Graduate Program

San Francisco State's Masters in Anthropology provides rigorous training in Archaeology, Biological/Physical Anthropology, Social/Cultural Anthropology, and Visual Anthropology. Anthropology Faculty and Lecturers are dedicated to research-led teaching in a wide range of specialties, and Master's students are expected to participate in Faculty projects. While students acquire particular knowledges, skills, and proficiencies in the Department's four areas of particular expertise, they also gain a critical understanding of the historical and theoretical foundations of the discipline. Class work is combined with advanced independent research that culminates in a thesis or other appropriate output (e.g., a film or other project).

At one level, the MA in Anthropology prepares students for a career in the academic world. While that career is often within the field of Anthropology, it is just as frequently in other fields such as law, medicine, education or media production. In addition, the MA is an excellent preparation for employment outside of the academy and has particular value for those preparing to enter a career in a multi-cultural or international environment, in government, museums and heritage management, or in any other public-service related field. In yet another direction, businesses of all types now recognize the value that an MA in an applied social science, such as Anthropology, adds to the resumés of both new and more experienced job-seekers.

Graduate students may choose courses in 1 of 4 following areas:

For information on each of the emphases, please follow the desired link:

Admission to Program

Applicants must have a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology or an allied field. Applicants who do not have a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology will be required to take ANTH 100, 110, 120, and 300 or their equivalents prior to beginning the MA Program.

Applications for Fall admission are due 1 February. Application materials received (not postmarked) later than 1 February will not be reviewed. Applications to both the department and to the University Graduate Division should be completed online.

The application consists of two separate parts: the application to the University Graduate Division and the application to the Department of Anthropology. These are two separate applications.

Part 1

Apply directly to the SFSU Graduate Division on the Standard Graduate Application. Be sure to take note of your student number assigned at the end of this process. You will need this for your department application.

Part 2

Send all of the following (except for the department application form and GRE scores) to the Department of Anthropology in one package. Incomplete application packages will be returned to the applicant. Applicants should allow sufficient time for Mail Carrier delivery (US Post, UPS, FEDEX) and Campus Mail delivery (all deliveries to campus must go through central campus receiving).

  • Complete the MA Program Application online.
  • A 1-3 page (typed) Statement of Purpose. This statement should explain your experience, interests, and goals within anthropology. Statements should succinctly address (1) the applicant's academic preparation for MA level work in a specific area of anthropology, (2) field and/or laboratory experience in the applicant's chosen area of concentration, (3) a brief statement indicating specifically how the applicant's prior preparation will integrate into their MA work at SFSU and the research agendas of specific faculty members, and (4) a brief statement of the applicant's career goals utilizing the MA degree. For tips on preparing a statement of purpose read Considering Graduate School.
  • You may also include a Curriculum Vitae, but it is not required.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation. Letters of recommendation should be from faculty members who are intimately familiar with your academic ability at an advanced level. They should be able to specifically evaluate your likelihood of success in an MA program based on your performance in undergraduate school.
  • Applicants should obtain Recommendation Letters from referees typed on official letterhead, sealed in envelopes with the referee's signature over the sealed flap, and include them with their entire application. Referees should not under any circumstances send letters directly to the department.
  • One or two Writing Samples. Specifically, the admissions committee is looking for examples of advanced level writing such as a Senior Thesis, Honors Thesis, published paper, or comparable written work giving evidence of both writing ability and the capacity for research, analysis, and original thought at the graduate level. Writing samples should clearly demonstrate the applicant's ability to write at an advanced level in anthropology. Writing is evaluated on technical ability as well as knowledge of anthropological literature. Writing samples should adequately demonstrate an applicant's breadth of knowledge in a specific area of anthropology including a specific familiarity with the pertinent literature. In other words, the quality of prose as well as citation and evaluation of pertinent literature are given equal importance. Writing samples should be no more than 15 typed pages in length.
  • Applicants to the Visual Anthropology emphasis who have made videos are requested to submit a DVD of one recent work. Applicants who have made more than one video should submit that which is most anthropological. Other applicants who have still photography experience should send a CD or DVD with twenty or thirty representative stills. A writing sample is also required of Visual Anthropology applicants.
  • Official transcripts for all previous academic work. Transcripts must be sent separately to the Graduate Division and the department. Do not send multiple copies to either location. Undergraduate work reflected on an applicant's transcript should show an organized preparation for graduate work in anthropology. This is indicated not just by fulfillment of the requirements for an undergraduate degree but also by the careful construction of a related group of courses which demonstrates preparation for an MA concentration in a sub-discipline of anthropology. For instance, applicants to the Bioanthropology program should have appropriate preparation in not only biological anthropology but should also have taken courses in biology, archaeology, and geology. Applicants should take the opportunity to discuss their preparation for graduate work as reflected by their undergraduate course choices in their Statement of Purpose.
  • Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. GRE scores must be sent directly to the university from ETS (Institution Code: 4684).  Applications will not be reviewed without GRE scores.  GRE scores must be from the past five years.  In order for applications to be considered, applicants must have a minimum combined score of 1000 (old scale) with no less than 450 on either section.  On the new scale (after August 2011) the minimum combined score is 300 with no less than 150 on either the verbal or quantitative reasoning sections.  The minimum analytical writing score for admission is 4.
  • All students, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English, are required to attain a score of 550 (written test) or 213 (computer test) or 79-80 on the IBT (Internet Based Test) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or an equivalent score (6.0) on the International English Language Test Scheme (IELTS). Applicants who do not meet these minimum standards are not admitted to the program.

All of the above (except the Graduate Program Application and GRE scores) should be sent to the department in one envelope. The application package should be addressed to:

Graduate Coordinator
Department of Anthropology
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, California 94132-4155

For further information on the MA Program in Anthropology, please see the MA Program Handbook (pdf).

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The Handbook will provide essential information about your movement through advancement to candidacy to completion of your degree. Among other things, it will explain how and when you need to complete the following Departmental forms. Right-click on the link below to download the forms. Use 'save link as'.

  1. MA Program Worksheet (pdf)
  2. Language Requirement Form (pdf)
  3. Advancement Classified Grad Standing Form (pdf)

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These forms may not be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator unless they are signed by the student's advisor.

MA Program Course Requirements

The following 4 courses are required:

  • ANTH 710 Proseminar in Anthropological Theory and Method (3 units)
    Directed application of anthropological theory, methods and research techniques. Cannot be repeated for credit. Must be taken before or concurrently with other graduate seminars.
  • ANTH 740 Seminar in Archaeological Problems (3 units)
    Problems in archaeological theory and method, including synthetic techniques and culture-historical reconstruction. May be repeated once.
  • ANTH 760 Seminar in Biological Anthropology (3 units)
    Various aspects of current research and trends in Biological Anthropology. Fossil evidence, modern human variation, comparative anatomy, and behavior and evolutionary theory.
  • ANTH 770 Seminar in Problems in Cultural Anthropology (3 units)
    Directed research in problems in Cultural Anthropology related to a specific cultural area, ethnic group, or specific topic. May be repeated once.

Students must take an additional 15 units in Anthropology or allied fields upon advisement (15 units) (A maximum of 9 units of upper division courses may be used upon advisement.)

Students must take one of the following 2 classes (3 units)

  • ANTH 894 Creative Work Project (3 units)
    Graduate Approved Program and Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement forms must be approved by the Graduate Division before registration.
  • ANTH 898 Master's Thesis (3 units)
    Graduate Approved Program and Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement forms must be approved by the Graduate Division before registration.

A total of 30 units is required for the MA.

Prospective students are advised to contact the Graduate Coordinator (Dr. Mark Griffin; to discuss application procedures and deadlines, and for further information about the program.

The Graduate Division also has requirements for applying to graduate studies. Please refer to the Graduate Division's website for further information.