How Long Does it Take to Get a Anthropology or Archaeology PhD in the US?

Posted on October 7, 2011


Each year in the United States hundreds, actually around a 1000, people decide to undertake a PhD in Anthropology and several hundred of those in its sub-field Archaeology. Maybe you are considering undertaking such a PhD. What sort of time commitment are you looking at?

The better part of a decade as less than 15% of PhDs are completed in under six years.

This information comes from analysis of data from the National Academies’ A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States survey which asked questions to degree programs (82 Anthropology PhD programs in the US). One question asked was what % of students that completed PhD in under six years (from start of PhD program- all dates are from the start of a PhD program). Taking the completion rate of different schools (ranges from 0% to 55.6%) and multiplying it by the number of students they have we find that %14.9 of anthropology PhDs are completed in under 6 years.

YES, less than 15% of Anthropology PhDs are completed in under six years. That is a brutal attrition rate.

The other set of data provided was the median point, by schools, of those who do obtain their PhDs. Median being the half way point- half the students graduate before and half after. The table below shows the percent of schools that have certain median points e.g. 2.6% of anthropology programs graduate at least half of their students in under six years (schools with medians of 6 or higher still will have a percent of their students graduate in under six years, see above, it just won’t be higher then 49%) . This data is limited in what it can tell us as it only gives a halfway point and not much else.

Median time for an Anthropology PhD in the US

Median time for an Anthropology PhD in the US

The median range was from 5.3 to 12.41 years. The majority of programs only graduate half of their students in under 8-8.99 years. Can you imagine that the majority of Anthropology/Archaeology programs can not even graduate more then half of their students in 8 years? If you are completing a PhD be in it for the long hall.