Education and training requirements are different for different kinds of archaeology. In the U.S. anthropology departments include archaeology as one of four subdisciplines (the others are physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology). During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, anthropology programs in the U.S. were established to study American Indian societies, languages, and ruins. As a result, there are few separate archaeology departments. Interdisciplinary programs that combine archaeology with various other fields of study are more common. Students who wish to study ancient or classical civilizations (including the Near East, Egypt, early civilizations of the Mediterranean, classical Greece and Rome, and the early civilizations of India, China, and southeast Asia) are more likely to pursue their studies in interdisciplinary programs that include courses in art, architecture, classics, history, ancient and modern languages, and theology. Students who wish to study the historical periods (roughly from the fall of Rome to the present) combine history (including archival and oral history research) with courses in historical and vernacular architecture, material culture and folklore, and archaeology.
At the undergraduate level, there is little specialization. A major in anthropology requires courses in all of the subdisciplines. For students interested in ancient and classical civilizations, the particular undergraduate major is not important, but it is advantageous to begin learning several ancient and modern languages (e.g. Greek, Latin, German, French). Historical archaeologists usually major in anthropology or history. An undergraduate degree (B.A./B.S.) is sufficient to work as a field archaeologist in the U.S. and to perform basic laboratory studies. Previous experience through participation in an archaeological field school or as a volunteer is often required. Summer archaeological field schools provide the best way to learn how to properly excavate and record archaeological sites and to find out if archaeology is really for you. Job opportunities outside the U.S. are very limited, but volunteers with field experience should be welcome almost anywhere.
There are two levels of graduate training in archaeology. The first is an M.A. or M.S. degree which takes about 1-2 years of course work beyond the B.A./B.S. degree and a written thesis which presents the results of original research by the student. Some programs offer a non-thesis M.A. degree. Unless you are planning to work immediately on a Ph.D. degree, the preparation of a thesis is an important part of the educational process. An M.A./M.S. would be enough to direct field crews and is sufficient for many government positions in archaeology. It is also sufficient to work in the private sector, to teach in a community college, and to work for some museums. An M.A./M.S. with a thesis and a year of field and laboratory experience is the minimum for certification by the Society of Professional Archeologists. Most foreign governments will issue excavation permits only to archaeologists with a Ph.D. degree. This means that opportunities to direct field projects outside the U.S. are limited to those with a doctoral degree.
The second graduate degree is the Ph.D., which is required to teach in a college or university or hold a museum curatorship. The Ph.D. degree requires 2-3 years of courses beyond the M.A. and the successful preparation and oral defense of a dissertation containing original research in your chosen specialization within the field of archaeology. Some graduate programs offer streamlined tracks for students with a B.A. degree so that they work directly toward a Ph.D. while others require an M.A. degree first
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