What Are the Pros and Cons of Choosing an Archaeology Major?

M.C. Huguelet

Before deciding to major in archaeology, or the study of human civilizations through the examination of material culture, it is important to understand the pros and cons of getting a degree in this area. On the positive side, an archaeology major enables students to indulge a passion for cultural studies and may also afford the opportunity to travel to far-flung locales. It is important to keep in mind, however, that some universities may not offer an archaeology major, that an archeology student may be required to take classes he is not interested in, and that an advanced degree may be necessary to get a job within the field.

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

For students with a passionate interest in ancient civilizations, perhaps the most noteworthy advantage of an archaeology major is that it allows intensive study of this topic. Many undergraduate archaeology programs require students to take classes that cover a wide range of archeological topics, thus giving students a broad introductory knowledge of the field. Less commonly, undergraduate archaeology students may choose an area of specialization, such as Native American art or Mediterranean cultures, and take classes that provide them with an in-depth knowledge of that area.

Archaeologists work in offices and in the field.
Archaeologists work in offices and in the field.

At many colleges and universities, the degree requirements for an archeology major include completing a summer field research internship. Some of these field internships are based in foreign countries. Thus, choosing an archaeology major may provide students with an opportunity to travel to and work in an exotic location.

On the negative side, those considering an archaeology major should understand that many colleges and universities, particularly in the US, do not offer this major to undergraduates. Instead, these institutions offer a limited selection of archeology classes through their anthropology department. Consequently, students who wish to major in archaeology may need to relocate to attend an institution that offers this program. Alternatively, they may need to consider completing an undergraduate degree in a related field, like anthropology or art history, and then studying archeology at the graduate level.

Another potential downside of an archeology major is that it may require students to take classes that they do not necessarily find themselves interested in. For instance, much archeological field work involves statistical analysis. To prepare students for this aspect of an archeology career, they may be required to take one or more math classes, even if they do not enjoy math.

Finally, it should be noted that graduating with an archeology major will generally prepare students for only a limited range of careers within the field of archaeology. In order to advance beyond assistant-level roles, students will generally need to go on to complete a Master of Arts (MA) degree in archeology. Those who want to teach at the college level, work as a museum conservationist, or supervise field research will likely need to complete a doctoral degree.

Archaeology majors are often only offered to those pursuing master's degrees.
Archaeology majors are often only offered to those pursuing master's degrees.

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Would someone help me with information concerning contributions made by procedural and post-procedural archaeology in the use of geographical information systems.

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