Graduate Program in Biological Anthropology

degree requirements

Students are normally admitted for the Doctoral Degree, but there are two steps to be completed before beginning formal research for the doctoral dissertation. These steps are: (1) completion of the MA Degree; (2) advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. In addition to the general degree requirements outlined in the Departmental MA and Ph.D. document, students specializing in biological anthropology have other requirements to satisfy, as described below. 

Requirements for MA Degree

  • A total of 36 hours or 24 plus thesis as specified in the departmental requirements; nearly all biological anthropology students follow the non-thesis path.
  • One course at the 400 level or above with faculty members in each of the three subdisciplines of anthropology (Anthropology 472 normally serves as the student's course in cultural anthropology).
  • Three research or review papers from seminar work, independent research or publications will be put on file after being presented to the student's committee. These papers will be used to evaluate the student's writing ability and will be available for all members of the department to review.
  • Students must demonstrate basic competence in one or more methods (statistical analysis, comparative methods, field data collection, laboratory techniques) used in biological anthropological research, as specified by the student's committee.
  • The student will take courses from at least 6 members of the department within the first two years.
  • During the second year, the student will formulate a general topic for her/his doctoral dissertation, and with the advice of her/his faculty advisor, constitute a three-member doctoral committee composed of departmental faculty.
  • During the second year, the student will take an independent reading course (Anthropology 525) with her/his faculty advisor covering the background materials relevant to the planned doctoral dissertation.  This year-long reading course will result in a written paper which will serve as a first draft for the background section of the student’s doctoral dissertation proposal.  The paper needs to be approved by the doctoral committee by the end of the second semester.
  • The student will formally notify the department when all of the above requirements are fulfilled.
  • By regulation of the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences, students have a maximum of four calendar years from entering the program to complete the Master's Degree.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy and Fulfillment of the Ph.D.

  • It is suggested that students take at least one course in each of the following general areas at some point during their university training: Human Anatomy and Variation, Evolutionary Theory and Genetics, History of Science, Human and Primate Paleontology, Primate Socioecology.
  • Students will be expected to demonstrate a reading and/or spoken ability in a foreign language if it is essential to the completion of the student's doctoral research.  If deemed appropriate by the student's committee, the student is in a specialty in which there is little literature in languages other than English, and/or does not require a field language for the doctoral research, a high level computer programming language (e.g. SAS, R. MatLab, AutoCad) central to the student's area of research may be substituted.
  • Advancement to candidacy will be given upon formal acceptance of a written research proposal and an oral defense of that proposal before the student's doctoral committee. The research proposal will be written in the form of a National Science Foundation (NSF) dissertation improvement grant. Advancement to candidacy will be announced in a formal memorandum to the whole faculty, summarizing the activities of the student. Only under exceptional conditions will the student be allowed to continue in the program if advancement to candidacy has not been accomplished by the end of the student's fourth year in the program.
  • Dissertation. The following subfield, departmental and graduate school procedures must be followed: (1) the student should notify the Department of Anthropology to send a letter to the Graduate Office at least 15 days before the oral defence of the dissertation following the instructions in the "Instruction for Doctoral Dissertations and Oral Examinations" booklet; (2) once the faculty advisor has approved a draft of the dissertation, the dissertation will be distributed to the full doctoral committee, who will have four weeks to review the draft of the dissertation; (3) the oral defense of the dissertation will then take place (see #5 below); (4) assuming that the student passes the oral defense of the dissertation, the student will have no less than two weeks to make all necessary corrections; (5) the doctoral advisor (plus any other committee members deemed appropriate) will have at least two weeks in which to verify that the student has made the necessary corrections to the dissertation;  and (6) the student will then prepare and submit the final dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences in accordance with their deadlines for awarding degrees.
  • The oral defense of the doctoral dissertation will consist of the following: (a) a formal presentation to the department and university community [at which the committee will be present]: (b) a question session by the whole audience; (c) a closed session for the candidate and committee; (d) an executive session of the committee.
  • Students have 6 years in which to complete the doctoral degree from the date of their first registration in the doctoral program at Washington University. Students who exceed this limit must ask their committee to petition the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences to be continued in the program. Only under unusual circumstances will the student be allowed to continue in the program past 6 years after entering the program.