Archaeology Degree Programs with Career Information

Read about undergraduate and graduate archaeology degree programs. Learn about curricula, specialization areas, career choices and the employment outlook for those entering this profession.

Essential Information

Archaeology focuses on the study of past human cultures through research of historical sites and artifacts, such as tools, skeletal remains and structural ruins. Archaeology programs are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. All of these programs include traditional coursework along with lab courses and field experiences that cover artifact analysis and preservation techniques. A bachelor's degree is considered the minimum educational requirement to begin a career in the field, but most archeologists need an advanced degree and extensive field experience.

Master's and doctoral programs include regional or time period concentrations, and doctoral programs may require proficiency in more than one foreign language. Doctoral program applicants typically hold a master's degree in archaeology or a related field. Both master's and doctoral programs focus extensively on research.

Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology

Bachelor's degree programs in archaeology are rare in the United States. However, in the programs that are offered, students will learn skills in processing, analysis, computing, methods and theory related to archaeology. History, culture and art will also be covered. Undergraduate degree programs allow students to choose an area of concentration after general education courses are completed in the first two years of enrollment.

Concentration areas may include small-scale societies, complex societies, heritage or a specific type of archaeology. Some programs also allow students to major in a particular geographic region and provide plenty of research opportunities abroad to participate in fieldwork. Laboratory classes provide students with an opportunity to utilize methods of cleaning materials. A student may also be required to minor in an area that supports his or her interests in archaeology. Some popular minor areas of study include biology, geoarchaeology and history. Students may be required to become proficient in another language other than their native language.

Educational Prerequisites

Prospective students must have completed high school to apply for an undergraduate program. Some schools will prefer applicants who performed well in high school geography and history courses.

Program Coursework

Students are required to complete a core set of archaeology courses in the second or third year of enrollment. Some universities will call for students to complete a senior project to complete the degree. Some possible courses include:

  • World cultures
  • History on anthropological theory
  • Paleoanthropology
  • Historical geology
  • Human evolution
  • Earth materials

Popular Career Options

An undergraduate degree in archaeology opens up many career paths. Opportunities exist with governments, research organizations and museums. Some possible careers include:

  • Archaeological lab technician
  • Research archaeologist
  • Cultural resources specialist
  • Park ranger
  • Collections manager

Master's Degree in Archaeology

A master's degree in archaeology is considered the minimum educational requirement for becoming an archeologist. Master's degree programs might allow students to specialize in a specific region or time period. Since master's degree programs are often specialized, prospective students should apply to the ones that are in line with their interests and professional goals. Instruction in a master's degree program focuses on archeological theory, methods of removal, practical field experience, analysis and laboratory techniques. A master's degree thesis is required in many programs.

Educational Prerequisites

Schools require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, but they may not require that undergraduate degree to be in a specific area of study. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and a writing sample are also likely to be requested by an archaeology department.

Program Coursework

Some classes include laboratory or fieldwork components that afford students the opportunity to gain practical experience. Other classes focus on archaeological theory and methods of investigation. Some possible courses include:

  • Archaeological laws and ethics
  • Managing cultural resources
  • Human osteology
  • Ethnographic research
  • Historic preservation
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Popular Career Options

Many graduates of master's degree programs in archaeology enter into the field of cultural resources management. Others choose to teach introductory archaeology courses at a community college. Some possible careers include:

  • Archaeology instructor
  • Contract archaeologist
  • Archaeological field director
  • Egyptologist

Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology

Much like other degree programs in archaeology, students enrolled in a doctoral degree program focus on a particular facet of archaeological research. Some Ph.D. degree programs allow students to focus on a specific culture or society or a particular facet of anthropology. Common emphasis areas include Renaissance art, Greek archaeology, historic preservation and Roman archaeology and art.

Many anthropology and archaeology departments are closely connected, and they offer an opportunity to study overlapping areas of interest. Individuals work closely with scientific techniques, becoming proficient at analyzing, dating and interpreting details. Students should also be proficient in the language of the area they plan to study, and some programs require proficiency in at least two languages beyond the student's native language. For example, a student specializing in classical archaeology must be fluent in Latin and Greek. A comprehensive examination and a dissertation are required to complete the degree.

Educational Prerequisites

A master's degree in archaeology is the minimum educational requirement for admittance into a doctoral degree program. Prospective applicants should also submit scores for the Graduate Record Examination, letters of recommendation, a curriculum vitae, a writing sample and a statement of purpose.

Program Coursework

Some core courses in advanced archaeology are required before a student can focus on a particular facet of the field. Elective courses should provide additional information and background on a student's emphasis area. Some core archaeology courses may include:

  • Classical Greek sculpture and painting
  • Architecture of Periclean Athens
  • Underwater archaeology
  • Problems in ancient architecture
  • Food-gathering societies
  • Civilizations

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the employment of anthropologists and archaeologists will increase by 28% for the period 2008-2018; that level of growth is much faster than average ( The strong outlook is due in part to the need for archaeologists to fulfill legal requirements by preserving artifacts or sites that are related to large construction or transportation projects. The 2010 annual average salary of archaeologists and anthropologists, according to the BLS, was $58,040.

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