How do I study to become an archaeologist in Australia?

Most archaeologists start off their training by doing an undergraduate degree at university, generally a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. This typically takes 3 years full-time study. The next step for most people is to do a one year Honours degree in an archaeological area. At most universities this is a specialist year of intensive training in archaeology, often with a small thesis topic where you get to do your own research.

At this point, after 4 years of training, you can call yourself an archaeologist. Many archaeologists go straight from their Honours degree into the workforce, particularly as consultants conducting cultural heritage impact studies or the public service into agencies such as National Parks and Departments of Environment which are responsible for managing archaeological heritage in many states. Other people keep studying at this point for higher degrees. This is becoming more the norm as the job market in archaeology is very competitive, so the more training you have the better chance you will have of landing a job. Here most people do either a masters degree (e.g. Master of Arts or Master of Philosophy) or a doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy) in archaeology.

Masters degrees usually take 2 years full-time and PhDs 3 years full-time or longer part-time. Although some masters degree programs are taught as classes (coursework), some are by research where you undertake a specialist research project and write up the results in a thesis. A PhD is generally the highest award in archaeology. Obtaining a PhD means that you have demonstrated a broad knowledge of the field of archaeology.

Archaeology is taught in many Australian universities. The tricky thing is that it is not always called ‘archaeology’ and it is not always taught in ‘Departments of Archaeology’! Archaeology is often taught as part of Anthropology, Ancient History, Classics and Social Science programs. So when you are looking at university courses, make sure you have a good search through these areas as well.

Every state and territory in Australia has a university that teaches some aspect (or in some cases many aspects!) of archaeology. They all differ in the number of courses offered, number of staff, specialist areas and resources available (e.g. laboratories and museums). For example, if you were interested in archaeology in Egypt you might want to look at courses offered by the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University in Sydney which offers many courses in the area, including a Masters in Egyptology! Other universities specialise in other areas such as hunter-gatherer archaeology, Mayan archaeology, forensic archaeology, African archaeology, etc.


In the following sections there are a series of resources for students, including:


If anyone would like to add to this section of the website, please send the information through to [email protected]!