Why do your Anthropology MA at Waterloo?

These are some of the reasons why you might want to consider coming to the University of Waterloo to do your Masters degree in Anthropology:

1. Student funding

All Canadian students who meet our eligibility requirements receive funding, usually in the form of a teaching assistantship combined with scholarship monies. Also, the Anthropology department has limited additional funding available to defray the costs of student research.

2. A Research Masters

Waterloo's Public Issues Anthropology Masters program is a Research Masters. In other words, in addition to the required coursework, each student does original research and writes a thesis based on their findings. A Research Masters is good preparation for students planning to go on to a Ph.D program and for those with career goals that entail research and analytical skills.

3. Thesis format

In most research Masters programs in Anthropology across Canada, you will write a thesis that is likely to be anywhere from 100 to 300 pages long. This is an excellent exercise for many students but the whole Masters program normally takes at least two full years to complete, and the resulting thesis is normally not publishable, at least without massive editing. In contrast, at Waterloo the Anthropology department has adopted a modified "sandwich thesis" format for its Masters theses.

At the Ph.D level many programs, including some Anthropology programs, allow students to write a "sandwich thesis" which consists of an introductory chapter followed by several separate journal articles (usually already published) and then a concluding chapter. Waterloo's Public Issues Anthropology Masters thesis format consists of a short introductory chapter, followed by a single chapter written in the format of a typical journal article—i.e., much shorter than a traditional Masters thesis.

The actual submission of this chapter for publication in a journal is NOT a requirement of the program, but students thus graduate with an article completely ready for submission to a journal for publication.

4. 16 months

Waterloo’s Masters program in Public Issues Anthropology is designed to be completed in 16 months of continuous study—from September in Year 1 through December in Year 2. One of the things you should investigate regarding whatever department you are considering is their “completion rate”—in other words, what percentage of their students complete their degrees within the normal schedule. Since its inception in 2007, Waterloo’s Anthropology MA has an outstanding completion rate, with more than 90% of our students finishing within the 16-month timeframe.

5. Good preparation for a career

The breadth built into Waterloo's Public Issues Anthropology program is excellent preparation for students who plan on a career in Anthropology as well as in a wide range of fields.

  • Public Issues: This focus helps students understand and advocate for the relevance of anthropological findings on critical contemporary issues. This is a vital skill for careers both within and outside universities, including in government, NGO, and corporate settings.
  • Breadth: If you are contemplating the possibility of a career as a professor of Anthropology you will likely be required to teach beyond your specific research expertise (e.g., sociocultural, archaeological, biological anthropology) so familiarity at the Masters level with other anthropological subdisciplines will be very beneficial.
  • Thesis format: While many anthropologists write books, the bulk of their academic writing is in the form of shorter journal articles and book chapters. Thus, Waterloo Anthropology's thesis format will give you experience writing in the format that will be most important for you if you choose to go on into a career in academia, while also demonstrating the writing proficiency necessary for a host of other careers. 

6. Professors able to supervise a wide range of research topics

Waterloo’s Anthropology department has professors willing to supervise a wide range of topics. A list of some of our faculty interests for MA supervision follows, but see the Faculty Profiles to learn more about their research areas. If you have a topic in mind, please contact one of the professors to see if it would be a good fit.

Faculty members have current projects in the following regions:


  • Great Lakes
  • Southern Ontario
  • Nunavut


  • Bangladesh
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Greece
  • Germany
  • India
  • Jordan
  • Middle East
  • South Korea
  • Turkey
  • Taiwan
  • Zambia

Anthropology in the real world

Public Issues Anthropology is a 16-month master’s program (four terms: fall, winter, spring, fall) of full-time study in which students are trained to identify the relevance of anthropological findings and approaches to topics within public discourse. Students apply anthropology in their examination of pressing current issues that impact diverse publics, and conjoin anthropological theory and data where possible.

Take a look into some of what we do.

Video Transcript

Archaeological | Biological | Sociocultural

The Public Issues Anthropology program represents a unique approach to graduate studies in anthropology, and is based on two principles:

  • There are themes and issues that are fundamentally anthropological and which therefore cross-cut and integrate the traditional subdisciplines of anthropology—sociocultural, biological, archaeological (as well as applied and linguistic)—even at the level of advanced research.
  • Anthropological findings, theory, practices, experiences, and methodologies have relevance for many topics that show up today in the public sphere.

Some students in our master's program choose to focus on traditional research topics and methods within their chosen subdiscipline, emphasizing in their thesis the public implications of their findings. Other students use the opportunities afforded by our program to explore topics that span multiple subdisciplines, or to explore innovative or non-traditional anthropological research topics and methodologies. Some of the students attracted to our program are interested in using the methods and findings of Anthropology as a way to explore issues of social justice, although doing so is not a requirement of the program.

If you are wondering whether our program might be right for you, you are welcome to contact any of our professors whose research expertise includes your area of interest, or the Anthropology Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, Seçil Daǧtaș.

Careers for our graduates

Public Issues Anthropology graduates have expertise in both anthropological knowledge and applied skills that have proven useful in pursuing studies at the doctoral level in Anthropology and in other disciplines, and to a range of employers.

Graduates of this program have pursued doctoral studies in Anthropology, Sociology, and Law at the following institutes:

Positions they have obtained after graduation include Cultural Resource Management Advisor, Digital Product Researcher, Field Archaeologist, Research Ethics Advisor, and Quality Analyst.

Employers who have hired Public Issues Anthropology graduates include:

International students

Due to funding restrictions, the Faculty of Arts is currently limiting the number of international students we can admit. Please contact the department's Associate Chair, Graduate Studies prior to applying to discuss your interest in this program.