Graduate Degree

Applying to the Graduate Program in Anthropology

All applicants should first visit the Graduate Studies page. There you can apply on-line and submit the required materials through GAMES. The items needed to complete your application are described immediately below on this page. If you have any questions about the process please call Kathy Hellwege our graduate secretary at 402-472-2411 or email her at She is our expert on graduate matters and is eager to assist you.

How We Evaluate Applicants to our Program

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Anthropology reviews graduate applications in mid-October (for Spring admission) and mid-February (for Fall admission). In making decisions about graduate admissions, we consider all of the following:

Statement of purpose. A statement detailing your career goals and educational objectives (suggested length 2-3 double-spaced pages). In this statement, we look for the degree to which your interests are focused and the degree to which we can help you meet your objectives and goals. If your educational objectives cannot be met by our program, for example, if you indicate that you wish to study eastern North American archaeology, then we would not admit you since we have no one on staff to supervise such work. For this reason, prospective students will find it useful to explore what our department offers. See the Anthropology Graduate Program Summary and consult our web page for specific information on our current activities. Of course, your letter also informs on your mastery of English composition.

GREs. We have no minimum GRE cutoff, but use these scores in conjunction with other information to evaluate your potential performance. Mediocre GRE scores can be compensated, for example, by experience, good grades, glowing letters of reference, and so forth. Poor GRE scores would likely give us pause.

Transcript of Courses. We consider how you performed in your undergraduate classes overall and especially in anthropology classes. We have found that students with high grades have usually identified what they are good at and have mastered those skills required to be successful as a graduate student. Some students spend their Freshman and Sophomore years "finding" themselves and may have low grades from this time period. Usually by the Junior year, we expect to see As and Bs in anthropological coursework. We also look for any gaps in your academic career or a series of withdrawals or incompletes. Should we find these, we look for explanations (either in the statement of purpose or in letters of reference) about these curiosities.

Letters of Reference. Three letters of reference should come from professionals who can speak to your ability to perform graduate level work. Your letter writers might be professors with whom you undertook independent study, senior seminar work, field school, lab work, etc. One of the letter writers could also be a supervisor from work. You should check with potential letter writers first to be sure they feel they know you well enough and can write you a positive letter. Your letter writers will be able to write a more positive and better tailored letter if you give them a resume or summary of work and academic experiences.

It should be noted that the UNL Department of Anthropology has a small, but active, faculty with resources reflecting the size of the department. Rather than admitting masses of students to whom we would be able to pay only cursory attention, we prefer to admit a restricted number of students whom we can attempt to intellectually and perhaps financially support as best we are able. This means that graduate admission is competitive and that we are unable to accept all of the qualified students who apply to our program. It is also the case that professors who might be best suited to advising a particular student with particular interests are sometimes unavailable because they are on leave or are already working with other graduate students. For this reason as well, we cannot always accept an otherwise qualified student.

General Requirements

Our program and the graduate division offer two tracks for achieving a Masters degree. These tracks are commonly known as thesis (Option I) and non-thesis (Option II) options. Under most conditions, the department encourages students to pursue the thesis option since writing a thesis will better position a graduate's employment opportunities or enhance their chances of being accepted in a high-quality doctoral program.

Option I
Under Option I, a student must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit, consisting of 20 to 24 semester hours of regular course work, and present a thesis equivalent to 6 to 10 semester hours. At least one-half of the required work, including thesis, must be taken in one major subject. The remaining work may be in supporting courses or in a minor consisting of at least 9 semester hours. Eight hours credit, in addition to the thesis, must be earned in courses open exclusively to graduate students (900 level or 800 level without 400 or lower counterparts).

Option II
Under Option II a student must earn a minimum of 36 semester hours of credit in courses representing a major and either one or two minors. A thesis is not required. A program consisting of a major and one minor must include not fewer than 18 hours in the major and 9 hours in the minor. If two minors are elected, the major must total at least 15 hours and the minors at least 9 hours each. Although most departments stipulate that all course work towards the minor must be taken within the department or interdepartmental area, at the discretion of the minor department up to one-third of the courses required for a minor may be transferred from other institutions. In either case, at least 12 of the 36 hours must be earned in courses open exclusively to graduate students (900 or 800 level without 400 or lower counter-parts).

Additional Requirements

In all cases, a student pursuing either option is also required to complete one of the following core courses in each sub-discipline of anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology

ANTH 812 Social Structure

ANTH 817 History of Anthropological Theory

ANTH 877 Hunters and Gatherers



ANTH 831 Historical Archaeology: Current Topics

ANTH 832 History and Theory of Archaeology


Biological Anthropology

ANTH 830 Nutritional Anthropology

ANTH 842 Human Variation

For more information on Anthropology graduate courses, you can consult UNL's current Graduate Studies Bulletin.

Financial Aid

The Department has a number of teaching assistantships and, at times, research assistantships and departmental fellowships. In addition, we award a number of general University fellowships (e.g., Edgren Tuition Fellowship, Chancellor’s Fellowship) for those student applying for admission each fall. Further information on financial aid can be obtained from the Scholarship and Financial Aid Office.

 All students admitted to the degree program are considered eligible for Graduate Teaching Assistantships or such other aid that the Department is able to offer. Assistantships are 33% time (currently $4,375 per semester) and are assigned for one semester with up to 12 hours of tuition remission. Typically there are six assistantships available per semester as well as research fellowships from time to time. Federal and State agencies located within walking distance of the campus regularly employ Anthropology students. In addition the Department offers the following:

  • NPS Midwest Archeological Center Graduate Student Internship in Anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  • Ward F. Weakly Fund: Funds are available for research support or general assistance to anthropology students with emphasis in archaeology.
  • Flavia Waters/John L. Champe Fund: Funds are available for supplemental support for scholarly publications dealing with the archaeology of the Great Plains; a fellowship or assistantship for outstanding students with interests in the advanced study of Great Plains archaeology and/or ethnohistory; costs of visiting speakers on anthropology.
  • The Douglas Bereuter Fellowship for Anthropology: One to two $500 fellowships awarded annually to Anthropology graduate students writing their thesis in the area of the Great Plains.
  • Robert N. Reece Fund: Funds are available to support graduate work in Cultural Anthropology and/or Conservation of Natural Resources.


The deadline for spring admission is October 1.

The deadline for fall admission is February 1.