Thinking of Graduate School in Classical Archaeology?
prepared by Jennifer Gates-Foster and Tim Moore,
Department of Classics, The University of Texas at Austin

I.    What can I do with a graduate degree in Classical Archeology?
1.    A graduate degree in Classical Archaeology can take you in a number of different directions; the most common track is to pursue a Ph.D. with the aim of going on to a position as a university professor in a classics or archaeology department.  
2.    Other possible directions include Cultural Resource Management, popularly known as CRM, which involves cultural heritage preservation and archaeological fieldwork undertaken in the public sector, sometimes by working for a government agency such as the National Park Service, or a private CRM firm.  
3.    Others use higher degrees in classical archaeology to pursue museum work, where they serve as curators or collection managers.  
4.    Still others go on to take positions in other areas where their expertise in antiquity and ancient artifacts make them a much sought after commodity.  Fields like documentary film production, antiquities law and historical preservation are all natural homes for the classical archaeologist.
5.     The job market for all these jobs is exceedingly tight.  Before you commit to graduate study in Classical Archaeology, make sure that you are both extremely motivated and have strong academic skills.

II.    How do I prepare for graduate school in Classical Archaeology?
1.    Keep in mind that graduate programs in archaeology are very competitive and that the market for academic jobs even more so.
2.    Expect to spend 6-7 years in school in order to complete a Ph.D. program.  
3.    Take courses that give you the necessary background for classical archaeology.  Classes in ancient art history, archaeology, and history are important. Anthropology is a good place to gain experience in archaeological methods and theory, while the classics department should be your home for study of ancient languages.  
4.    Make sure that you have a good, solid grounding in at least 1 ancient language, either Latin or Greek, and some exposure to the other.  At least three years of study of the major language is desirable and at least one year, if not two, in the second is also a good idea.  You MUST have a background in at least one ancient language to even be considered for graduate school in classical archaeology, so make an effort to start your study as soon as possible in your undergraduate career.  If you need additional language training, a post-baccalaureate program may be a good option.
5.    Make sure that you have some reading ability in at least one of the following modern languages: French, German or Italian.  If you don’t, get yourself up to speed by taking more courses or devoting part of a summer to intensive study.
6.    If you have the opportunity and the time, gain some experience in archaeological excavation.  Volunteer on an excavation here in Texas or in another part of the USA, or even better, enroll in a field school abroad where you’ll learn how to excavate at an ancient site.  These programs usually take place during the summer months and they are a WONDERFUL way to decide whether or not archaeology is the right field for you.  Field schools are held all over the world so you might work on a Roman site in Tunisia or a Greek site on Crete—the possibilities are endless.  Ask your archaeology professor to help you find a program that will be right for you.
7.    Write good papers!  You will need a good writing sample for your application so make an effort to write solid, thoughtful papers, especially in your junior and senior years.  If you can, write an honors thesis.  This demonstrates that you are capable of higher level work and will make you stand out from other applicants.
8.    Get to know your professors in Classics, Anthropology, History and Art History. Letters of recommendation will carry much weight: make sure you have several faculty members who know you and can recommend you enthusiastically.
9.    Study for the GRE. A high score in the verbal section of the GRE will increase your chances of acceptance.  A low total score will limit the kinds of funding you are eligible to receive at many institutions, so study hard.  These tests do matter.

III.    What programs should I consider and how do I find out which might be the best fit for me?
Because of the competitive job market, it can be very difficult to get into classical archaeology programs.  There are very few really good programs, so make sure you’ve done your homework and can identify which programs suits your interest best.  Never assume that because as school is famous, that its program is good.  Some of the nation's most prestigious universities do not at the moment have strong programs in classical archaeology.

A few of the notable programs in the US, in no particular order, are:
•    The Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Michigan,
•    Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology Program at University of California, Berkeley,
•    The Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati,
•    The Interdisciplinary Graduate Group in the Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World at the University of Pennsylvania,
•    The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University,
•    The Department of Classics and the Archaeology Center, Stanford University,

This is in no way a comprehensive list.  There are many other departments where it is possible to study classical archaeology!
You may also find the following web sites useful:
1. Classical Journal's Graduate Study in Classics Page

IV.     How do I pay for graduate school?
Funding for graduate school in archaeology often depends on the resources of the program to which you are applying.  Some schools will offer full funding packages including tuition, a living stipend and support during the summer.  Others will offer a combination of funding and opportunities for paid teaching in the department as TA’s or instructors.  Still others will expect you to support yourself during part of the year or some part of your career as a graduate student.  In general, it is not possible to work full-time or even part-time while in graduate school.  The work load is much heavier than it is at the undergrad level and outside commitments are often difficult to manage while attending graduate school.  So, weigh funding offers carefully and decide what the relative advantages and disadvantages are of the situation each school is offering.  Many of the best schools will offer full funding, which makes life as a student much easier, but make sure that you will also have the opportunity to gain some teaching experience.

last modified July 8, 2009 by