What do faculty look for in prospective applicants?
Berkeley graduate students come from varied BA programs with many from majors other than anthropology. Admissions discussions involve the entire faculty in each program. Individual faculty weigh factors differently. Among the most important aspects of an application are letters of recommendation from individuals who can describe substantive experiences of student achievements related to success in graduate education; and a statement of purpose that makes a compelling argument for why the applicant is best served by study at Berkeley, and demonstrates that the applicant understands how graduate study differs from the undergraduate experience. Providing a professional curriculum vitae with all relevant experience clearly outlined is also useful.
Are there opportunities to teach?
The department strives to provide every student with an opportunity to gain teaching experience. Every year, students work as teaching assistants responsible for small discussion or laboratory sections (Graduate Student Instructors, or GSIs) and serve as Readers assisting with grading but not conducting independent teaching. Unlike some universities, Berkeley does not normally approve students to teach entire courses independently, even in the summer session. In recent years, the department has drawn on recent PhDs to staff summer session courses after they complete the degree. In preparation for teaching, the department each fall teaches a seminar, required before or concurrent with the first GSI assignment, on teaching in anthropology. Many department members have received recognition for their teaching, with graduate students eligible for the university's Outstanding GSI citation and Teaching Effectiveness Award.
What are the sources of financial support for anthropology graduate students?
Many Anthropology graduate students gain support from prestigious external fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, where historically, Berkeley has been the leading recipient of anthropology fellowships. Other students are supported by competitive multi-year fellowships administered by the university, including the Berkeley, Regents, Chancellor's Opportunity, and Cota Robles Fellowships. These provide two years of outright fellowship funding, and the guarantee of two years of support from the department, usually in the form of teaching appointments. Every student who completes the Qualifying Exam by the end of the sixth semester is eligible for the Dean's Normative Time Fellowship awarded by the Graduate Division, which funds a full year without any teaching obligations, and can be used through the end of the fifth year. Students may apply to be nominated for two dissertation-year fellowships awarded through university-wide competitions. The Department of Anthropology itself annually awards additional student funding from a Block Grant allocated by the Graduate Division, and from named endowments for graduate support. Finally, most students work as Graduate Student Instructors, Readers, or Graduate Student Researchers at some point in their career, with many of these appointments providing payment of in-state fees as well as proving a salary.
How long does the average PhD student take to complete the program?
The most recent 10 years of students averaged 8.1 years to completion of the PhD. This compares favorably to the most recent reported national average of 8.3 years. The Graduate Division of the university has set the "normative time" for completion of the degree at six years, with approval of up to eight years contingent on evidence of progress toward the completion of the dissertation.