Master's Degree in Anthropology

The graduate program in anthropology offers a master of arts degree designed to provide an organized course of study for students who wish to pursue inquiry into anthropology beyond the baccalaureate level and to become acquainted with professional work in anthropology.

Intensive training for independent research is stressed, with particular emphasis on comparative studies, theoretical grounding and ethnographic and archaeological fieldwork. Departmental strengths include the study of complex societies, comparative methods, economic anthropology and development, gender studies, semiotic systems, global and transnational processes, linguistic anthropology, the emerging cultures of cyberspace, medical anthropology, psychological anthropology and religion and ritual.

Geographical strengths of the department include Latin America, North America, Africa, East Asia and South Asia. Graduate study in archaeology concentrates on the development of complex societies, emphasizing Mesoamerica.   

Why Earn an M.A. in Anthropology?

Apart from intellectual curiosity and gratification, there are some practical reasons to seek the M.A. degree:

  • Enhanced credentials for a doctoral program: The M.A. will significantly enhance your qualifications if you plan to pursue a full-time doctoral program; this can be especially useful if you seek to enter graduate school in a field outside your undergraduate major.
  • Material benefits: Having the M.A. enhances your qualifications and pay in most public and private organizations.
  • Test the water: The one-year M.A. can help you decide whether the academic path is right for you — before you invest a great deal of time and resources in a multiyear doctoral program.
  • Professional opportunities: The M.A. in anthropology can promote a number of professional opportunities in diverse anthropologically informed fields such as development, policy, teaching (at community colleges, high schools and elsewhere), business and research. 
  • Transferable skills: The emphasis on research and writing will give you skills that are critical for every career path.

Why Brandeis?

There are compelling reasons why you should consider studying at Brandeis:

  • First-class training: The anthropology program is a highly selective program that offers exceptional training in sociocultural, linguistic and/or archaeological anthropology, at the same time that it promotes critical thinking, research and writing skills.
  • Dedicated mentoring: Brandeis is a small research university with an emphasis on small classes and genuine mentorship; each student has the opportunity to work closely with one or more distinguished scholars. At Brandeis, master's and doctoral students participate in the same courses, ensuring a lively and challenging intellectual community.
  • Scholarships: To enable qualified students to attend Brandeis, the graduate school has a need-based scholarship fund that allows a partial reduction in the cost of tuition and fees. Master's students can also apply to Brandeis and departmental fellowship competitions for field research funding.
  • Intellectual community: The anthropology department provides a rich curriculum of more than 40 courses open to graduate students. Close ties with other departments on campus and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management enhance the range of courses and contacts available to students. In addition, students may cross-register at Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University, Wellesley College or the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies. Brandeis is also a participating member of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology, which draws faculty and students from area universities and institutions for intensive courses in the analysis of lithic, ceramic, metal and biological materials. The department is also a founding member of the Greater Boston Anthropology Consortium, which includes anthropology departments at Clark University, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Tufts University, Wellesley College and Wheaton College, and which sponsors roundtables, distinguished lectures and a student conference each year. 
  • Career support: The career services office at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) offers centralized career resources dedicated to all GSAS students. We assist master’s students with career decision-making and planning through individual appointments, workshops, Web resources and employer recruiting.
  • Library resources: Students can avail themselves of the strong collections at the Goldfarb Library on campus as well as collections at major libraries in Greater Boston through the Boston Library Consortium. Graduate students also have full access to many nearby manuscript repositories.
  • Boston and Waltham: Brandeis students partake of the rich intellectual and cultural environment of the Boston area — from a plethora of events at area universities to the array of museums and other institutions in metropolitan Boston. The department also maintains close contacts with diverse organizations and groups in Waltham and Greater Boston, allowing for rich fieldwork opportunities.

The M.A. Curriculum

Degree requirements include:

  • Eight (full credit) courses. Students can take these over the course of one full year (4 courses per semester), but many opt to extend their timeline beyond one year (taking 3 courses or fewer per semester, for instance).
  • One of the eight courses is a required foundational seminar in the history of anthropological thought
  • Seven courses are electives, chosen in consultation with the student’s adviser
  • A substantial master's paper based on original primary and/or secondary research
It is possible to complete the program in one year, typically by taking 4 courses per semester and focusing heavily on the master's paper in the second semester. However, the majority of our students have found it more realistic and more intellectually beneficial to extend their studies over three or four semesters. Opting to extend the program can also allow students to conduct summer fieldwork (after their first year) toward their master's paper.