Best Archaeology Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

Archaeology is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that modern people have left behind. An archaeology degree opens up a world of possibility, allowing students to uncover secrets of past civilizations across the globe. For those fascinated by history, culture, travel, and solving mysteries, a career in archaeology may be the perfect fit.

When researching archaeology programs, prospective students should look for schools with extensive fieldwork opportunities, partnerships with active dig sites, access to technology/labs, career support services, and more. Here are 10 of the best archaeology schools in the United States based on academics, research, facilities, faculty, and overall student experience.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Avg SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $51,904

Avg Salary: $64,400

Website: https://anthropology.fas.harvard.edu/

The Archaeology concentration at Harvard offers world-class faculty and research opportunities. Students gain practical experience at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology which houses one of the largest collections of cultural history in the Western hemisphere. The program has a strong interdisciplinary focus, allowing students to take courses across departments.

University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $57,360

Avg Salary: $62,500

Website: https://www.sas.upenn.edu/anthropology/graduate/archaeology

UPenn’s archaeology program provides comprehensive training with a focus on methodology. With access to highly specialized labs, students work alongside experts pioneering new approaches in the field. The department partners with numerous active excavations locally and internationally.

Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1515

Tuition: $55,500

Avg Salary: $63,900

Website: https://anthropology.yale.edu/

Yale offers an intellectually-rigorous archaeology program within a world-class research university. With strengths in areas like evolutionary theory and cultural interpretation, the flexible curriculum allows students to shape their own academic journey. Faculty regularly lead excavations around the world, providing students hands-on learning.

University of Cambridge

Location: Cambridge, England

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $14,600 (approx.)

Avg Salary: $43,600

Website: https://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/

The top-ranked archaeology department in Europe, Cambridge exposes students to the most cutting-edge technology alongside esteemed faculty. The program emphasizes both practical techniques as well as critical assessment skills. With access to international field schools and partnerships with major heritage organizations, graduates are highly employable.

Boston University

Location: Boston, MA

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Avg SAT Score: 1390

Tuition: $58,072

Avg Salary: $55,400

Website: http://www.bu.edu/anthrop/

BU offers an archaeology program within a world-class research university. Students have opportunities to participate in faculty-led excavations across six continents. The department maintains impressive lab facilities with GIS spatial software, microscopy, spectroscopy, and more. Graduates pursue diverse careers in heritage management, museums, media, and consulting.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition: $44,007 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $58,800

Website: https://anthrotaxonomy.berkeley.edu/

Berkeley’s archaeology PhD empowers students to become lead researchers. The globally-focused program provides technology training in areas like LIDAR, photogrammetry, and 3D modeling with access to specialized labs. Faculty regularly lead major excavations with students participating hands-on. Graduates become top experts in the field across academic, government, and industry positions.

Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $57,222

Avg Salary: $62,300

Website: https://archaeology.cornell.edu/

Cornell offers an Ivy League archaeology program focused on interdisciplinary collaboration and hands-on learning. Students work closely with faculty known for pioneering new techniques. They also utilize the latest technology at specialized labs on campus. With expeditions across six continents, undergraduates can gain field experience and contribute to original research.

University of California, San Diego

Location: La Jolla, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 31%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition: $44,007 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $54,800

Website: https://anthropology.ucsd.edu/

UCSD’s program stands out for its expertise in hunter-gatherer societies. Faculty regularly lead expeditions in Africa and the New World with students participating. They emphasize learning practical methods for recovering, recording, and analyzing data in the field. Graduates apply their versatile skillset to careers in research, cultural resource management, museums, and more.

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Avg SAT Score: 1465

Tuition: $52,266 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $55,600

Website: https://lsa.umich.edu/umma

Michigan’s program connects students to a world-renowned archaeology museum on campus. Alongside coursework, they gain practical experience researching artifacts and organizing exhibitions. Faculty field projects provide global opportunities to develop expertise. The flexible, interdisciplinary nature attracts students interested in anthropology, history, classics, and more.

Brown University

Location: Providence, RI

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $59,254

Avg Salary: $67,500

Website: https://www.brown.edu/departments/joukowsky_institute/

Brown’s Joukowsky Institute stands out for its innovative approach and commitment to public archaeology. The flexible curriculum bridges science, technology, history, and culture. Ongoing field projects across five continents offer global perspective. Graduates apply their skills in education, research, community development, and heritage careers worldwide.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What degree do I need to become an archaeologist?

Most archaeologist positions require a master’s degree or PhD in archaeology or anthropology. Relevant undergraduate majors can include anthropology, classics, history, geology, or biology. Field school and fieldwork experience are essential.

What skills are required for a career in archaeology?

Key skills include research, critical analysis, writing, attention to detail, computer technology ability, field survey methods, excavation techniques, and knowledge across multiple disciplines from hard sciences to humanities.

What types of jobs can you get with an archaeology degree?

An archaeology degree opens up diverse career paths in areas like: academic research/teaching, cultural resource management, museum work, conservation, forensics, international development agencies, tourism, media/film/television, environmental planning, GIS analysis, heritage protection roles in government, and more.

How dangerous is an archaeology career? What are the risks?

Many archaeologists work in remote locations which can present risks like illness, wildlife, political instability, environmental hazards, accidents, and crime. Proper preparation, safety protocols, qualifications of project leaders, and common sense precautions can mitigate most issues. Engaging with local communities also provides critical local knowledge.

Can you make good money as an archaeologist?

Salaries vary greatly depending on factors like education level, years of experience, project funding, and geographic location. In the U.S., entry-level salaries often start around $40,000 but can reach $80,000+ over time with advanced degrees and field expertise. Academic and senior research positions offer the highest earning potential.

Is an archaeology degree useless?

Absolutely not! An archaeology degree provides versatile, valuable skills aplicable to diverse careers from research, education, museums, cultural resource management, international development programs, forensics, sustainability planning, tourism, media production, writing, business, law and much more. Archaeology grads enjoy rewarding work protecting ancient mysteries and human heritage worldwide.

What percentage of archeology work is done in the field versus the lab?

Fieldwork represents about 10-30% of an archaeologist’s overall time. The rest is lab analysis, conservation, research, grant-writing, meetings, trainings, report-writing, public outreach, and administrative tasks. The ratio shifts depending on role with academics spending less time in the field compared to cultural resource management.

How long do you have to go to school for archaeology?

A master’s degree is generally required at minimum which is around 2 years beyond a bachelor’s. Most tenured academic and senior research positions require a PhD which ranges from 4-7 years on average after undergrad. Programs blend coursework, fieldwork, labwork, exams, research, and a thesis.

What college has the best archaeology program?

According to ratings, some of the top U.S. schools include Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Boston University, UC Berkeley and Cornell. Globally, standouts are Cambridge University, University College London, and Oxford in the U.K. along with Max Planck Institute in Germany, University of Sydney in Australia and Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Can archaeologists make six figures?

Yes, experienced archaeologists in leadership research, faculty or administrative roles at elite universities, large corporations or foundations can make six-figures in salaries. However, landing these jobs requires years of field expertise, publications, reputation, grants, and connections on top of advanced degrees. Most careers provide reasonable middle-income wages.

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