The Anthropology Major

The Anthropology major is flexible, enriching, and transformative. You will work together with your advisor on designing a meaningful major course plan that addresses your interests, expands your worldviews, and prepares you for your desired professional career or graduate school. The major provides a general grounding in three subfields of anthropology (sociocultural anthropology, anthropological archaeology, and biological anthropology) and a detailed focus on your chosen area or areas of interest. Our rich course offerings will allow you to design a course plan that prepares you for US-based and globally oriented careers in law, medicine, education, nonprofit and social justice work, development and foreign service, business, and others.

Bianca Garcia '23 said the following about majoring in Anthropology:

I came to Anthropology, like many other bright-eyed freshmen who enroll in our courses, I think, not entirely knowing what I was signing up for. In searching for a major to list on my application, Anthropology seemed like a fair enough choice: I had had my hand at “ethnography” for a high school research project, and studying culture sounded apt as a Filipina-American born and raised in multicultural Hong Kong.  Four years down the road, I can say that there could not have been a better choice in curriculum for me. This degree has spoken to every part of myself that I’ve ever been proud of and uncovered parts that I’ve since grown to love. 

Read more about Bianca's experiences in this feature article and this extraordinary journey article.


No prerequisites are required to declare the anthropology major. Majors and advisors collaboratively build a program of study that reflects the student’s individual interests and furthers their goals.

A minimum of ten courses are necessary to complete the major. To complete the major, students must take:

  • One course of 3 or more credits in each of the three subfields (sociocultural, archaeological, biological) from the list below.

      Sociocultural - ANTHR 1400, ANTHR 2400, ANTHR 2421, ANTHR 2468

      Archaeological - ANTHR 1200, ANTHR 2201, ANTHR 2245, ANTHR 2430, ANTHR 2729

      Biological - ANTHR 1300, ANTHR 2310, ANTHR 3235 

  • ANTHR 3000 - Introduction to Anthropological Theory
  • Two other courses of at least 3 credits at the 3000 level.
  • Two 4000-level courses of at least 3 credits each, one of which must be a seminar course in your senior year with a research paper or project component (ANTHR 4263 is not a seminar course and does not fill the requirement).
  • An additional two elective courses of at least 3 credits each, which may be in cognate disciplines with the approval of your advisor.
  • Transfer credits may apply to the major by application to the DUS.

Exceptions to these requirements may be granted if a written petition is approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  (submit the petition to   

No S–U credits or First-Year Writing Seminars may count toward the major. A letter grade of C– or better is required in all courses counted toward the major.

How to Apply to the Anthropology Major

No prerequisites are required to enter the anthropology major.  To apply to the major, fill out and submit the Anthropology Major Application and Course Plan and submit a Major Proposal write up to

We recommend that you take courses that appeal to your interests and that cut across anthropological subfields and the faculty’s areas of specialty. You may find our Pathways through the Anthropology major a useful resource. Pathways represent some common interests and trajectories that support student career interests. They are not rigid sets of requirements but simply road maps through the department’s diverse and rich course offerings.

After admittance to the major, we will put you in touch with your Anthropology advisor.  Majors and advisors collaboratively build a course plan that reflects the student’s individual interests and furthers their goals. Go to your advisor’s regularly scheduled office hours as soon as possible to discuss your course plan. In addition to advising you on the course plan, your advisor is also available to discuss other aspects of your study, such as study abroad, research in Anthropology, field schools, our honors program, and internships in Anthropology.


Cornell Anthropology offers a supportive honors program that helps students prepare for, design, conduct, and write up anthropological research. Our courses help you imagine your topic and design an appropriate methodology for conducting your honors research; we strongly recommend you take one or more methods courses before conducting your honors research. Your faculty advisor and honors thesis advisor help you design your research and apply for funding and human subjects approval. Our year-long honors workshop guides you through all stages of thesis writing.

Cornell Anthropology students have conducted honors research on topics such as:

  • A Sister’s Hope: Finding Peace at the Intersection of Murals and Police Brutality.
  • Issues in Contemporary Public Art: A Conversation
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Culture: Conflicts as CBT Converses with its New Publics.
  • The Molo Story and Other Narratives About Healing With Food.

We encourage you to identify an appropriate topic for a thesis by discussing it with your faculty advisor and other professors with relevant expertise. A Cornell anthropologist (which may be a faculty member in the department or in the graduate field of Anthropology) must agree to supervise your research and serve as your thesis advisor.


Admission to the Honors Program requires an overall GPA of 3.3 or greater and a 3.5 GPA in the major. In addition, the student should have no outstanding Incompletes in courses for the Major (provisional admission with Incompletes is possible at the discretion of the DUS). Under special circumstances, a student with an overall GPA of 3.0 may petition for admittance to the Program.  

Apply in the second semester of junior year (requests for late admission may be considered, but in no case later than the second week of the first semester of the senior year).

Review the guidelines and procedures for undergraduate honors in anthropology

Complete and submit the Honors Program Application.  

Honors in Anthropology are awarded for excellence in the major, which includes overall GPA and the completion of an honors thesis.


Students write the honors thesis over two-semesters involving eight credits of coursework. During their first semester of Honors work, students register for (1) Anthropology 4983, Honors Thesis Research (3 credits) with their thesis advisor and (2) Anthropology 4991, Honors Workshop I (1 credit). During their second semester of Honors work, students typically register for (1) Anthropology 4984, Honors Thesis Write-up (2 credits) with their thesis advisor and (2) Anthropology 4992, Honors Workshop II (2 credits).

The thesis advisor is responsible for guiding the scholarly development of the thesis. We encourage students to meet weekly with their thesis advisor and discuss thesis progress.

The honors workshop provides additional support and structure for your writing goals. The honors workshop will help you develop a feasible timeline toward completion of the thesis and will provide a context for sharing ideas and feedback (both editorial and substantive) as your thesis progresses.

Study Abroad

The Department of Anthropology encourages students to consider a semester of study abroad or off-campus study. Anthropologically-relevant study abroad options, using existing Cornell Abroad and off-campus options, can enrich your major and teach you invaluable anthropological skills. After reviewing Cornell Abroad offerings and the Nilgiris Field Learning Center offerings, discuss your study abroad options with your major advisor.

The Global Health Program

The Cornell University Global Health Program offers a minor in global health.  This program is intended to compliment any academic major as the University and provide students with basic knowledge about global health, as well as the necessary skills and experience to build their own unique global health career.  For more information, visit the Global Health website.

Nilgiris Field Learning Center

The Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC) is a unique partnership that aligns Cornell faculty and students with experts and community members in the Nilgiris, the “blue hills” of southern India. The NFLC learning community explores nutrition and health, land use, cultural practices, and livelihoods in a region recognized for both its biological and cultural diversity. Students develop ethnographic research skills in a collaborative, field-based environment.  Cornell brings strengths in the ecological and social sciences in collaboration with the applied fields of regional planning and policy analysis. Our partner, the Keystone Foundation, works with indigenous communities in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve focusing on livelihoods, conservation, culture and identity, and market-based social enterprise. The vibrant Keystone campus is located in Kotagiri, a hill station in the Western Ghats. Cornell course credits for the NFLC can be used to satisfy requirements for the anthropology major and minor.  

  • The NFLC learning community explores nutrition and health, land use and livelihoods in a region recognized for its biodiversity.
  • Students develop research skills in an engaged, field-based environment.
  • Projects address community-identified issues:
  • Community wellness and changing approaches to healing
  • Dietary diversity, eating habits and sourcing patterns in local food systems
  • Contested forest lands as space for food, farming and trade
  • Infant feeding practices in the context of maternal health and social networks
  • Water and waste infrastructure in an urbanizing environment

Contact Professor Andrew Willford for more information about NFLC.

Independent Study

Specialized individual study programs are offered in Anthropology 4910, Independent Study Undergraduate, a course open to a limited number of juniors and seniors who have obtained consent and supervision of a faculty member. The credit hours for this course are variable. Students select a topic not covered in regularly scheduled courses in consultation with the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the course work.

For More Information

For more information on the Undergraduate Major in Anthropology, contact our Director of Undergraduate Studies:

Paul Nadasdy
Office: McGraw 201