Archaeologists are professionals who help uncover and preserve the histories of ancient people and their cultures by analyzing remains, buildings and relics discovered in a particular area. A master's or doctoral degree is required to work as an archaeologist.
Individuals pursuing graduate-level degree programs in archaeology are engaged in interdisciplinary studies that combine culture, science, art and history, along with extensive hands-on field work. Many programs also expect students to fulfill a foreign language requirement since this field of work occurs across the globe. Specializations within these programs may include prehistoric archaeology, or a specific culture or era such as Greco-Roman archaeology.
Graduates of these degree programs may find work at museums, perform research at site digs or teach at universities.
Master of Science or Master of Arts in Archaeology
Master's programs in archaeology provide students an education in a chosen specialization area; a bachelor's degree in a related field is required for admittance. In addition to topics in cultures, master's students study science, language, history, geography and arts. Graduate programs in archaeology require students to complete a thesis project in their concentrated area, as well as partake in a residency or on-site archaeological project. Common coursework includes:
- Analysis of archaeological materials
- Theory in archaeology
- Site field methods
- Paleopathology and human biology
- Historical archaeology of ancient people
- Laws and ethics in archaeology
Ph.D. in Anthropology with a Concentration in Archaeology
In the U.S., Ph.D. in Archaeology programs are fairly uncommon, although students can pursue a Ph.D. in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. These degree programs expect students to hold a bachelor's degree or master's degree in archaeology or a related field, as well as a 3.0 GPA in previous coursework. In addition, all Ph.D. programs require individuals to have a reading proficiency in a second language, which can be pursued during their coursework, and to complete a dissertation project in their field of study. Course topics may include:
- Complex societies
- Geographical information systems
- Settlement patterns
- Designing grants and research
- Contemporary theories in archaeology
Individuals completing a master's degree in archaeology may hold positions in museums or on dig or field research sites. Surprisingly, archaeologists are oftentimes found on construction sites to assist in preserving historical or found artifacts. Below are a few career titles that an individual with a master's degree in archaeology may hold:
- Cultural resources manager
- Historic preservation officer
- Research archaeologist
On the other hand, graduates of a Ph.D. in Archaeology can pursue upper-level roles in areas such as academia and the arts. It's common to find on-site field directors also holding full-time professor positions. Possible professional titles in this field include:
- University faculty professor
- Museum curator
- Senior field director
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), anthropologists and archaeologists are expected to see job growth of 4% from 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that anthropologists and archaeologists receive a median annual salary of $61,220.
Graduate students pursuing archaeology can consider master's programs in the field as well as doctoral programs in anthropology offering an archaeology concentration. These programs can lead to careers in research, teaching, cultural resources, and more.