The Department of Anthropology at SDSU offers graduate study leading to the Master of Arts. Our department embraces an integrated, four-field approach to anthropology, enabling students to understand the biological, social, linguistic, historical, and humanistic dimensions of human diversity.
Our graduate students receive training in integrative anthropology through mentored fieldwork with faculty and via our state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, including the Biological Anthropology and Primatology Lab, the Computational Archaeology Lab, the Environmental Archaeology and Anthropology Lab, the Historical Archaeology and Maya Research Lab, and the Zooarchaeology Lab.
Our M.A. program prepares students for:
- Teaching positions in Anthropology
- Doctoral training in Anthropology and allied fields (e.g., Geography, Public Health,
Primate Conservation Biology, etc.)
- Professional careers in public and private sectors and non-profit organizations (e.g., cultural resource management, urban planning, program evaluation, administration, healthcare, marketing, and sustainable resource management and economic development
Minimum Admission Requirements
Except under special circumstances, prospective applicants must meet the following minimum admission requirements:
- Hold an acceptable baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution or equivalent
as determined by the Division of Graduate Affairs;
- Have attained at least a 3.0 GPA on all work leading to the bachelor’s degree and
subsequent post-baccalaureate coursework; and
- Have been in good standing in the last institution attended.
Applicants who meet the minimum admission requirements but who do not have a strong background in anthropology may be admitted conditionally. See SDSU Catalog for further information.
Graduate Admissions Process
To be considered for graduate admission at San Diego State University, you must follow the 3-step process outlined below. For more detailed information regarding the admissions process, please visit the Graduate Admissions website.
Step 1: Complete the Cal State Apply Application
Deadline to submit is December 1, 2023.
Each applicant must submit the California State University common application electronically to at Cal State Apply along with the nonrefundable application fee. Details on this application process are available on the SDSU Admissions website. The Cal State Apply site will begin to accept applications on October 1, 2023.
Please note the Cal State Apply Application will ask for your “Statement of Purpose.” You are not required to enter your statement at this point, so you can write, “Statement will be sent directly to department/program.” You will need to include your Statement of Purpose for the Department Application (Step 3 below).
Within two weeks of submitting your Cal State Apply application, you will receive an email from San Diego State University that includes your RedID number, which is your SDSU student identification number. You will use this number to create your my.SDSU account. You will use your my.SDSU number and my.SDSU account to check the status of your application. For more details about or assistance with this process, please see the SDSU Admissions website.
Step 2: Submit Official Transcripts to the Graduate Admissions Office
Deadline to submit is January 12, 2024.
After you have submitted the Cal State Apply application and received your my.SDSU number, you will need to send official transcripts to the Graduate Admissions Office. Sending transcripts before submitting the Cal State Apply application will result in processing delays.
You must provide the following:
- Official transcripts (in sealed envelopes) issued within the last year, from all U.S.
colleges and universities attended. Students who previously attended SDSU need only
submit transcripts for coursework completed since last attendance. Hard copy SDSU
transcripts are not required.
Students with international coursework must submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they must be accompanied by a certified literal English translation. The country specific requirements, can be found at on the SDSU Graduate Admissions website.
Your official transcript(s) should be mailed to this address:
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-8225
- All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants (regardless of citizenship status) applying to SDSU from an international institution where the medium of instruction was not English, must submit one of the following as proof of English proficiency:
- TOEFL minimum score of 80 iBT/ 550 PBT: Score can be sent electronically from Educational Testing Service (ETS) using the SDSU institution code: 4682. Test score must be from within the past two years.
- IELTS overall score of 6.5 or higher: Score report must be submitted directly to the SDSU Graduate Admissions Office. Test score must be from within the past two years.
- Duolingo English Test score of 105 or higher: Score can be sent electronically from Duolingo, to the SDSU Graduate Admissions Office. Test score must be from within the past two years.
- PTE minimum score of 58 or higher: Score report must be submitted directly to the SDSU Graduate Admissions Office. Test score must be from within the past two years.
- Transcripts have been received indicating English as the principle language of instruction.
A copy of your official score report or unofficial transcript can be submitted through your my.SDSU account under Upload Admission Documents.
If you have questions regarding Steps 1 and 2, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office at (619) 594-6336 or e-mail [email protected]. International applicants may contact the International Recruitment Office at (619) 594-1847 or e-mail [email protected].
Step 3: Complete Anthropology M.A. Program Application
Deadline to submit is January 12, 2024. Submit via Interfolio. Please note that the Interfolio application portal closes after 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time.
The Anthropology M.A. Program application requires the following items:
- A statement of purpose. The statement of purpose is a very important part of the application, as it allows
the faculty to assess your intellectual sophistication, writing skills, clarity of
purpose, and potential for success in the M.A. program. The statement of purpose should
be limited to 2-3 single-spaced pages and clearly articulate your intended research
interests, including geographical interests (if appropriate). If your research plans
are not yet fully developed, you should clarify what topics and issues in anthropology
you are most interested in pursuing and propose possible contexts in which to study
them. Your statement should not be an extended narrative about personal history, except
as relevant to your research plans.
Elements that would make for a strong statement include, but are not limited to, the following: the intellectual and/or applied importance of your area of interest; a discussion of your preparedness to undertake graduate level study (e.g., previous research experience, coursework, field schools, etc.); the name of at least one SDSU anthropology faculty member who would be a suitable thesis advisor and an explanation of why you selected them; and, a discussion of the compatibility of your interests with the SDSU Anthropology program/faculty research areas.
- Copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (these do not need to be sent directly
from the colleges - photocopies are acceptable)
- Three letters of recommendation. You must provide names and email addresses for three individuals who can write a
letter of recommendation on your behalf. The best letter writers are those who know
you well, can describe your specific achievements, and can evaluate your ability to
perform and succeed at the graduate level. Recommenders will be invited to complete
the recommendation electronically. *Note: Once you begin your application in Interfolio, you will be able to enter the
names and contact information for your letter writers. Once you do so, an email will
be sent to your letter writers with instructions and a link for them to submit their
- A sample of written work representative of your research and writing skills.
- Your curriculum vitae (CV).
If you have questions regarding Step 3, please contact the Anthropology Department at (619) 594-5527 or e-mail [email protected].
Prospective applicants who meet the minimum admission requirements and submit a complete application are reviewed and ranked by all department faculty. The Anthropology department evaluates applicants on the basis of a number of factors, including GPA, overall undergraduate academic performance, the strength of the student’s statement of purpose, the research promise and potential of the student as evidenced in the CV, statement of purpose, writing sample, and the letters of recommendation, and the alignment between applicants’ stated research interests and faculty expertise. Students are required to identify possible faculty mentors in their statement of purpose letters. Please note that interest expressed by potential faculty mentors in a prospective student’s graduate school plans and/or application does not guarantee admission into the program.
Each faculty member weighs admission criteria differently. In general, admission decisions are based on a combination of factors that include (but not necessarily in this order): a strong statement of purpose outlining a clear research focus; letters of recommendation from qualified recommenders that describe the applicant’s specific achievements; overall undergraduate academic performance; and significant professional experience.
The department makes decisions on the number of students to accept based on individual faculty members’ abilities to take on new students. Accordingly, the department only accepts students for whom a faculty member has agreed to serve as their faculty mentor upon entering the program. More often than not, faculty are only able to take on 1-2 new students each year, which means that we often have to turn down many students.
The Master of Arts degree in Anthropology consists of at least 30 units of graduate courses with a 3.0 GPA.
No more than three units of Anthropology 798, Special Study, and/or three units of Anthropology 795, Internship, may be used toward satisfaction of the degree. Courses required to remove undergraduate deficiencies and those used to fulfill the language requirement are in addition to the minimum 30 units required for the Master of Arts degree in anthropology.
As a requirement for the Master of Arts degree, all graduate students must present their thesis research as an oral examination with all committee members present. Only Plan A, requiring the thesis, is permitted for the Master of Arts degree in anthropology.
- At least three of the four core courses (ANTH 601, 602, 603, 604) with no less than a grade of B. Only classified students may enroll in these courses;
- One of the following methods courses: Anthropology 501, 505, 520, 531, 583 ("Paradise Lost"), Latin American Studies 601;
- Four 500/600/700 numbered elective courses from any department at SDSU determined in consultation with the student’s thesis chair;
- Anthropology 797 (3) Cr/NC/RP;
- Anthropology 799A, Thesis (3) Cr/NC/RP;
- Complete the “foreign language requirement” via coursework in a foreign language, statistics, GIS, or computer programming.
A variety of funding opportunities are available to anthropology MA students. These include internal department scholarships, out-of-state tuition waivers, and employment as a TA/GA/ISA.
The department offers three competitive, internal scholarship programs: the Norton Allen Scholarship, the Pitt Warner Endowed Anthropology Scholarship, and the Sonek Memorial Fund. See the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships (OFAS) website or the Graduate Student Handbook for specific details about these funding opportunities.
Out-of-state tuition waivers
Graduate Affairs has a limited number of tuition waivers available for high caliber international and domestic non-resident students. These waivers exempt students from paying the non-resident fee. Those receiving the waiver must pay the same fees (registration and student fees) as California residents. Incoming and current students will be selected for tuition waivers on a case-by-case basis.
Teaching Associate, Graduate Assistants and Instructional Student Assistants
Each semester the department hires a small amount of graduate students for a variety of technical assistant positions, teaching assistant positions, and readers (ISAs). These positions will be advertised at the beginning of each semester and selections will be made on a case-by-case basis. Individual professors may also hire graduate students to assist with research and teaching. To be eligible for TA, GA, or ISA positions you must be admitted at SDSU, have classified graduate standing, be registered for at least six units of graduate courses, and maintain a minimum of 3.0 GPA. To download applications, see the Forms and Documents section below.
You may be eligible for other, more general scholarships available either through the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at SDSU or from external sponsors. Check the SDSU scholarships website for opportunities.
Applicants seeking financial aid in the form of loans or need-based grants should contact the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
What deadlines are important and where can I find them?
Major deadlines are listed in the SDSU catalog on the calendar. They are available on line at the Graduate Admissions website and on our admissions section of this page. You are responsible for knowing these deadlines.
How do I register for ANTH 795, ANTH 797, and/or ANTH 798?
Department forms to register for these classes are available in the main anthropology office, AL 448 and online (see below under Forms and Documents). Fill out the appropriate form and submit it to the graduate advisor for their signature. Once the graduate advisor signs it, you can then obtain a schedule number from your faculty mentor/thesis chair in order to register.
How do I register for ANTH 799?
You can only register for ANTH 799 once you have advanced to candidacy. Contact Graduate Affairs to register.
What graduate degree is offered?
We offer an MA degree with specializations in General Anthropology.
What are examples of former students’ theses?
You will find a complete list under Sample MA Theses page.
What are the research interests of your faculty?We have faculty that specialize in archaeology, medical, environmental, biological, and cultural anthropology. Geographic areas include Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands, and the U.S. See the faculty or research pages for more information.
I have a definite interest in anthropology. With whom can I discuss my interests?
Review the department’s faculty or research pages and contact faculty who are working in various areas that interest you. You can also contact the graduate advisor for general information about the program and current graduate students.
Does your program admit students for the spring semester?
No. We admit students once a year for the fall semester only.
What materials are required for admission and where do I send them?
See the Admissions Guide (under How to Apply) for details.
Do you admit students who do not have an undergraduate degree in anthropology?
Yes, many students have been accepted into the program who don’t have backgrounds in anthropology. However, we generally encourage these students to take upper division remedial courses to prepare them for the core graduate seminars.
What can I do to prepare myself before applying to the Master’s program?
Take a GRE prep course (if the GRE is required), participate in research, and familiarize yourself with the ongoing faculty research in the department. You can also take anthropology courses through the Open University Program offered by the College of Extended Studies. Open University is a program where you can take courses at SDSU without being officially matriculated. To take a course you will need to attend the first day of class and obtain the instructors approval signature. These courses can count towards your M.A. degree.
Can I take courses through the Open University Program and will those course count towards the M.A. degree?
Yes you can take course through Open University and they will count towards the M.A. degree.
What do faculty look for in prospective applicants?
Prospective applicants who meet the minimum admission requirements and submit a complete application are reviewed and ranked by all department faculty. Each faculty member weighs admission criteria differently. In general, admission decisions are based on a combination of factors that include (but not necessarily in this order): a strong statement of purpose outlining a clear research focus; letters of recommendation from qualified recommenders that describe the applicant’s specific achievements; overall undergraduate academic performance; and significant professional experience.
What should the statement of purpose convey and how long should it be?
The statement of purpose is a very important part of the application, as it allows the faculty to assess your intellectual sophistication, writing skills, clarity of purpose, and potential for success in the M.A. program. The statement of purpose should be limited to 2-3 single-spaced pages and clearly articulate your intended research interests, including geographical interests (if appropriate). If your research plans are not yet fully developed, you should clarify what topics and issues in anthropology you are most interested in pursuing and propose possible contexts in which to study them. Your statement should not be an extended narrative about personal history, except as relevant to your research plans. Elements that would make for a strong statement include, but are not limited to, the following: the intellectual and/or applied importance of your area of interest; a discussion of your preparedness to undertake graduate level study (e.g., previous research experience, coursework, field schools, etc.); the name of at least one SDSU anthropology faculty member who would be a suitable thesis adviser and an explanation of why you selected them; and, a discussion of the compatibility of your interests with the SDSU Anthropology program/faculty research areas.
Should I contact faculty before I apply to the program?
Yes, we encourage you to contact faculty who have interests similar to your own. It’s best to arrange a meeting (either in person or by phone/Zoom) and discuss your research ideas.
Does the department provide any support for graduate students?
Yes. Each semester the department hires a number of graduate students for a variety of technical assistant, graduate assistant (GA), and instructional student assistant (ISA) positions. See Financial Support below for more information.
What is the out-of-state tuition waiver and how do I get one?
A NRTW (Non-Resident Tuition Waiver) covers the extra fee for tuition paid by international and non-Californians for attending a California State University. You may express your interest in being considered for a NRTW when applying, but these awards are limited. Faculty nominate outstanding applicants and the Division of Graduate Affairs makes the final decision. The NRTW will be offered for two to five semesters depending on if you are a domestic non-resident or an international student, respectively. Students with a NRTW must keep their GPA at 3.0 or above, or risk losing the NRTW. Most students with a NRTW will also have a GA or ISA appointment.
How do tuition fees differ from non-resident tuition fees?
Tuition fees are for the cost of classes. Non-resident tuition fees are fees applied to students who are not California residents - these fees are in addition to the regular tuition fees. See Money Matters for details.
Are NRTWs good for summer term?
No. The NRTW is only good in the Fall and Spring semesters.
I didn't know about tuition waivers when I first got here. My department is willing to give me a TA/GA position. Can I still get a waiver?
No. Tuition waivers are typically recruitment tools and are not available to students who are already attending.
I’m an out-of-state student just finishing my first year. How do I apply for California residency?
See the SDSU Registrar’s website for more information. You can also see the form California State Residency Requirements prepared by one of your fellow graduate students for more information on this process and chat with other graduate students who have gone through the process for more advice.
Where can I get information about scholarships?
How do I apply for financial aid at SDSU?
Contact the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, tel: (619) 594-5253. The financial aid office recommends that you apply for aid as soon as you have been assigned a RED ID through CSUMentor. Do not wait until you are admitted to the university. You may apply for financial aid while your application for admission is being processed.
Is there other funding available at SDSU that I may be eligible for?
SDSU offers out-of-state tuitions waivers for some students. For more information about this program and other sources of funding see the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships (OFAS) website.
Does the Department of Anthropology require a separate application to the graduate program?
Yes, you must submit applications to both the department and the CSU system. See the admissions guide (under How to Apply) for more detailed information.
Do I have to take the GRE?
San Diego State University has suspended the GRE/GMAT requirement as a campus-wide application requirement for all graduate programs. Some programs may require the exam for their supplemental application, but Anthropology does NOT require it.
Can I have more than three letters of recommendation submitted in support of my application?
No, the online application system will only allow a total of three (3) letters of recommendation to be submitted.
Is a personal interview required to apply to the department?
No. Applicants, however, are welcome to visit the department. Please contact various faculty and students directly for appointments.
I won't be getting my B.A. until June. Must this degree be indicated on the transcripts I send you?
No. However, if you are accepted into the program, you will need to submit up-to-date transcripts to the Graduate Affairs as well as the anthropology department after the degree(s) is conferred.
I have been out of school for many years and I have no faculty who remember me or can write letters for me. Who can I get to write the letters of recommendation?
Professionals or others with whom you have worked can write your letters although at least one letter from a faculty member is highly advisable.
How will I know my application file is complete or is missing any materials?
You should frequently check your account on my.SDSU to monitor the status of your university application.
When will I know if I have been accepted or not?
Typically applicants are notified in late February.
If I am accepted, how soon do I have to let you know that I am attending?
We would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible. To officially accept your offer of admission, Graduate Affairs requires all admitted students to submit the online Intent to Enroll by the deadline indicated in my.SDSU. If you do not submit the Intent to Enroll by the deadline, it will be assumed that you do not plan to attend SDSU and your offer of admission will be canceled.
The Intent to Enroll requires a nonrefundable and nontransferable fee, paid electronically through my.SDSU . When you are enrolled the amount of the fee will be applied toward your fall basic tuition and fees.
If I am admitted, can I defer entry into the program the following year?
The department does not offer deferments. Applicants will have to reapply to the program if they wish to be considered again.
Does the M.A. degree require a written thesis?
Yes, all M.A. students must complete a written thesis and a public oral defense.
Can I earn my degree and still work full-time?
Yes, students have done this in the past, but we don’t usually advise it. Also keep in mind that most graduate courses are taught during the day so your employer must allow some flexibility in the hours you work.
Is there a language requirement for the M.A.?
Yes. Students can satisfy this requirement via coursework and/or testing in a foreign language, or by coursework in GIS, Statistics, or Computer Programming. See the Graduate Student Handbook for more details.
How long does it take to go through the program?
Depending upon the subfield, length of field studies, and personal and professional factors it can take as few as two (2) years to as many as four (4) years.
How many students apply for admission and how many are admitted into the program each year?
Approximately 30-40 students apply and we accept approximately 10-15 each year.
What do I do if I need to take a semester off from coursework?
Students are permitted to take up to four (4) semesters of approved educational leaves of absence when you are engaged for the majority of the leave time in an activity that is directly leading to formal academic activities that contribute to specific academic goals.
How to request a Leave of Absence (LOA):
- Apply through your my.SDSU.
- Submit the “Graduate Student Leave of Petition” to Graduate Adviser for their signature
- Submit above form to Graduate Affairs
Do I lose my library privileges during a stop out or formal leave of absence (LOA)?
Yes, since you are not paying student fees, you lose your access to SDSU resources (e.g., the library, counseling & health services). But, you can pay a community library fee to be able to access the library’s resources. Contact the information desk at the SDSU library for more information.
I received an Advancement to Candidacy form in the mail. What do I do with it?
Save it. The graduate adviser also receives a copy of the form and they will sign it when you satisfy the requirements to advance to candidacy. See the Graduate Student Handbook for details about how you advance to candidacy.
- For students admitted Fall 2020 and onward.
- For students admitted prior to Fall 2020.
- Graduate Program Worksheet Applied Anthropology (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
- Graduate Program Worksheet General Anthropology (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
- California State Residency Requirements
- Internship Form (ANTH 795) (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
- Research Form (ANTH 797) (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
- Special Studies Form (ANTH 798) (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
- Thesis Proposal Approval Form: Students, please note thesis proposal approval is now a digital process. Please fill out all fields EXCEPT the signature fields, and then send to the graduate advisor for forwarding signatures. Incomplete forms will be returned to students. (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
- Graduate Student Annual Progress Report (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form)
Non-departmental forms are found at Graduate Affairs.
All students who travel must fill out a Request for Absence from Campus Form (T-2), a Waiver of Liability Form (EO-1051) (please note this is a fillable form, you must use Adobe Acrobat for the form), and
the Volunteer Identification Form.
All students who travel internationally must contact the SDSU Office of International Programs (OIP) in AL-173 first. You must also fill out a Request for Absence from Campus Form (T-2), a Foreign Travel Insurance Program (FTIP) Form, the Volunteer Identification Form (.doc), an international version of the Waiver of Liability form available in OAP.