MA Program

Our Master’s program provides students with a broad knowledge of anthropological theory and research methods. Students build their research and writing skills in their graduate courses, culminating in the preparation of a significant piece of scholarly writing, which constitutes their MA thesis. The MA in Anthropology at UBC is based upon a combination of coursework, research and a thesis.

The Department expects full-time MA candidates complete their thesis by the end of the second year. Expected time to complete the program is 18 to 24 months, however students may take up to five years to complete their MA.

MA Application Requirements

The Department of Anthropology welcomes Canadian and international applicants from a broad spectrum of anthropological sub-disciplines.

Applicants must hold a four-year bachelor’s degree with a major, honours or concentration in anthropology or the equivalent. Applicants to the MA program must have completed at least 12 credits in senior anthropology courses with a minimum average of A-. The courses should cover a broad range of anthropology, including at least three credits of archaeology or physical anthropology, six credits in ethnography, three credits in methods, and, if possible, at least three credits of anthropological theory, and three credits in museum and visual anthropology.

The Department also favours applicants who have taken introductory courses in linguistics and statistics. Highly qualified applicants lacking one or more of these requirements may have courses in contiguous fields accepted as equivalents or may be required to take such courses as part of their program of study.

Outstanding candidates with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines but with substantial background related to anthropology, or who are missing one or more of our admission requirements, are occasionally admitted on the condition that they complete a number of additional courses in anthropology.

We look for applicants with developed intellectual interests as well as abilities and a strong commitment to their area of study and with interests that fall within the current interests of the Department. If applicants have questions about the match between their interests and those of the Department, they should contact the Anthropology Graduate Secretary. It is also helpful for applicants to discuss their program with the appropriate faculty members before making a final application.

Applicants to both the MA and PhD programs should bear in mind that the Department receives far more applications than it can accommodate each year. We consider applications in terms of available faculty and resources. Inevitably, some excellent students are turned down. It is in applicants’ best interest to consider applying to several graduate schools.

MA Program Requirements

Supervisor and Supervisory Committee

Upon admission to the MA program, students are assigned a temporary supervisor. Students must consult with them no later than the first week of September concerning their first year program (especially course selections and establishing a permanent advisor). As soon as possible after admission to the program, and before the end of the first term (December), each student must confirm a permanent supervisor whose competencies are appropriate to the intended field of study. Supervisors must be members of the Department of Anthropology.

Within the first term the student must, after consultation with the Supervisor, approach a second faculty member in order to form a supervisory committee. Depending on the student’s area of interest, the second member may be an anthropologist or faculty member from another UBC department, program, centre or research institute. In some cases it may be desirable to add a third committee member.

Please see the page on the role of the Supervisory Committee for more details.


The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at UBC specifies that candidates may receive an MA after successfully completing at least 30 credits of coursework (at least 24 credits of graduate courses) and submitting a piece of written work, usually a thesis, within a five-year period.

  • ANTH 500 (History of Anthropological Thought)
  • ANTH 506 (pro-seminar)
  • At least three credits of advanced methodology in the appropriate areas of ethnographic, archaeological, or museological research (ANTH 516, 517, or 518)
  • At least six credits of coursework outside their subdisciplinary specialty, with at least three credits of which must be in Anthropology
  • At least six additional credits of other elective coursework

Most courses are expected to be graduate seminars, but students may arrange to take up to nine credits of reading courses with individual faculty if suitable courses are not available and if faculty members are willing.

Upon the recommendation of the supervisory committee, a student may take courses from outside the Department. Students may also take courses at the 300 and 400 level; however, to meet Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations, no more than six credits from undergraduate courses can be used to meet the 24 credit course requirement.

Academic Progress

Once a supervisory committee has been formed, its members and the student must meet to complete a Graduate Program Record. It must be submitted to the AGSC for approval before the end of the first term. Any changes in the program, including changes in coursework, must be promptly recorded in the Graduate Program Record.

Students who fail to complete a satisfactory proposal within two years may be required to withdraw. Students who have not completed their thesis by the end of the third year may have their progress evaluated as unsatisfactory.

All graduate students in the program are evaluated in December and again in April by the AGSC based upon reports provided by supervisors and course instructors. If the student’s progress is deemed unsatisfactory, the AGSC may recommend to the Department that permission to register be denied.

Students are expected to maintain the highest academic standards during their MA studies. The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has set 60% as a passing grade. However, no more than six credits of grades below 68% can be counted towards the program; all other courses must achieve a minimum of 68%. The Department of Anthropology sets 75% as the passing grade for its core graduate seminar, ANTH 500, and the required methodology course. Students who fail a course normally are required to repeat it or choose a suitable replacement (except in the case of ANTH 500) and achieve at least a grade of 74%. Students who consistently receive poor grades may be required to repeat courses, undertake additional coursework, or withdraw from the program.

MA Thesis

All masters’ candidates must complete a thesis in their area of specialization. Students register for the thesis as a six-credit course (ANTH 549) after completing all other course requirements and submitting a thesis proposal approved by their committee.

MA theses should be distinguished from PhD dissertations. Dissertations are modeled upon monographs or books. MA theses, in contrast, should resemble articles in academic journals. They may be based upon original field research. Alternatively, a student may contribute towards intellectual discussion by preparing a critical analysis of the literature on a subject.

A thesis may be no longer than 50 double-spaced pages, inclusive of tables, bibliography, appendices, and so forth. It must employ standard type (12 point font) and standard margins on all sides of the page. Theses must meet these conditions before they are examined.

Students in Museum Studies may, upon the advice of their committees, also prepare a museum exhibit in addition to the written MA thesis.

MA theses are made available to the wider public through the holdings of the UBC Library and in the form of journal articles and special reports. As the final product of a student's MA training, they are held to the highest scholarly standards as documents which both the student and the Department can be proud of.

Preparation and Writing

The student should begin working on a thesis proposal as soon as possible. You can find guidelines for writing a thesis proposal here.

Once approved by the Advisor, a copy of the proposal must be submitted to the Anthropology Graduate Studies Committee (AGSC). Students normally complete their proposals at the end of their first year or early in the first term of their second year. The thesis proposal must be approved no later than the end of the second year. Students who fail to complete a satisfactory proposal within two years may also be required to withdraw.

Note that the thesis must adhere to style guidelines set out by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Program Completion

When all the committee members agree that the thesis is acceptable, a copy is submitted to the AGSC by the Advisor along with a memo stating that the thesis is ready to be evaluated by a third reader. The AGSC appoints an additional faculty member (MARC Reader) for a final reading and evaluation. At least three weeks must be allowed for this review.

MA students with a specialty in Museum Studies who have also prepared a museum exhibit as part of their degree requirements will have an additional committee examiner from among the faculty members in the Museum of Anthropology.

Upon completion of the review, the full committee, including the MARC reader, meets to discuss the thesis. The committee may (1) pass the thesis as it is; (2) pass the thesis requiring minor corrections and revisions; (3) require an additional round of major revisions and re-evaluation of the thesis; (4) fail the thesis.

Once the committee agrees to either pass or fail the thesis, the MARC reader writes a short report to the AGSC and reports the results of the evaluation (see MARC Report form).


The Anthropology Graduate Handbook under "Current Students" on the left-hand side of the page provides more details about the MA program.