropology and in Sociomedical Sciences to apply the full range of anthropological perspectives and methods to questions of health.  Health is broadly imagined, including bodies and their vicissitudes, social meanings and contexts, and questions of social and cultural equity in domestic and international contexts.  Pro­grams are individually designed, but require a minimum of 30 credits in anthropology and 30 credits in public health, comprehensive exams, doctoral research, and a dissertation.  For more information about the admissions procedure, contact the Program Coordinator, at (212) 305-1561.  To obtain an application form, visit (select Ph.D. in Socio­ medical Sciences).

Courses of Instruction and Research

Not all courses are given every year. To ascertain which of the following courses are given in each of the next two years and their times, consult the separate Registrar’s Directory of Classes at:

The second term of any two-term course can be taken separately unless the course description says otherwise.

Departmental Seminars

All graduate students are invited and encouraged to attend the department's seminars, at which reports of ongoing research are presented by staff members, students and guest speakers.