How Do I Become a Classical Archaeologist?

Sheri Cyprus

To become a classical archaeologist, achieving a formal post secondary education is crucial. In many countries, a PhD is required to do field excavation work on your own. You're also likely to need a PhD in classical archaeology to be a curator at a museum. A bachelor's degree will often allow you to participate in field work within your own country and a master's degree may qualify you to supervise crews, work in a museum or teach at the community college level. It's important to research the different schools and degrees available to you to investigate in what capacity each will allow you to become a classical archaeologist.

Jaffa, Israel, an ancient city that has been studied by many archaeologists.
Jaffa, Israel, an ancient city that has been studied by many archaeologists.

It's worthwhile to consider where you'll earn each degree. Completing at least your graduate and doctoral degrees at the same university may have the advantage of allowing you more recognition when applying for teaching posts at the school. If this isn't a concern as you strive to become a classical archaeologist, choosing different schools may give you a wider perspective on your studies. Taking time to read all of the archaeology degree details from each school, and ask any needed questions, can help you choose the program that will best fit your study abilities and career goals. Don't just research each degree as you'll need it, but rather consider how your bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees will work best together as a progressive whole.

Classical archaeologists must be well-versed in the history of ancient societies like that which existed in Athens, Greece.
Classical archaeologists must be well-versed in the history of ancient societies like that which existed in Athens, Greece.

For your bachelor's degree in archaeology, look for a program that will prepare you for master's and doctoral degrees with a solid foundation in cultures, societies, languages, history and classical literature. Learning how to do original research at this point can serve you well throughout your academic life. A good bachelor's degree program in classical archaeology should also include basic information such as how object dating is best achieved. Concentrating on the different historical periods such as Hellenistic, Byzantine and Late Antiquity is typically a major part of graduate degree programs in classical archaeology. You're also likely to need to write a 25,000 word or more dissertation.

Roman ruins would be of interest to a classical archaeologist.
Roman ruins would be of interest to a classical archaeologist.

If you're interested in managing field work crews when you become a classical archaeologist, it's best to choose a master's degree program with a focus on this aspect. Getting on a PhD track when you're still a master's student is another consideration to make as this may help you better guide your academic studies to achieve your main career goals. Being able to read ancient languages as well as understand at least two modern ones is usually required. You're likely to have to spend at least one year abroad in a foreign work-study program in archaeological field work, so this is something you should plan for when choosing schools.

Many antiquities from the ancient period are housed in museums located in the Vatican.
Many antiquities from the ancient period are housed in museums located in the Vatican.
Classical archaeologists may participate in an archaeological dig.
Classical archaeologists may participate in an archaeological dig.
A classical archaeologist might specialize in studying one type of ancient technology, such as aqueducts.
A classical archaeologist might specialize in studying one type of ancient technology, such as aqueducts.

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