A subfield of anthropology, archaeology is defined by the Society for American Archaeology as “the study of the ancient and recent human past through material remains.” Giving insight into human history and culture, archaeology is a significant contributor to how society today understands events, lives and societies of the past. Archaeology also contributes to how communities, cultures and regions of today will be understood in relation to history. As the University of York puts it, “Alongside studying what happened in the past, we’re also concerned with the role of the past in the present.”
Highlighted courses and degrees in archaeology
Most degree programs in archaeology focus on topics such as prehistory, history, archaeological science, field archaeology and archaeological excavation. Evaluation and assessment may be in the form of written work, field evaluation, and team and individual projects.
In the latter years of the program, students may be required to work on a major project or thesis involving extensive research to develop not only research skills but practical and hands-on knowledge as well. This may also involve field work.
Most universities provide specialization options for their students, either through optional electives or as a mandatory part of the degree program. Archaeological specializations are usually based upon different geographical regions, dwellings and eras.
Below is a short list of some specializations offered by institutions:
A bachelor's degree in archaeology can typically take around three to four years of full-time study. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located.
There are also various degrees available for archaeology graduates at the graduate level. Master's and doctoral programs are available for those looking to deepen their knowledge of the field. Extensive experience and research are usually required to complete these types of programs.
Some archaeology degree programs have a grade requirement, either from the entrance or standard exam, from previous courses taken in secondary school or sometimes even both. High marks in subjects such as geography and history may be a good boost to an application. Various leadership experiences and letters of recommendation may also be taken into consideration. Some institutions also require a letter of intent or an application essay in addition to an admissions interview.
For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
If you do not meet the entry requirements you may want to consider a pathway course.
Graduates of archaeology programs can choose from a variety of career options. Positions are available in archaeological contractors, national heritage agencies, universities (either as professors or researchers), museums and building developers. Positions can range from archaeologist, conservation officer, museum officer or curator, archivist and tourism officer. Other possible careers include archaeological lab technician, research archaeologist, and culture specialist. Those looking to go into education must first gain teaching credentials (normally in addition to professional experience).
Those who choose to work in other fields can do so using the transferrable skills that can be gained throughout archaeology degree programs such as scientific analysis and data interpretation, laboratory techniques, spatial analysis, information and data reporting and attention to detail.
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