Graduate Program Overview

For more information, please contact the Anthropology Director of Graduate Education (DOGE), Matt Hill at


The Department of Anthropology at Iowa State University grants an M.A. degree in anthropology, structured around a holistic set of core courses offered in the areas of biological anthropology, archaeology, sociocultural anthropology and linguistic anthropology, with history and theory of the subdisciplines included in each course.

Beyond this, the Department of Anthropology encourages its graduate students to select area and topical courses according to their individual interests from one of five distinct tracks — Applied, Sociocultural, Linguistics, Archaeology or Biological. Each track offers a series of courses that will provide focus and direction for putting together a program of study.

Currently, faculty research projects include:

  • Archaeology: archaeology of the prairie-plains (prehistoric and historic), ethnoarchaeology, the development of lithic technology in the Middle East, comparative study of stone-age hunter-gatherers in the Middle East and the United States.
  • Sociocultural: contemporary American Indian, African and Asian American minorities, contemporary cultures of Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Caribbean, South Asia, East and Southeast Asia, issues of development, ethnicity, migration, agrarian issues, artisanal issues, gender and development, state, new communication technologies, and globalization.
  • Linguistics: contemporary Native American languages and cultures, gender, and the construction of ethnicity, development and maintenance of language revitalization programs
  • Biological: influence of ecology on primate and early human feeding, ranging, and social behavior, behavior of primates in a habitat resembling that of early humans

Graduate students in archaeology can become an active part of on-going NSF and contracted research programs in Upper Paleolithic and Midwest/Plains prehistory. They have access and interdisciplinary support for study and research in such collaborative areas as GIS, soils and geomorphology, Pleistocene geology and sedimentology and agriculture origins and plant domestication. Support is available through the Iowa State University Archaeological Laboratory (ISUAL) and sponsored archaeological projects.

Graduate students in socio-cultural anthropology receive theoretical and methodological training which will prepare them for today’s diverse and multicultural environment. Class work results in exposure to an assortment of topical specialties and theoretical. The department offers courses in the cultural areas for most of the world. Faculty conduct research, often involving graduate students, in a number of cross-cultural settings, ranging from Native American communities to work among small-scale farmers in Morocco. In recent years graduate students in socio-cultural anthropology have completed theses on an array of topics – from development issues affecting rural Guatemala to agricultural changes in Swaziland. Students may develop minor areas of concentration in a number of programs, such as Women’s Studies, International Development, and Sustainable Agriculture. The department provides limited graduate support in the form of teaching and research assistantships.

Graduate students in the linguistic track receive an education grounded in all areas of anthropology with expanded training in the current theories and methods of linguistic anthropology. Course work covers both anthropological approaches to the field as well as formal linguistic training. Students may choose to broaden their studies with relevant courses in Computer Science, English, Foreign Language and Literature, History, Linguistics, Psychology, Communication Disorders, Speech Communication, and Women’s Studies. Students have the opportunity to hone their skills as teaching assistants in the undergraduate linguistic anthropology course with its hands-on lab component. Topic areas appropriate for study include Native American language revitalization, text/discourse analysis, internet communication, computer assisted language learning, and intercultural communication.

Graduate students in biological anthropology can participate in research being conducted on both Old and New World primate species. A long-term study of chimpanzees in Senegal currently investigates human-induced changes in chimpanzee behavior and ecology through an interdisciplinary affiliation with Sustainable Agriculture at ISU, as well as examining the role of a savanna environment on chimpanzee social structure and organization here. The El Zota Biological Field Station in Costa Rica offers opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates in the Neotropics. A course in Primate Behavior and Ecology is offered in Costa Rica every other year, and opportunities for research on howlers, capuchins, and spider monkeys in this lowland rainforest are also available. Ties with the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary, scheduled to open in 2003, will enable students to experience cutting-edge research on the cognitive abilities of great apes, such as the bonobo Kanzi. Coursework is intended to provide a broad appreciation for the different areas of Biological Anthropology. Courses in Skeletal Biology and Forensics are offered as well as Primatology and other courses geared toward the Biological subfield.