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:


Applying for Admission to the Program

While we welcome applications from students with a wide range of experiences and a diversity of undergraduate degrees, we recommend that you have a BA or BSc in Anthropology or an allied field.

The deadline for your application for admission to start the MA in the Fall Term is the first day of the preceding March.

The deadline for your application for admission to start the MA in the Spring Term is the first day of the preceding November.

If you have a specific problem submitting your application, please contact the Graduate Coordinator in Anthropology as soon as possible. In exceptional circumstances, we will consider applications outside of the fall and spring deadlines.

Please complete the two-part application:

Part 1: submitted to the SFSU Graduate Division (on-line)

Follow this link to the SFSU Graduate Division's Admissions page (if you are an international student, please follow this link International Admissions). Next follow the instructions to complete and submit the Standard Graduate Application. When you have completed this part of your application, SFSU will issue you with a student number. Please make a note of this number and use it when you complete the second part of your application and in any correspondance to the University and Department. 

Part 2: submitted to the Department of Anthropology (in hard-copy by mail)

Assemble the following documents and send them to:

Graduate Coordinator

Department of Anthropology

San Francisco State University

1600 Holloway Avenue

San Francisco, California 94132-4155
  • Statement of Purpose (500 word max.). Explain your experience, interests, and goals as a student of anthropology, and your plans post-MA. In particular address the following topics: (1) which of the subfields of Anthropology most interests you as an area of specialism (archaeology, cultural anthropology, physical / biological anthropology, visual anthropology); 2) what parts of your academic (or other experience, including field or lab-based) work has best prepared you to undertake graduate-level work in anthropology; and (3) which department faculty member would you like to work with; include details of any contact you have already had with that faculty member.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation. Ask three people with knowledge of your abilities, achievements, and character to write letters in support of your application. You will do best to ask former or current teachers, advisors, or others who have supervised your academic or project-based work. Letters should be sent directly to the Department of Anthroplogy by your recommenders. Suggestion: give your recommenders pre-addressed and stamped envelopes; remind them of the deadline for the application.
  • Writing Sample. Provide a graded essay, undergradute thesis chapter, or other written work (e.g., if you have published professionally) which most clearly shows your ability to communicate in written form. We will use the Writing Sample to assess your technical ability to write as well as your knowledge of anthropological (or other professional) literature. One essay, one thess chapter, or one piece of published work is sufficient. 
  • Applicants wishing to focus on Visual Anthropology and who have made films or completed substantial photographic or other graphic work should submit copies of this work (note: costs of postage means that hard copies cannot be returned). The format of submissions should allow easy access and viewing of the work (e.g., a DVD or thumb-drive).
  • Official transcripts for all undergraduate and any previously completed graduate work. In addition to any transcripts required by the Graduate Division, all applicants must send this separate set of transcripts directly to the department. Do not send multiple copies to either location. Stronger applicants will use their Statement of Purpose to explain how the particular classes that they have completed fit into their personal interests and goals.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

  • Instruct the Education Testing Service to send official transcripts of your GRE scores directly to the University (Institution Code: 4684). While we cannot make formal offers of admisson without your GRE scores, it maybe possible, in very exceptional cases, to arrange a delay in receipt of test scores; contact the Graduate Coordinator in Anthropology if this is an issue. GRE scores must be of a test taken within the past five years. Applicants must have a minimum combined score of 1000 (old scale) and 450 on either section. For the new scale (i.e., after August 2011), applicants must have a minimum combined score of 300 with no less than 150 on the verbal or quantitative reasoning section. Applicants must have a minimum analytical writing score of 4.0.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

  • Students whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must take the TOEFL test, and obtain a score of 550 (on the written test) or 213 (on the computer test) or 79-80 (on the Internet Based Test) or have an equivalent score (6.0) on the International English Language Test Scheme. 


While we understand that there maybe a delay in getting transcripts, GRE scores and letters of recommendations, we request that you send all of Part Two (the application to the Department) in one package. 

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.