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Online Master's in Anthropology Degree Programs

Explore characteristics of online anthropology master's degree programs, including common courses, admissions requirements, concentration options and possible career paths.

Overview of Online Anthropology Master's Degree Programs

Anthropology master's degree programs are not terribly common as fully online programs, but they are offered by a handful of schools throughout the United States. Many schools offer these programs as hybrid options, requiring students to attend sessions on campus in addition to online coursework. Some programs offer different focus areas within anthropology, preparing students for a variety of career paths. The key characteristics of online and hybrid anthropology master's degree programs are noted below.

Online Learning

Online anthropology master's degree programs consist of online coursework, which can be completed through 16-week (standard) semesters or shortened terms, such as 8 weeks. Students usually have what's referred to as a learning portal, which is their online course shell. The learning portal may be used for assignments, forums, communication and lecture videos. Depending on the course, students may also use a secondary website for more technical assignments (for example, an online lab).


Although specific flexibility varies by school and course, online anthropology master's students can often log into their learning portal and other sites at their convenience. Students can log in at 2 a.m. or lunchtime to complete their work, as long as assignments are submitted by their due dates (typically each week).


Many online programs are flexible, allowing students to take classes at their own pace and complete their degree as quickly or slowly as they wish (as long as it is within the allowed time frame). Although some schools do have a set schedule for their programs and curricula, students may be able to take 1 course or 5 courses within a semester, depending on their time commitments.

Focus Areas

Online anthropology master's degrees can have different focus areas within anthropology, as discussed below. Students should consider their career interests and how each area can help them to achieve those occupational goals.

  • Medical Anthropology - These programs help students apply cultural considerations and knowledge in healthcare to provide equal and appropriate access and care to patients.
  • Archaeology and Anthropology - Students develop an understanding of cultural origins as well as cultural characteristics such as religion, political implications and ideologies.
  • Theological and Cultural Anthropology - In these programs, students approach anthology through the prism of ethnography, ideas of god, social patterns and religious rituals.
  • Public Anthropology - This concentration combines key learning objectives from anthropology and public communication to prepare students for roles in public service and advocacy.
  • Cultural Anthropology - Students gain an in-depth understanding of various cultural characteristics and implications, including topics such as nationality and ethnicity.
  • Applied Anthropology - Applied anthropology programs provide a broad exploration of anthropology and often allow students to customize their curriculum with electives.

Program Length

Online master's degree programs in anthropology are typically two-year programs for full-time students. However, part-time students may be allowed up to six years to complete their program while full-time students can sometimes finish in as little as one year. The length of the program depends on the number of courses required and how many courses students take each term or semester.

A traditional graduate student takes 18 credit hours each year to be full-time (6 courses); this may be broken up as 9 credits for both the fall and spring semesters. However, students who utilize summer semesters and/or have 8-week class terms (rather than 16-week) can take around 27 credit hours over the course of a year without a heavier workload. Depending on their school and program policies, students may be able to take more credits during a semester, such as 15, and finish their program much sooner than if they took 9 credits.

Online vs. Hybrid

As noted above, while some programs are available completely online, many anthropology master's degree programs are offered in a hybrid format. Depending on the school, students might be required to take entire courses on campus (perhaps two or three) or attend immersive weekend sessions. For those schools that require in-person courses, students may be able to complete them over summer semesters rather than longer semesters in the fall or spring.

Courses in Online Anthropology Master's Degree Programs

Courses in an online anthropology master's degree program can vary by school and program focus (when applicable). However, many programs include some combination of the courses listed below.

  • Archaeology - Students learn about various topics in archaeology, which may include key archaeological sites and histories as well as methods and regulations.
  • Applied Anthropology Methods - This course examines methods used in applied anthropology, such as data collection, materials analysis and structured observation.
  • Public Anthropology - Students learn about anthropology in public history and its role in colonialism; topics covered may include immigration and neocolonialism.
  • Ethnographic Methods - Students review methods for collecting information on populations and genealogies as well as how to conduct informative observations and review data.
  • Quantitative Research - This course explores quantitative methods in research applicable to anthropology, such as data regression and variables.
  • Qualitative Research - To supplement skills developed through quantitative topics, students review qualitative methods in research, such as interviews and artifact analysis.
  • Ethnicity - Students explore how people create identities and communities using ethnicity, as well as the social implications and history of ethnicities.

Admissions Requirements for Online Anthropology Master's Programs

Admissions requirements for online anthropology master's degree programs vary significantly by school, but students typically need to meet some of the requirements noted below.

  • Bachelor's Degree - To be admitted to an online anthropology master's degree program, students need to have earned a bachelor's degree. Some programs do require students to have a degree in anthropology or a related field but many programs accept students with any undergraduate degree.
  • Undergraduate GPA - Most schools require (or prefer) students to have earned a minimum GPA on their undergraduate coursework (such as a 3.0). The GPA requirement may apply to a student's overall undergraduate coursework or only the last 60 earned credits within the undergraduate program.
  • Entrance Exam - While not required by all programs, some online anthropology master's degree programs require incoming students to have taken a graduate entrance exam, such as the GRE. Some schools allow students to submit their scores (voluntarily/optional) to articulate their potential success.
  • Recommendations Students may need to submit two or more letters of recommendation for admission into online anthropology master's degree programs, or provide references. Although not all schools require recommendations, many do so to ensure students have the intangibles that will help them in the program.
  • Personal Statement - Most schools require students to submit at least one personal statement with their application. These essays enable students to communicate who they are and what their goals are.
  • Writing Sample In addition to the previously mentioned items, some programs ask incoming students to submit writing samples. These samples enable the admissions team to assess the writing abilities, critical thinking skills and academic potential of students.

Cost of Online Anthropology Master's Degree Programs

Online anthropology master's degree program costs vary by school and student. Many schools separate the costs of programs into tuition and other individual fees.

  • Tuition - Tuition can range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars per credit hour, and it can also be charged as a flat rate per semester for students studying full-time.
  • Other Fees - The additional fees that students may incur include registration fees, course materials fees and student services fees. These fees may be charged per credit hour, course or semester.

Master's degree programs often include between 30 and 50 credit hours. A student in a 30-credit-hour program with a tuition rate of $250 would have a total tuition for their program of $7,500 while a student in a 30-credit program with a tuition rate of $1,100 per credit would have a total tuition of $33,000.

Ways to Decrease Cost

There are a few ways that students can decrease the costs of their online anthropology master's degree programs, including flat-rate options and transfer credits.

  • Flat-Rate Costs - Students can save a notable amount of money on their program by utilizing flat-rate options. For example, a school may charge $500 per credit hour or $5,000 per semester for students taking 10 to 15 credits. A student taking the full 15 credits would actually have a lower per-credit tuition rate of $333.
  • Transfer Credits - If a student has previously completed graduate coursework, they may be able to have those courses transferred into their online anthropology master's degree program. In some cases, students can also transfer a select few undergraduate courses into their program or use life experience to opt out of a course. Transferring in courses decreases the total number of classes/credits needed, which also decreases total costs.

Accreditation for Online Anthropology Master's Programs

Anthropology master's degree students aren't necessarily required to attend an accredited school, but doing so significantly increases their chance of receiving a quality education. For a school to become accredited, it must meet or exceed quality standards that are set by the accrediting organization. The standards can apply to a variety of things, including curriculum, graduation rates and faculty experience.

Institutional accreditation is required for federal financial aid and some other types of aid, such as privately funded scholarships. Students may want to consider which type of accreditation they prefer for their school, as accreditation can be awarded by a regionally accrediting body or a nationally accredited body.

  • Regional Accreditation: Regional accreditation is considered the more prestigious of the two types of institutional accreditation because it has higher quality standards for accreditation. In addition, credits earned at a regionally accredited school can be transferred to schools with either type of accreditation.
  • National Accreditation: Schools with national accreditation usually have more relaxed admissions requirements and are often less expensive. However, credits earned at nationally accredited schools can only be transferred to other nationally accredited schools.

Careers for Graduates of Online Anthropology Master's Programs

Graduates of online anthropology master's degree programs can work in a variety of careers and industries, some of which are discussed below.

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study various aspects of human behavior and origins, using as archeological finds, cultural data and languages throughout the world. Their duties can include gathering information through interviews, organizing and maintaining records, analyzing collected data and preparing reports based on their findings. These individuals typically need to have a master's degree in their field and some applicable experience, which can be obtained through internships or field training.

  • Archeologists - Archeologists work with physical remains and artifacts at archeological sites. They carefully collect and evaluate evidence of historical cultures. Their duties vary based on their title and area of expertise; some might work at a national park, others might focus on one area of human history such as mesoamerican cultures or early hominids.
  • Anthropologists - Anthropologists work in one of three areas: cultural, biological/physical or linguistic. Cultural anthropologists focus on social anthropological topics, biological anthropologists focus on human and other primitive biology, and linguistic anthropologists study languages.

Postsecondary Anthropology and Archeology Teachers

Postsecondary teachers provide education to students in universities, colleges and other settings beyond high school. Graduates of an anthropology master's degree program are typically only qualified to teach at community colleges, although some 4-year universities may hire them for entry-level and/or part-time positions. Postsecondary anthropology and archeology teachers are responsible for creating and carrying out lesson plans, developing course assignments and grading policies, and providing feedback and guidance to students to help them succeed.


Sociologists analyze cultures, institutions and other groups to better understand society and behaviors. Their duties can include collecting and analyzing behavior and other data, collaborating with professionals such as policymakers, developing methods for testing theories and presenting findings of their research. Sociologists typically need at least a master's degree in fields relating to social sciences and may have better employment opportunities with some experience from volunteer work or internships.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers collect and review data for various causes, such as understanding social behaviors. Their duties can include conducting research, designing and implementing surveys, accounting for statistical variables and presenting the findings of their research. Graduates of online anthropology master's degree programs may have a better understanding of cultural and other social influences on surveyed persons as well as be able to create more efficient surveys and assessments. Survey researchers usually need to have a master's degree, but the specific degree types vary by individual. Students interested in survey researcher positions may benefit from fellowships, volunteer experiences or internships.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Anthropologists and Archeologists $62,410 10%
Postsecondary Anthropology and Archeology Teachers $83,940 7%
Sociologists $82,050 9%
Survey Researchers $57,700 1%

All career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics