Q&A: What Is an MA in Archaeology? (Plus Jobs and Salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Archaeology is the study of physical objects from the past that allow professionals to draw conclusions about ancient communities. As professionals in archaeology often perform highly technical job duties and can use complex research methods, many pursue graduate degrees in the field to help them prepare for advanced work. For example, one of the most common advanced degrees for these professionals is a Master of Arts in archaeology.

In this article, we consider what an MA in archaeology is and explore frequently asked questions about the program, such as what students study and which jobs they can pursue after graduation.

What is an MA in archaeology?

An MA, or Master of Arts, in archaeology, is an advanced degree that students can pursue to learn about high-level concepts like historical research and excavation techniques. This degree can be very valuable to professionals in archaeology because it can often help them qualify for higher salaries and jobs with more advanced responsibilities. These programs typically take between one and three years to complete, depending on how many courses a student takes at once.

Related: What Is an Archaeologist? Definition, Job Duties and How To Become One

What do students pursuing an MA in archaeology study?

Students who complete an MA in archaeology can study a wide variety of topics that relate to conducting research and drawing conclusions based on observations. For example, MA students in archaeology often spend much of their time learning about different excavation and preservation techniques that they can use when working with artifacts.

These programs also typically place a large emphasis on history, as knowing about various time periods can help an archaeologist identify artifacts from specific eras. Here are a few more examples of courses that these programs can involve:

  • Archaeological ethics

  • World archaeology

  • Foreign language

  • Scientific methods in archaeology

  • Contemporary theory

Related: Learn About Archaeology Degrees (Definitions and Types)

What are the requirements for entering an MA in archaeology program?

While the exact requirements for entering an MA in archaeology program can vary depending on the school you attend, many programs ask for similar qualifications. Here are a few key requirements that students typically fulfill before applying to an MA in archaeology program:

Degree level

The first requirement that candidates for MA programs in archaeology typically need to fulfill is completing an undergraduate degree. Most candidates use a bachelor's degree for this qualification, as bachelor's degree programs can offer excellent preparation for master's degree programs.

For example, students who want to pursue an MA in archaeology might first earn a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in a subject like archaeology, history or anthropology. This can introduce them to concepts that they can use in the field and expand upon in their MA programs.

Coursework

Another key requirement for entering an MA program in archaeology is completing some specific coursework. This is because most MA programs expand on the information that students learn in lower-level programs, which helps them to develop full understandings of complex concepts.

For example, a student earning a bachelor's degree in archaeology might study methods for identifying marks on bones so they can complete practical labs or courses about classifying bones further in a master's program. Here are a few courses that students applying to MA programs in archaeology typically need:

  • Archaeology

  • Anthropology

  • Lab science

  • Foreign language

  • Art history

  • Classical studies

Practical experience

Some MA programs in archaeology might also ask for practical experience from applicants. While this can sometimes refer to professional experience in the field, it can also describe hands-on experiences that students can complete during their undergraduate courses.

For example, archaeology students can benefit from completing labs and workshops on concepts like cleaning artifacts, using digging tools and handling artifacts safely.

Related: How To Become an Archaeologist: Education Requirements and Steps

What jobs can you get with an MA in archaeology?

Here are five jobs you can pursue with an MA in archaeology. For the most up-to-date Indeed salaries, please click on the links below:

1. Curator

National average salary: $52,978 per year

Primary duties: A curator specializes in organizing historical artifacts for storage and display. Curators can have many responsibilities, such as procuring art or artifacts to build new collections in museums, ensuring that any pieces a museum acquires are authentic and planning exhibits by choosing artifacts to include and designing their layout. While most curators work in museums, they can also find jobs at galleries and academic institutions that have special collections.

Related: Learn About Becoming a Curator

2. Professor

National average salary: $53,731 per year

Primary duties: A professor is an educator who teaches students at the collegiate level. Professors can have a wide array of job duties, such as developing curricula for students to follow throughout each semester, conducting lectures on topics of study and distributing and grading assignments like homework, tests and research papers. In archaeology, many professors also design labs or other activities that allow students to practice the concepts they learn in class, such as cleaning artifacts or identifying indicators of time periods on particular items.

3. Archaeologist

National average salary: $58,289 per year

Primary duties: An archaeologist is a research professional who uses specific methodologies to explore historical artifacts. Their job can involve completing archaeological digs to uncover items from ancient communities, using artifacts they find to learn about past communities' behaviors and preserving artifacts they find for future research and observation. Many archaeologists also take photographs and write detailed notes during excavations that they can use to write reports or research papers about their findings.

4. Field technician

National average salary: $60,009 per year

Primary duties: A field technician is a specialist who can perform technical job duties on a work site. In archaeology, these professionals can conduct reconnaissance surveys to learn about the historic resources that a location might offer, create grids on excavation sites for archeological digs and collect artifacts for cleaning and storage. Many field technicians also spend much of their time documenting the artifacts that a team finds so they can easily find them later to conduct closer observations.

5. Researcher

National average salary: $67,028 per year

Primary duties: A researcher is an expert in a particular field who gathers information about specialized topics. In archaeology, researchers can have job duties like analyzing artifacts that archaeologists recover from excavations, conducting extensive research on specific communities to learn more about an area's history and developing theories for the behaviors of ancient communities based on archaeological finds and existing research. Researchers often also write reports or research papers they can share with other industry experts and the public.

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