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
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.
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
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
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, http://www.umich.edu/~ipcaa/
• Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology Program at University of California, Berkeley, http://ls.berkeley.edu/dept/ahma/
• The Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati, http://classics.uc.edu/
• The Interdisciplinary Graduate Group in the
Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World at the University of
• The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University, http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Joukowsky_Institute/
• The Department of Classics and the Archaeology Center, Stanford University, http://www.stanford.edu/dept/classics/home/index.html
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 firstname.lastname@example.org