MA Program

Our Masters 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. Most students attain their degree within two years of starting the program; it is possible for a well-organized person to complete degree requirements during the first twelve to eighteen months of study.

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.

MA Application Requirements

The Department of Anthropology welcomes Canadian and international applicants from a broad spectrum of anthropological sub-disciplines. We especially look for candidates with an outstanding record of academic preparation and achievement.

Applicants must hold a four-year bachelor’s degree with a major, honours or concentration in anthropology or the equivalent. The UBC major, for example, requires a minimum of 42 credits in anthropology courses, at least 30 of which must be numbered 300 or higher. In addition, 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.

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. The categories and the types of courses that fulfill these requirements are described in the UBC Calendar. Click here to find the relevant section online on the UBC website.

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.

Beyond these minimum requirements, 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. Applicants should indicate in their prospectus which faculty members they hope to work with. It is also helpful for applicants to discuss their program with the appropriate faculty members before making a final application. An application including a well-conceived statement of intent, a solid sample of academic writing, and detailed supportive letters of reference will receive the most favorable attention.

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.

To earn a Masters in Anthropology, a candidate must successfully complete:

  • 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

The Department expects full-time MA candidates complete the thesis by the end of the second year. Expected time to completion is 18 to 24 months.

The Department accepts part-time MA candidates. The admission and residency requirements for part-time students are the same as the regular MA program and the degree must be completed within a five-year period. A part-time program of study must be arranged and approved by the Supervisory Committee and the Anthropology Graduate Studies Committee. Anthropology 500 must be completed in the first year of study.

The MA program is administered by an Anthropology Graduate Studies Committee (AGSC) made up of the Graduate Advisor, three additional faculty members and two student representatives. The AGSC is responsible for admissions, awards, and oversight of students’ progress. The following guidelines set out the program in detail. Please study them carefully. Students are also subject to the regulations set out by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies ( If you have further questions, you should consult with your supervisor, the Graduate Advisor, or a member of the AGSC.

Supervisor and Supervisory Committee

Upon admission to the MA program, students are assigned to 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.

FACULTY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CHAIR MORE THAN SEVEN GRADUATE COMMITTEES (MA and PhD). It is in your interest to consult with faculty early about supervision. Faculty must indicate in writing, on a form available from the Graduate Secretary, that they have accepted a position as Supervisor.

Within the first term 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.

Graduate Program Record

Once a supervisory committee has been formed, its members and the student must meet to complete a Graduate Program Record (or available from the Graduate Secretary). The form records biographical information, details of previous work, and the proposed program of study. 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 and reported to the AGSC.


Refer to the list at the top of this page for credit requirements.

The student and supervisory committee together construct a program of study which they must submit to the AGSC for approval as part of the Graduate Program Record. Most courses will be in Anthropology. Upon the recommendation of the supervisory committee, a student may take courses from outside the Department and may take credits beyond the required minimum. In addition, students lacking one or more MA prerequisites will be required to fulfill them as part of their program (see MA admissions requirements).

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. 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.

Directed reading courses take two forms: stand-alone tutorials or graduate sections of senior undergraduate courses. Both types require prior approval from the Graduate Advisor and Department Head. Forms are available from the Graduate Secretary’s Office. Applications should include a reading list, a schedule for tutorial sessions and a list of assignments. A typical list of reading course requirements includes regular meetings to discuss readings, brief written reports or presentations on the readings, an annotated bibliography and a final paper.