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Anthropology Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Anthropology degree field is offered online with 1 on-campus requirement at Harvard University. Weekend on-campus courses are available.

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Upcoming Term: Fall 2024

Course registration opens July 22 at 9 a.m. Eastern time.

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Required Course Curriculum

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    Online core and elective courses

  • School building.

    On-campus Engaging in Scholarly Conversation course

  • Lightbulb in a hand.

    Capstone or thesis

12 Graduate Courses (48 Credits)

Many of our anthropology offerings focus on identity and social justice, making it an ideal option for professionals in the fields of education, community development, public service, public health, NGOs, as well as management and diversity, inclusion and belonging.

As part of the program curriculum, you pursue either a thesis or capstone track. You can further customize the program by choosing the anthropology and elective courses that meet your learning goals.

The primarily synchronous online format ensures real-time engagement with faculty and peers.

Required Core & Elective Courses

  • SSCI 100A Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Anthropology and Psychology
  • 4 anthropology courses
  • 1 anthropology seminar
  • 1 Engaging in Scholarly Conversation (on-campus)
    • This 4-credit requirement is fulfilled by completing 2 two-credit Active Learning Weekends or 1 three-week summer course.
  • 2 anthropology electives
    • EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences is an elective option.

Browse Courses →

Thesis Track

The thesis is a 9-month independent research project where you work one-on-one in a tutorial setting with a thesis director.

You enroll in the following additional courses for the thesis track:

  • ANTH 497 Crafting the Thesis Proposal in Anthropology Tutorial
  • ANTH 499AB ALM Thesis in Anthropology (8 credits)

Recent Thesis Topics:

  • Maya Vase Rollout Photography’s Past, Present, and Potential in a Cross-Discipline Digital Future: A Proof-of-Concept Study
  • When Witches Mourn the Dead: Grieving Rituals of Contemporary Witchcraft in New England
  • From Memes to Marx: Social Media as the New Frontier of Ruling Class Dominance

Capstone Track

The capstone track focuses on a capstone project and includes the following additional courses. You choose between two precapstone and capstone topic areas.

  • 1 anthropology elective
  • Identity precapstone and capstone courses:
    • SSCI 597B Identity Precapstone: Theory and Research
    • SSCI 599B Identity Capstone: Bridging Research and Practice
  • Social justice precapstone and capstone courses:
    • GOVT 597A Precapstone: Strategies to Advance Social Change
    • GOVT 599A Social Justice Capstone: Equity and the Struggle for Justice

Capstone experience. First, in the precapstone, you gain foundational preparation through critically analyzing the scholarly literature. Then, in the capstone, you execute a semester-long research project with guidance and support from your instructor and fellow candidates.

Capstone sequencing. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in the same topic, in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement. Capstone topics are subject to change annually.

Recent Capstone Topics:

  • Addressing Sexism in Video Game Culture: Empowering Female Players through a Mobile Application for Inclusivity, Visibility, and Support
  • Bermuda Wrecks Conservation Through Public Archaeology, Technology and Ease of Access: The “Bermuda Wrecks” Smartphone Application
  • Advocating for Healthy Habits in the Digital Age of Education

Optional Graduate Certificate

You can choose to concentrate your degree studies to earn a Social Justice Graduate Certificate along the way.

Harvard Instructor Requirement

For either the thesis or capstone track, 8 courses (32 credits) of the above courses need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation. The thesis courses are taught by a Harvard instructor.

On Campus Experience

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    Choose between the accelerated or standard on-campus experience.

  • Two people talking at a table.

    Learn and network in-person with your classmates.

Nearly all courses can be taken online, but the degree requires an in-person experience here at Harvard University where you enroll in Engaging in Scholarly Conversation (ESC).

Join your fellow degree candidates for this interactive course that highlights the importance of true graduate-level analysis by training you in the skills of critically engaging the scholarly literature in your field of study.

Choose between two on-campus experience options:

  • Accelerated on-campus option: ESC is offered in two, 2-credit Active Learning Weekends. We strongly advise you complete the two weekends in the same academic year with same instructor (part one in fall and part two in spring).
  • Standard on-campus option: ESC is offered in one 3-week Harvard Summer School session. This option is ideal for those who want a more traditional on-campus experience. HSS offers, for an additional fee, housing, meal plans, and a prolonged on-campus experience here at Harvard University. Learn more about campus life at Harvard.

You register for ESC after completing the proseminar with a grade of B or higher and prior to either the Crafting the Thesis Proposal tutorial or the precapstone to support your final research project. Ordinarily, students wait until they are officially admitted before enrolling in this requirement, as it does not count as one of the three, 4-credit courses required for admission.

You have two attempts to earn the required grade of B- or higher in ESC. A withdrawal grade (WD) counts as an attempt.

Ian Ragsdale.

Whether working on a paper at one of the libraries or shopping at the Harvard Coop, I always felt like I belonged.

Ian Ragsdale

On attending Engaging in Scholarly Conversation in the active learning weekend format.

International Students Who Need a Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you choose the Standard on-campus option and study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa for Harvard Summer School’s 3-week session. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

In-Person Co-Curricular Events

Come to Cambridge for Convocation (fall) to celebrate your hard-earned admission, Harvard career fairs offered throughout the year, HES alumni networking events (here at Harvard and around the world), and, of course, Harvard University Commencement (May).


  • Diploma.

    Confirm your initial eligibility with a 4-year bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent.

  • Person climbing toward a flag.

    Take three courses in our unique “earn your way in” admissions process that count toward your degree.

  • Checking off a box.

    In the semester of your third course, submit the official application for admission to the program.

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Visit the Degree Program Admissions page for more details.

Initial Eligibility

Earning Your Way In — Courses for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register — no application required — for the following three, 4-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online).

These prerequisite courses are investments in your studies and help ensure success in the program. They count toward your degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.

  • SSCI 100A Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences— Anthropology and Psychology
    • Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences.
    • You have 2 attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.
  • 1 Anthropology course
  • 1 Anthropology course or elective (e.g., EXPO 42b)

While the three courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar (or the prerequisite EXPO 42b). All three courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program.

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • Avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
  • Ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • Avoid the delayed application fee.
  • Gain access to exclusive benefits.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 9 more courses after admission to earn the degree. Applicants can register for courses in the upcoming semester before they receive their grades and while they await their admission decision.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round to accelerate degree completion.

  • You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
  • You can enroll full or part time. After qualifying for admission, many of our degree candidates study part time, taking 2 courses per semester (fall/spring) and 1 in the January and summer sessions.
  • Most fall and spring courses meet once a week for two hours, while January and summer courses meet more frequently in a condensed format.

To Complete Your Degree

  • Trophy on a computer monitor.

    Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Clipboard with a pen.

    Complete your courses in five years.

  • Graduation cap and diploma.

    Earn your Harvard degree and enjoy Harvard Alumni Association benefits upon graduation.

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the three degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

Courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As stated above, the proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.

Further, you have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any three degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Anthropology. Degrees are awarded in November, February, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.