2022 Best Online PhD in Anthropology [Doctorate Guide]

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Earning a PhD in Anthropology is a rewarding opportunity for any individual who has a deep interest in learning about and exploring different cultures and communities.

Best Online PhD in Anthropology

Anthropologists are often observant, using their research and data analysis skills to make discoveries about historical societies or solve problems related to areas like health or education.

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Completing an advanced degree demonstrates tenacity and a strong commitment to education. It can also help you advance your professional qualifications and opportunities.

PhD in Anthropology Online Programs

Man getting his PhD degree in Anthropology online

As a whole, anthropology is the study of human culture and communities throughout history. The field of anthropology consists of four traditional subfields: social or cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.

Anthropology doctoral programs are typically open to candidates from a wide range of undergraduate- and graduate-level disciplines. While you can certainly hold a bachelors or masters degree in anthropology to be eligible for a PhD program, many schools also accept students with a background in geography, sociology, history, biology, or education.

Doctorate-level coursework in anthropology will vary by concentration, but course topics will typically include:

  • Research design
  • History of anthropological theory
  • Archaeological data analysis
  • Language in culture
  • Archaeological writing
  • Human origins

In addition to the required courses for your specific subdiscipline, most doctoral programs include a dissertation requirement. This is an opportunity for you to conduct research into an area of your choosing. Many programs also ask that you defend your work in front of a panel as the culminating piece of your studies.

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A PhD in Anthropology can not only prepare you for applied professions in the subject area but can also be a way to establish a career in academia. Many graduates with a doctorate in anthropology go on to become:

  • Research associates
  • Market research analysts
  • Anthropologists
  • Archaeologists
  • Postsecondary teachers
  • Archivists
  • Curators
  • Museum workers
  • Sociologists

Because it’s an interdisciplinary field of study, a doctoral degree in anthropology is applicable to a diverse array of industries and professional positions.

Common Anthropology Doctorate Concentrations

Two Archaeologists examining some artifacts

There are many available concentrations offered between anthropological doctorate programs. Selecting a concentration can allow you to align your anthropology doctorate degree with your interests and career goals.

PhD Programs in Archaeology

A concentration in archaeology will provide the opportunity to study the material relics left behind by past communities and societies.

Through the examination of these artifacts, you can learn about the cultures and rituals of past peoples. Most programs also allow you to choose a specific time period on which to focus your research.

PhD Programs in Biological Anthropology

The subfield of biological anthropology examines the ways in which human behavior is impacted and shaped by biology. You’ll study and make comparisons between present day humans and their ancestors.

Graduates from this area of anthropology often find careers in primatology or paleoanthropology, but they may also work in education or crime scene analysis.

PhD Programs in Cultural Anthropology

Anthropologist doing research works

Cultural anthropology PhD programs focus on studying diverse cultural communities around the globe. Students may explore how issues related to government policy and environmental change can impact individuals and their communities.

Cultural anthropologists can find work in a number of professional positions. For instance, they may become social service leaders or researchers.

PhD Programs in Linguistic Anthropology

The study of human language is at the center of a program in linguistic anthropology. You can learn to gather, analyze, and interpret data related to the ways in which humans use language in their day-to-day lives.

Changes to language over time and the way it influences human behavior will also be explored.

Anthropology Careers & Salaries

Anthropology Doctorate Careers & Salaries

Anthropology is an interdisciplinary field, so you will likely receive training and education in each of the four subfields. You will also study significant work in other disciplines, such as history.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of a doctorate in anthropology, you may find yourself prepared for work in many industries. The professional opportunities that open up for you will also be influenced by the concentration you choose and the doctoral program you attend.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some anthropological career paths and their accompanying median salaries.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Top Executives $98,980
Postsecondary Anthropology and Archeology Teachers $97,340
Sociologists $92,910
Social Scientists and Related Workers (All Other) $84,430
Historians $63,940
Forensic Science Technicians $61,930
Anthropologists and Archaeologists $61,910
Museum Curators $60,110
Survey Researchers $59,740
Social Workers $50,390

Earning a PhD in Anthropology can be applicable in many industries, including academia, social sciences, and research and development. A PhD does not guarantee a specific professional position or salary, though.

The jobs available for an anthropologist may vary depending on your geographical location, chosen area of study, and previous work experience.

Anthropology Doctorate Curriculum & Courses

Phd in Anthropology students speaking with their professor

Doctoral courses in anthropology will differ based on your chosen university and selected area of study. Here are some examples, though, of common courses:

  • Research Design: In this course, you’ll learn how to develop an original research project, studying topics like data management, research design, and proposals.
  • History of Anthropological Theory: This course examines the discipline of anthropology through the political, social, and historical trends that have influenced prominent theories.
  • Archaeological Data Analysis: You’ll learn how to analyze archaeological data, exploring topics such as descriptive and inferential statistics, excavation of material remains, and presentation of findings.
  • Language in Culture: An examination of the connection between language and culture, this course takes an in-depth look at different cultural and linguistic systems.
  • Archaeological Writing: This course is intended to teach the research and writing skills necessary to share findings and knowledge in the field of archaeology.
  • Human Origins: Also known as paleoanthropology, this course focuses on the history of human development from a biological standpoint, including topics like evolution, scientific method, and primates.
  • Archaeology of Political Systems: This course explores political systems throughout history, focusing on the ways in which different trends and beliefs transformed or created these systems.
  • Social Organization: In this course, you’ll have the opportunity to study the different social organizations within communities, such as families, ethnic groups, political parties, and states.
  • History of Disease: This course explores the ways in which disease has impacted human communities throughout history.
  • Ethnographic Research: You’ll read different ethnographic texts and cover topics that are important in describing the history and cultures of different peoples, such as research ethics, narrative ethnography, and art-based ethnographic methods.

In addition to these courses, most PhD programs include a dissertation requirement. This is an opportunity for you to put your research and analysis skills into use as you delve into an anthropological topic of your choosing.

Admissions Requirements

Woman prepares all requirements for Anthropology Doctorate degree

Most colleges and universities require a small application fee in addition to a range of materials that demonstrate your academic prowess and personal accomplishments. You may be asked to submit:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only if required)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • Letters of recommendation
  • College transcripts

Many doctoral programs are also smaller than their undergraduate- and masters-level counterparts. As a result, admission to some doctoral programs can be more competitive. You can use your application as a way to emphasize the areas of research you are excited about and to highlight the professional work that supports your academic goals.

Anthropology PhD Programs Accreditation

University offering Anthropology PhD

Just as with earning a master’s in anthropology online, if you are hoping to receive financial aid, stand out to employers after graduation, or obtain a valid degree, it is necessary to enroll in an online PhD in Anthropology program at a regionally accredited school.  

Colleges and universities can elect to undergo the accreditation review process. A team of internal and external members then assess the educational programs and student services offered. Using predetermined guidelines, team members ensure that everything from facilities to curriculum meet the national standards for quality.

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Verifying the accreditation status of each prospective school can ensure that you attend an institution that’s equipped to help you reach your goals.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial Aid for PhD in Anthropology

Finding the right financial aid program for your needs can help you attend the doctoral program of your choice. Completing the FAFSA allows you to see all the different federal financial aid opportunities you are eligible for. This aid generally comes in several forms, including grants, work-study programs, and student loans.

Eligibility for federal aid is determined by factors such as your level of financial need, citizenship status, and academic performance. In addition to federal aid, you can also apply for available scholarship opportunities. Each school offers their own unique scholarship programs to students who are currently enrolled.

Doctoral students may apply for fellowships or graduate assistantships as well. There are also scholarships offered by companies and organizations outside of specific colleges or universities.

What Can I Do with a PhD in Anthropology?

A PhD in Anthropology is often necessary for careers in research and academia. Equipped with data analysis skills, some graduates go on to become postsecondary teachers or researchers.

Other common career paths include sociologist, historian, and archaeologist. Some professionals in this field also work as social workers and epidemiologists. Regardless of the anthropology career that you choose to pursue, you may have the opportunity to contribute findings to the overall understanding of human culture and communities.

How Long Does a PhD in Anthropology Take Online?

Two friends who are both taking PhD in Anthropology online

A PhD generally takes 3 to 5 years to complete, depending on the number of credit hours required. How long it takes a student to complete their dissertation can also extend the timeline for degree completion by a significant amount.

Some doctorate programs do not have a dissertation requirement. If no dissertation is required, a doctoral program can generally be completed in 3 years with full-time study. External and personal factors, such as professional or familial obligations, can also impact the length of time it takes to complete a doctorate degree.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD in Anthropology?

While most doctoral anthropology programs require applicants to hold a master’s degree, there are always exceptions.

Some colleges and universities choose to accept students that demonstrate outstanding work and vision in their undergraduate studies. Your previous degree can generally be in any number of fields since anthropology encompasses many disciplines. For instance, applicants may have a degree in anthropology, history, education, or environmental science.

Criteria for admission does vary between schools, so it’s beneficial to check the specific guidelines for your schools of interest prior to applying.

Is a Ph.D. in Anthropology Worth It?

Anthropologist examining new found artifacts

Yes, a Ph.D. in Anthropology is worth it for many professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many careers in the field of anthropology are growing at a rate that’s on pace with the national average. For instance, anthropologists and archaeologists are experiencing employment growth at a rate of 7% over the next ten years.

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A doctorate program in anthropology also provides ample flexibility, allowing you to select a subdiscipline of interest. This can help you remain engaged as you conduct the research for your dissertation, and it can help prepare you for specialized job opportunities in the future.

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Anthropology Degree Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online, part-time, or in a hybrid format.

California Institute of Integral Studies

California Institute of Integral Studies campus

The California Institute of Integral Studies offers an online PhD in Anthropology program that aims to develop graduates who are activist-scholars ready to make a difference in the world. The program emphasizes global social movements and different theoretical perspectives. Students usually spend at least 3 years on coursework and must also complete a dissertation.

CIIS is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania State University campus

Pennsylvania State University offers a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Social Studies Education. Courses are offered both on campus and online. The program is intended for students who have at least 2 years of experience with classroom teaching.

The Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The New School

The New School campus

The New School offers a PhD in Anthropology. New students may begin every fall. Students must complete 30 credits of coursework beyond a 30 credit MA, for a total of 60 credits. They must also pass a qualifying exam and successfully defend a dissertation. The curriculum covers history, ethnography, foreign language study, and more.

The New School is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Arizona

University of Arizona campus

The University of Arizona offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services that can be earned online through its global campus. Courses are delivered in accelerated 6 or 9 week terms and taken just one course at a time. Students usually spend 3 years completing coursework and then spend a fourth year working on a dissertation.

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Anthropology Online

Woman getting Anthropology PhD degree online

A doctorate in anthropology degree program can help you develop your research, data analysis, and communication skills.

Not only can you become an expert in a topic of your choosing, but you can also strengthen your understanding of human diversity. This knowledge can help you be an effective leader and team member in any industry. You can start exploring accredited universities today to find the online anthropology PhD program that best aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Also, when choosing your anthropology degree online program, considering which subfields of anthropology interest you the most can help you narrow down your potential schools.

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Molly Doyle
WRITTEN BY
Molly Doyle
Molly holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of San Francisco and a B.A in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A Seattle-based educator, she focuses on student-centered instruction and creating culturally responsive curriculum.