Course Requirements & Distribution


The student is required to complete 5 semesters of course work. The normal course load is 3 courses per semester.  However, if warranted by the student's plan of study, he/she will be allowed to take a fourth course (e.g. a language course). Normal coursework will continue throughout the first two and a half years.

Graded Coursework:

A student must take at least 15 graded courses, of which no more than 3 may be independent studies.

Of these 15 courses, at least 10 must be regular courses listed as graduate seminars with primary faculty in CA (unless special permission is granted), including CA 801, 802, 803 and 804.  Up to 2 graduate-level anthropology courses at UNC-Chapel Hill can also count towards this 10 course requirement.

No more than 3 courses may be independent studies.  

Of these 15 graded courses, all students must take at least 2 courses in a discipline outside Cultural Anthropology.

UPDATENew policy

Courses below the 500 level may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree. With the approval of their director of graduate studies and the associate dean for academic affairs, graduate students may enroll in lower-level courses, but these courses will not count toward any graduation requirement and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation.

Note: Selected graduate-level courses are offered concurrently with their undergraduate-level counterparts. Graduate students enrolled in these courses are required to complete the requirements and meet the rigor delineated on the graduate-level syllabi which must be distinct from – and more rigorous than – the requirements for UG credit. For additional information, please contact the registrar and/or the director of graduate studies, who will be receiving further guidance from our offices.

The graduate school recommends that at least 1 of these independent studies be taken in the spring of the 2nd year to assist with the preparation of field-specific annotated reading lists and in anticipation of grant writing in the fall of the 3rd year. The terms of the independent study must be negotiated with the faculty advisor in question. In the interest of faculty labor, they should not be understood as tutorials, but as opportunities for sponsored independent work towards completion of the portfolio requirements.

Ph.D. students: Ph.D. degree requirements are not based on credit hours, so Ph.D. students can still take as many UG courses as necessary to meet an educational goal defined by them or their faculty advisers, just like before. The change is that UG courses will no longer count toward Ph.D. students’ GPA.

Note: The new policy also applies to Ph.D. students who are applying for a master’s en route to the Ph.D. or switching to a terminal master’s.

Course distribution:

  • Theories: The 2-semester Theories course (CA 801-802) focuses on core debates and themes within the history of socio-cultural anthropology and related fields.
  • Research Methods: Students are required to take the Research Methods and Portfolio Seminar (CA 803) in the spring of their second year. This course will be focused on ethnographic methods, using the student's summer fieldwork as the basis of exploration.
  • Grant Writing:  Students are required to take the Grant Writing seminar (CA 804) in the fall of their third year.   This course will focus on the development of the dissertation research proposal and the preparation of grant proposals; it will also allow students to work further on their portfolios.
  • All students must take at least two courses in a discipline outside of Cultural Anthropology.