Ph.D. Requirements

Our doctoral program prepares you to meld grounded field research with theoretical sophistication in doing anthropology sensitive to the challenges and complexities of making sense of human experience. You will receive a strong training in theory as well as in contemporary research methods and proposal writing.

Two PhD Tracks

Students have the option of leaving for the field after 5 or after 6 semesters.  If they leave after 5 semesters, they will take 15 courses total—3 per semester—and convene their committee in December of the fifth semester for a Portfolio Workshop—at which they’ll discuss their grant proposals, three annotated reading lists (with 25 citations each), and a course syllabus (for a class they will teach in the future).  If they leave after 6 semesters, they will take 18 courses and convene their committee in April for the Portfolio Workshop, where they’ll share their grant proposals, three annotated reading lists of 35 citations each, and a course syllabus.

If students receive external funding for fieldwork, they can spend a year and a half in the field (with one semester covered by the department and two by their grant).  If they do not receive external funding, they will remain in the field for one year (with that year covered by the department).

Funding (tuition, fees and stipend) for each student is guaranteed for 5 years, or 5 ½ for those who receive external funding for their fieldwork.  The department is not responsible for paying continuation fees for those who do not finish within these time frames, but we will work closely with each student who does not finish to find external funding to cover continuation fees, health insurance, and stipends.


Students who choose the 5 semester option take 15 graded courses, of which at least 10 must be graduate seminars with primary faculty in Cultural Anthropology, including CA 801, 802, 803 and 804.  Two of the 15 classes must be in a discipline outside CA, and no more than 3 of the 15 may be Independent Studies.  Up to 2 graduate Anthropology classes at UNC-Chapel Hill may count towards the 10 course requirement. 

Students who choose the 6 semester plan will follow the above guidelines, except that they may take two additional (5 total) Independent Studies toward the 18 course requirement. 

Required Courses

  • Theories: The 2-semester Theories course (CA 801-802), taken in fall and spring of the first year, focuses on core debates and themes within the history of socio-cultural anthropology and related fields.
  • Research Methods: The Research Methods seminar (CA 803), taken in the spring of the second year, focuses on ethnographic methods, grant writing, and reading list annotation.
  • Grant Writing: The Grant Writing seminar (CA 804), taken in the fall of the third year (the 5th semester), focuses on the development of grant proposals for dissertation research. 

Certificate Programs

Cultural Anthropology PhD students are encouraged to apply for a certificate in another department or field.  Among others, our students have acquired certificates in: Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies; African and African American Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Documentary Studies; International Development Policy. 

Typical Course of Study

Year 1

  • Required classes: Theories I (CA 801) in fall, Theories II (CA 802) in spring
  • Serve as RA or TA to faculty
  • Plan of Study due last Friday of January
  • Identify at least one Ph.D. committee member by end of April
  • Successful completion of Theories I and II exam required for continuation in graduate program
  • Summer between Year 1 and 2: conduct preliminary field research

Year 2

  • Required class: Research Methods (CA 803) in spring
  • Complete annotations for one (of three) reading lists
  • Serve as TA
  • Plan of Study due last Friday of January
  • Fill out remainder of Ph.D. committee by February 1
  • Field Specialization Workshop with Ph.D. committee, late April
  • Recommended: take at least one independent study in spring
  • Summer between Year 2 and 3: conduct preliminary field research & complete annotations for second reading list

Year 3

  • Required class: Grant Writing (CA 804) in fall
  • Submit grant applications for dissertation research
  • Submit application for IRB approval for dissertation research
  • Fall: complete annotations for third reading list
  • Serve as TA
  • For those leaving for the field in January, schedule Portfolio Workshop for early December
  • For those leaving for the field in June, schedule Portfolio Workshop for late April

Year 4

  • Dissertation research

Year 5

  • Dissertation writing & defense
  • Serve as TA, or teach own class