Anthropology PhD Program


Anthropology PhD Program

Deadline for Applications for Fall 2023 admission to the PhD in Anthropology: January 15, 2023.



The USC Department of Anthropology is interested in training innovative, rigorous, cutting-edge anthropologists who expand the horizon of the discipline of anthropology in theory, method, form and community engagement. Toward this goal, the PhD program requires serious engagement with social theory and in-depth ethnographic field research, while it also supports new ways of conducting and sharing anthropological knowledge. The Department seeks to support doctoral students who want to pursue a variety of career paths, outside as well as inside the academy. Our reenvisioned PhD program is grounded in a critical engagement with the history, theory and practice of anthropology. It prepares students to produce scholarly work and provides them the option to pursue a formally innovative dissertation (for more information on the Experimental Ethnography Emphasis click here). For some faculty and students, this may mean extensive engagement with and training in other fields. Working closely with faculty from within Anthropology, students are encouraged to partner with faculty across the university’s units and professional schools to craft a plan of study tailored to their research interests. The Department provides five years of funding and expects students to complete their work within that time frame. Given this time frame, applicants would benefit from having previous ties to their proposed field site(s), relevant language and/or professional skills training, and a completed Bachelors or Masters degree in anthropology or another field relevant to their proposed project at the time of application.


USC Dornsife Anthropology offers a competitive fellowship package for our PhD students. The fellowship includes a $34,000 yearly stipend (AY 23-24), health and dental insurance, and mandatory university fees. Two years of financial support is provided without other obligations, and an additional 3 years via graduate teaching fellowships. 

Incoming PhD candidates are automatically considered to receive supplementary top-off funds, such as the Provost’s Fellowship Top Off or the Diversity, Inclusion & Access (DIA) Top Off, which increases the overall stipend amount for eligible students to $36,000 (AY 23-24). 

 PhD Program Requirements

The Anthropology Department’s PhD program offers students a strong foundation in the history, theory and practice of anthropology, while enabling them to develop formally innovative dissertations. 

Before advancing to candidacy, the student must fulfill the language requirement, present a portfolio and pass the qualifying examination. Having completed this work, the student will conduct fieldwork and write the doctoral dissertation.


Language Requirement

Students are required to demonstrate competence in one or more foreign languages, to be selected in consultation with the faculty committee. 


Practical and/or interdisciplinary training

In addition to anthropological coursework, PhD students can engage in relevant practical training by completing 2 or more units of ANTH 596 Internship for Curricular Practical Training or equivalent, or by selecting courses in other fields that prepare them for their research and/or professional goals.



The student's coursework must total at least 60 units. No more than 8 units of 794 Doctoral Dissertation may count toward the 60 units.

The following courses are required for the PhD in Anthropology:

  • ANTH 501 History and Foundations of Anthropology, Units: 4
  • ANTH 502 Contemporary Theory in Anthropology, Units: 4
  • ANTH 562 The Practice of Ethnography, Units: 4
  • ANTH 603 Experiments in Ethnography, Units: 4, or equivalent
  • ANTH 593 Practicum for Teaching in Anthropology, 2 units
  • At least 6 additional graduate courses, to be selected in consultation with the faculty committee (24 units)

Research and dissertation:

  • ANTH 790 Research, Units: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (minimum 8 units required)
  • ANTH 794a Doctoral Dissertation, Units: 2
  • ANTH 794b Doctoral Dissertation, Units: 2


What you need to apply

The following supporting documents are required for the USC Dornsife Anthropology PhD application:

  • Please combine the following into a single document and upload as “Personal Statement”:

○      A 500-word Biographical Statement detailing your personal trajectory and experiences, leading to your interest in applying for a PhD in Anthropology at USC. 

○      A 1000-word Project Proposal for a field-based ethnographic research project that can be completed within the timeframe of the program, mentioning specific faculty members in USC Anthropology with whom you would like to work.

  • Submit an approximately 2500-word Writing Sample that demonstrates your best analytical or conceptual writing. 
  • Request at least two letters of recommendation (submitted by recommenders through the online application portal), ideally at least one from a faculty member who can speak to your academic qualifications.
  • Optional: A document with links to a portfolio, website or other document with examples of previous research projects, interests, or creative works (e.g., film, video, sound work, photographs, or creative writing) may be submitted as an addendum to the Personal Statement, but is not required of all applicants. Note that this would be especially important if you wish to conduct multimodal or cross-genre forms of experimental ethnography.  
  • NOTE: As of November, 2021, the Department of Anthropology no longer requires GRE scores as part of the application.
  • International students are also required to demonstrate proficiency in English, such as by completing the TOEFL exam (see Graduate English Proficiency requirements).

If you have questions about admissions criteria, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Nancy Lutkehaus ( 


How to Apply:

  1. Complete USC's standard online graduate admissions form.
  2. Attach the supporting documents described above.


Contact Graduate Program Advisor Prof. Nancy Lutkehaus if you have questions about the Anthropology PhD program or application process.

PhD handbook Fall 21 Edition



  • Department of Anthropology
  • University of Southern California
  • 3620 South Vermont Ave.,Suite 352
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-2537