Education and Training Required to become a Professional Archaeologist

Generally speaking, in the United States, archaeology is not a separate academic discipline but rather is one of four subdivisions of the anthropology department. The other subdivisions are physical, cultural and linguistic anthropology. Only a few universities have completely separate archaeology departments.

At the Bachelors level the student will pursue a general anthropology or history degree with an emphasis on a particular culture or civilization. Also the student should study a language or languages associated with their chosen area of interest, such as Latin for Roman civilization, or French for Medieval Europe.  Also the undergraduate student will be required to study art and architecture history, physical and cultural anthropology and folklore as well as traditional history.  An undergraduate degree such as a Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science in either History or Anthropology is enough to work as a field archaeologist or conduct basic lab studies in North America.  Although experience in the field as either a student in a field school or as a volunteer at an excavation is desirable or even required to get employment at this level. Such jobs are very limited outside of America, but experienced volunteers are welcomed worldwide.

The archeologist with a Masters level degree (Masters of Arts or Masters of Science) has opportunities to direct field work. Also a Masters degree is sufficient for many archaeology position related to local, state or Federal governments. Generally, a Masters degree is enough for positions in the private sector, such as contracted archeologist for construction companies or to teach at the community college level and for certain positions on museum staffs. Generally, a Masters degree takes about two more years of study over and above a Bachelors degree and requires original research and writing a thesis based on that research.   A few colleges offer Masters Programs that do not have a thesis requirement. However, certification by The Register of Professional Archaeologists requires, at a minimum, a Masters Degree with a thesis and one year of field and lab work.

A PH.D is required to teach at the University level, to curate a museum and to direct major digs. In fact, most foreign governments will only issue excavation permits to PH.Ds. A PH.D requires 2 to 3 years of academic work past the Masters level and the successful completion and defense of a doctoral dissertation that presents original research results.  Some universities offer a streamlined program that allows a student with a Bachelor’s degree to directly pursue a PH.D without first having a Masters.



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