Graduate Program

Ph.D. in Anthropology


Apply Now

General Description/Special Programs:
Notre Dame’s Anthropology doctoral program is committed to the richness and diversity of the discipline by building bridges between various humanistic and scientific approaches.  We seek to involve graduate students in integrative anthropology, including engagement with different anthropological and interdisciplinary perspectives, integration of theory and application, and integration of teaching, research, and ethics.  Individualized programs are made possible by a close working relationship with other departments and institutes.  This includes the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Institute for Latino Studies, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

Requirement for PhD (Please click here to download a PDF of the Anthropology Graduate Guide):
The doctoral program is designed to enable students to spend a major part of their graduate work on their chosen specialties.  Doctoral candidates follow a trajectory of study in methods and theory, based on the sub-fields of Anthropology, with flexible language, laboratory and field training depending upon perceived need and as determined by their individual research agenda.  Along with required courses in the first two years of study, each spring students prepare and present a research project at the end of term.  In the fall term third-year students take comprehensive examinations, and prepare a formal dissertation proposal that is suitable for submission to an external funding agency.  The dissertation and oral defense are the final steps in the Ph.D. requirement with the goal of completing all requirements within five years.

Notre Dame’s Anthropology doctoral program is fully funded with each accepted student receiving funding for 5 years.  For academic year 2016-2017 this includes full tuition ($47,700), and twelve-month stipend for living expenses ($21,500), and yearly conference support.   Additional information can be found on the University of Notre Dame Graduate School web page, or  Each year 4-6 students are accepted with a planned total of around 30 graduate students enrolled in the program at any time.

Application Requirements and Deadlines
General overview and statement of purpose
One of the most important tasks in applying to graduate school is that of writing a clear, detailed, and problem oriented letter of application.

You should think about several things when developing your application letter.  First, you need to outline the anthropological problem, evolutionary question, or behavioral subject that you are interested in studying while in graduate school.  These interests should be broadly defined, not narrowly methodological or descriptive.  Second, you must offer some ideas for how you might address this question, learn more about this problem, or shed light on current debates.  We want to hear what you want to do to advance our understanding of this question.  Third, you should outline how you became interested in the questions or themes you identified, and illustrate how your background provides a foundation for addressing these broader questions. Finally, you need to describe how your thematic research interests fit with the research and teaching skill sets in the Anthropology department: which full-time Anthropology faculty members would be able to mentor you and supervise your research? In a brief statement you should identify between 1-3 full-time Anthropology faculty members, in order of importance to your project, who you see as being able to supervise your graduate work.

It is also important for applicants to note that poor statements of purpose frequently fall into one of several categories.  First, some statements are framed around providing a personal biography and life history.  While your background is important and a foundation for your work, these letters fail to help the Graduate Admissions Committee understand your scholarly interests.  Second, at times applicants conflate learning, scholarship, and research with humanitarian causes.  These are not mutually exclusive but our interests are focused on understanding how an applicant proposes to advance our understanding of an Anthropological question through research, not adjudicate the relative importance of a specific humanitarian issue.  Third, other letters of application are focused on how being in a Ph.D. program will allow a student to better understand her/his Anthropological interests.  Graduate school is demanding, and requires students to be focused, motivated, and requires a general understanding of their interests and personal skills.  While there are laudable aspects to all of these types of application letters, the Notre Dame Anthropology graduate program is focused on developing the skill sets to undertake research related to the human condition, to learn about what it is to be human, and to convey these understandings of what it means to be human to others in some capacity.

Application Requirements and Deadline

Deadline: December 1st, any questions regarding your application, contact the Graduate School at 574-631-7706 or

  • GRE (plan to take it at least 3 months prior to the deadline)
  • If English is not your native language, TOEFL
  • University Transcript(s)
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Writing sample, maximum 20 pages double-spaced
  • Curriculum vitae or resume
  • Up to 3 academic powerpoint presentations and/or posters (optional)


Visit the Graduate School's website for more information.

Visiting the University of Notre Dame, Fall 2016

We encourage, but by no means require, students to visit us at Notre Dame. To facilitate this we will be hosting an open house for prospective graduate students on Friday, October 28th to learn about program funding, organization, the application process, and a wide range of other topics.  Prospective students will also have the opportunity to meet with individual faculty members and current graduate students, tour the university campus, and learn about departmental office space, library facilities and Anthropology department laboratories. 

Each of these open houses is limited to 10 students, and advance student bookings are required for attendance.  Given scheduling needs, interested students should contact Michelle Thornton ( at least three days in advance.  Bookings are handled in the order they are received.  Open house flyer 2016

Application selection and January 2016 campus visits

Once all applications have been received we will select some individuals to visit the campus of Notre Dame, learn more about their research interests, and to better understand how they might fit into the graduate program. All applications are due December 1.  These applications will be reviewed in December and early January.  Based on review of submitted materials by the Graduate Acceptance Committee, during the second week in January, between 10 and 12 applicants, both national and international, will be invited to visit the University of Notre Dame.  These campus visits will include students making a five min powerpoint presentation outlining their research interests and background, students meeting with individual faculty members, and participating in meals, laboratory tours, and a campus tour.  The University of Notre Dame will cover all national or international travel costs, accommodation and food costs resulting from the interviews.

Contact Information

Prof. Vania Smith-Oka, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Director of Graduate Studies, 574-631-7269 or email at

Program Requirements

  1. Expected time to degree is 5 to 6 years.
  2. A total of 60 total credit hours
    • 15 credits (minimum) in required course work plus 45 additional credits
      1. Four Sub-Disciplinary  Core Seminars (12 credits) (4 classes)
      2. Research Design Anthropology Seminar (3 credits)
      3. As needed: Seminars, courses in other departments, language coursework, methods, statistics, fieldwork, laboratory work, writing thesis in later years (45 credits)
  3. Annual assessments, with especially serious scrutiny at the completion of Year 1
  4. Comprehensive written exams in September of Year 3
  5. Yearly conference participation, submission of internal and external grants
  6. Successful completion of Teaching Apprenticeship (1 course on pedagogy, 2 terms as TA, 1 term as instructor of record), in conjunction with the Kaneb Center and a Teaching Mentor
  7. Completion of Professional Development Curriculum, in conjunction with the Career Center and the Graduate School
    • Writing Anthropology Seminar
    • Ethics
    • Engagement
  8. Presentation of dissertation proposal, Fall of Year 3
  9. Completion of dissertation

Course Structure

Required courses for Years 1 - 2, at 3 courses per semester

Anthropology Graduate Trajectory