Anthropology, Master of Arts

Department of Anthropology

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

This graduate degree coursework allows students to pursue independently designed research goals with the guidance of faculty mentors that culminate in the writing and successful defense of a thesis or applied project. Our department succeeds in mentoring graduate students with opportunities to further their professional and academic development in anthropology.

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 38
Additional Admission Requirements Additional admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are recommended.
Thesis Thesis is required.
Comprehensive Exam Comprehensive Exam is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study

Purpose Statement
Anthropology integrates scientific and humanistic approaches to the study of people and culture informing our two goals:  

  • to support global citizenship through information, skills, and perspectives that build cross-cultural awareness and increase the ability to identify our own cultural assumptions, and
  • to promote an engaged anthropology that addresses the contemporary challenges of our local and global communities.

The scope of the program encompasses past, present, and future perspectives on the human condition, within the subfields of archaeology, socio-cultural, linguistic, and biological anthropology.
The content focuses on the range of human cultural and biological diversity through anthropology’s core concepts, theories, methods, and major debates. Skills developed include: critical thinking, research methods and analysis, effective writing, and constructive dialogue.
Student focused learning experiences include innovative coursework, research opportunities, community engagement, laboratory and field training, and internships.
The Sociocultural Concentration focuses on the range of human cultural diversity and anthropological perspectives, ethics, and theory. It covers the intersections of language and discourse, kinship, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, religion, economics, social inequality, politics, environment, culture change, and globalization. The skills developed included: critical reading and writing, effective communication skills, cross-cultural and holistic perspectives, analysis of culture, and ethical awareness.
The Archaeology Concentration focuses on the interdisciplinary understanding of past human lives through the scientific study of material culture and biological remains using applicable theories in archaeology within a broader framework of heritage management. Skills acquired in this emphasis are field, lab, and curatorial methods as they apply to archaeological questions, interpreting the appropriate regulatory context for archaeological projects, and evaluating ethical dilemmas in archaeology.

The program prepares students for a range of professional careers in government, private sector, non-profit, and community-based organizations in addition to graduate and professional degree programs.
The master’s program is best suited for students interested in careers in cultural resource and heritage management, human resources, health, development, and academia.

Student Learning Outcomes 
Upon completion of the Anthropology MA program, all students will be able to:
  • Examine and elucidate the major theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry in their selected emphasis in anthropology (archaeology or sociocultural anthropology);
  • Synthesize and evaluate anthropological theories and methods, and apply them appropriately to their research or project;
  • Reflect upon the use of theory and practice to explore their research area or project, and through these reflections identify how to apply analytical skills to approach and resolve a variety of existing and emerging theoretical and social problems;
  • Identify the cultural assumptions, including their own, that influence the design, conduct, and interpretation of their research results;
  • Summarize and discuss ethics and the ethical codes employed in anthropology, and identify and reason through real-world examples of ethical dilemmas;
  • Articulate the ways in which the anthropological perspective can be applied to current issues in society;
  • Pursue, design, and complete original research or project that contributes to the field of anthropology;
  • Formally report on research or project in an appropriate format including but not limited to writing a professional thesis, developing a portfolio of work, or producing a work of visual anthropology with accompanying narrative that: 
    • Articulates a theoretical framework for the research or project (including conducting a literature review to assess the theoretical, substantive, and methodological contributions previously made to this area);
    • Identifies and defines appropriate design and quantitative and/or qualitative methods of data collection;
    • Analyzes, interprets, and explains findings; and
    • Evaluates the effectiveness of the research or project, its implications for communities, institutions, policy, and/or social issues, and its contribution to the field of anthropology.
  • Present original research to professional and non-professional audiences, including those who are participants or collaborators in the research or project or those who are impacted by the work, articulating coherent explanations summarizing the work;
  • Conduct a thesis defense to a community of anthropology faculty and peers;
  • Create a personal career development plan based on individual strengths and goals and incorporate the new perspectives gained
  • Effectively represent experience, skills and competencies through written (resume, cover letter, grant writing, application materials, social media, etc.) and verbal (interview skills, presentation skills, etc.) communication.

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • Two letters of recommendation
    • Prerequisite
      • Class in statistics
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • Personal statement or essay
Master's Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 38 units distributed as follows:

    • Anthropology Course Requirements:  14 units
    • Thesis: 6 units
    • Select a Concentration: 18 units
      • Archaeology
      • Sociocultural

    Take the following 38 units:

    Professional Development Seminar (1 unit)
    Theory (3 units)
    Ethics (1 unit)
    Select from:
    Pre-Thesis Seminar (2 units)
    Research Methods (6 units)
    Select from:
    Writing Seminar (1 unit)

    Thesis (6 units)

    • ANT 699 for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved thesis. Please note: you may count only 6 units of thesis credit toward your degree, however you may end up taking more than 6 thesis units, since you must register for it each semester while you are working on your thesis.


  • Concentration (Select One):

    Archaeology (18 units)

    • ANT 635 (3 units)
    • Regional focus elective, Archaeological Field School (3 units)
    • Electives (12 units)
      • Secondary field elective chosen from a subfield (biological, linguistic, or sociocultural) other than your primary field (3 units)*.
      • Primary field electives chosen in consultation with your advisor (9 units)
    Sociocultural (18 units)
    • ANT 639 (3 units)
    • Electives (15 units)
      • Primary field electives chosen in consultation with your advisor (12 units)
      • Secondary field elective chosen from a subfield (archaeological, biological, or linguistic) other than your primary field (3 units)*.

    *Students entering with extensive undergraduate training in anthropology may petition to have this requirement waived.

  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.