10 Best Master’s Degrees in Archaeology

A student pursuing one of the 10 Best Master's Degrees in Archaeology already has a good sense of what they want to do with a degree: they have a passion for history, in some cases classical languages and ancient cultures, and even environmentalism and social justice. They want to dive deeper, and hopefully, in the most excellent but most affordable environment possible. 

The array of options available to MA in Archaeology candidates is impressive and even inspiring: every university on our list is staffed with dedicated, passionate faculty who have devoted their lives to understanding the past and how it affects the modern world, and admitted students have the opportunity to combine their love of a language, culture, or societal issue with the actual boots-in-the-ground work of finding historical artifacts that bring stories, languages, and environmental impact to life.

 Many MA students in Archaeology choose to continue on to a Ph.D. program to pursue independent research or fieldwork, as well as university-level education. However, an MA on its own is useful for students who want to work in archives, museum work, resource conservation, or more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for Anthropologists and Archaeologists is excellent, with a projected growth of 11% through 2026, while job growth for high-school level teachers (something an MA can qualify for) is about average, and that for archivists, curators, and museum workers is charging forward at a 14% increase. The job outlook for postsecondary teachers, should MA students choose to move forward with their education, is 15% through 2026, and the 2018 median pay was over $78,000 per year.

One archaeologist from the Archaeological Institute of America describes the field as difficult work for the fact that much of archaeology is manual labor, on top of grueling research studying artifacts, but adds that the work is incredibly rewarding because for most people it is a passion, and perhaps even an obsession. There is also a huge variety of paths in archaeology, ranging from the study of the Meditteranean landscape, to rescue archaeology, feminist archaeology, maritime archaeology, and more. This variety is reflected in the list below, so candidates can be assured their passion is somewhere out there and can even be affordable.

Selection Criteria

Best Value Schools publishes college degree rankings with the belief of how one's higher education should be, both, affordable and an investment of continued value for the students who pursue them. The staff of BVS collects data from reputable sources in order to calculate Net Price and the short and long-term value of every ranked degree. Collected data is simplified into weighted categories before scoring and then scaled through a BVS Score up to 100. The weighted categories are:

  • Degree Investment Return (25%)
  • Student & Alumni Evaluation (25%)
  • Cost Value (25%)
  • Matriculation (10%) 
  • Academic Success (15%) 

No matter what degree you decide on, we hope our research and support has made the selection process easier. There are numerous resources BVS utilizes to collect information on degrees, and we encourage you to check them out for yourself! 

Here are the 10 Best Master's Degrees in Archaeology for 2020!

10. Yale University - New Haven, CT

Master of Arts Degree in Archaeological Studies

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The Master of Arts Degree in Archaeological Studies from Yale University believes that students learn the complex combination of science, theory, and history through diverse field experiences and research problems. The MA program is intended for students who want to teach in community colleges or secondary schools, for professionals wanting to catch up on the most recent advances in the field, and for those wanting the academic background to pursue a Ph.D. program. The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is required for admissions, and a background in archaeology is helpful but not required. Required courses are in Anthropology, a choice of arts and social sciences, a choice of science subjects, and electives.

Full-time MA students can expect to complete their degree in a year, while all students are expected to complete the program within three years. A Master's thesis and summer field experience are also required: research sites are scattered across the world. Closer to home, Yale has its own set of world-class research facilities and museums. Yale faculty have authored dozens of books and research papers that have won them multiple fellowships and titles as world experts in their field. 

Tuition: $53,430

Score: 84.52

9. Cornell University - Ithaca, NY

Master of Arts in Archaeology

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The Master of Arts in Archaeology from Cornell University is designed to give students a broad overview of the field, and to prepare students for future Ph.D. programs, as well as work in heritage management. Like many other programs, the MA is committed to interdisciplinary study, so faculty are experts in fields such as Anthropology, Art History, Classics, Geology, Landscape Architecture, and more. MA students are required to both submit a thesis and make a contribution to the field by way of identifying, completing, and writing up an Archaeological project. Requirements for admission include taking the GRE and submitting three references and a writing sample.

Students are expected to complete their degree in between 12-18 months, sometimes 24 months when required by a research program. Students can choose from a long list of concentrations, including African Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, Ritual and Religion, and more. Cornell ranks high in academic excellence and selectivity, earning No. 16 in U.S. News & World Report's 2019 National Universities ranking. Students seeking rich campus life will be attracted to Cornell's stunning 745-acre campus, its 35 NCAA Division 1 sports teams, and variety of student organizations.

Tuition: $55,188

Score: 84.55

8. Florida State University - Tallahassee, FL

Master of Arts in Classics: Classical Archaeology

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Students in Florida State University's Master of Arts in Classics: Classical Archaeology are specifically focused on the art history and archaeology of the ancient Meditteranean landscape. The program is specifically designed for students who wish to pursue their Ph.D. in Archaeology, so students have the option of fulfilling the minimum ancient language requirements for the program, or studying their choice of Greek or Latin more in-depth to meet most Ph.D. admissions requirements. A Master's paper is required for graduation, as is 4 credit hours of fieldwork, usually completed during the summer. 

Students fulfilling their fieldwork requirements have traveled to Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Italy, Malta, Britain, and more, but can petition to study at other excavation sites across the world. 32 total credits are required for graduation. FSU Faculty lead a variety of research projects, most notably over 30 years' worth of excavations at Cetamura del Chianti in Italy, as well as in leading several Classics publications. Students can join the Student Archaeology Club, which helps keep students up to date on recent archaeological projects and findings, and hosts lectures and an annual fieldwork showcase.

Tuition (In-state/out-of-state): $5,656 / $18,786

Score: 84.55

7. Texas A&M University - College Station, TX

Master of Science in Maritime Archaeology and Conservation

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The Master of Science in Maritime Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M University, which is part of the Nautical Archaeology Program, focuses on sea travel throughout history, as well as ship construction and maritime technology, and understanding the past through nautical archaeology. Every MS student is expected to become an expert in the archaeology and maritime history of a particular period or area, then complete research in their particular area of interest. Fieldwork and a master's thesis are required for graduation. 

Students complete their fieldwork during the summer of their first year in the program. 30-32 credits are required for graduation, and course titles include History of Wooden Shipbuilding, Skills in Maritime Archaeology, and Research and Reconstruction of Ships. True to the typical offerings of a large public research institution, Texas A&M offers a range of on-campus support for graduate students, including The Academy for Future Faculty, which provides career-centered events for graduate students considering professorship in the future, professional development programs, and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Tuition (In-state/out-of-state): $11,870 / $37,495

Score: 86.47

6. University of Georgia - Athens, GA

Master of Science in Archaeological Resource Management

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The Master of Science in Archaeological Resource Management at the University of Georgia aims to prepare students for work in resource management through coursework in Geography, Geology, Anthropology, and Historic Preservation. Students are not required to complete fieldwork or a thesis but must produce a publishable-quality research paper at the end of their program. Applications for Fall term are due by January 1st of the same calendar year, but because admission is limited to six-to-eight students per year, candidates are encouraged to apply earlier. 

The University of Georgia has a deep history as the state's oldest university and the first publicly-funded higher education institution in the United States. U.S. News & World Report regard Athens as one of 10 great college towns in the country for its vibrant sports and activities community, and the university boasts a large and diverse graduate community as it provides the most graduate programs in Georgia. With low tuition and a flexible program designed to be completed in 12 months, UGA could be an excellent choice for Archaeology students eager to develop their career skills. 

Tuition: $11,830

Score: 87.51

5. Tufts University - Medford, MA

Master of Arts in Classical Archaeology

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The Master of Arts in Classical Archaeology from Tufts University might be the perfect program for true classic language and ancient history enthusiasts. Students must have a reading knowledge of Latin or Greek and one modern foreign language must complete three upper-level Greek or Latin courses and will be tested on the proficiency of both their chosen classic and modern languages during the program. If admitted students do not have a preliminary education in a classic language, they will need to take additional courses while pursuing their MA Either two qualifying papers or a thesis are required for graduation, as is an examination of students' general knowledge of Classical Archaeology and comprehension of an exhaustive MA core and specialized Archaeology reading list

Field and laboratory work are also required. Applicants must submit GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Like many other programs, Tuft's MA is ideal for students intending to pursue a Ph.D. program, so research and language skills are heavily emphasized to prepare students for that path. Tufts is located just five miles from downtown Boston, giving students access to a variety of museums, cultural attractions, and the ability to connect with professionals at other elite universities in the area. 

Tuition: $56,382

Score: 87.69

4. Michigan Technological University - Houghton, MI

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology

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With a Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology from Michigan Technological University, students will be prepared to pursue a doctoral program or work in an archive or museum work, with cultural resource management firms, public services, or non-profit heritage organizations. Industrial archaeology specifically studies the history and consequences of industrialization and analyzes the ways in which industrialization has driven cultural phenomena and inequality. During the summer prior to beginning the program, students will participate in fieldwork excavating housing and industrial sites in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and learn labor history from the staff at Keweenaw National Historical Park. Students will be able to hone their skills at MTU's newly-renovated industrial archaeology lab as well.

M.S. students can choose between a Master's thesis and independent study project report as part of their graduation requirements. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis, and applicants must submit GRE scores (though MTU undergraduates are exempt from this requirement), three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. Proof of an undergraduate GPA above 3.0 is typical for admitted students. Program faculty have done extensive work on cultural landscapes, sustainability, environmental policy, and more. In 2017, Forbes ranked MTU No. 12 for public schools that graduate individuals with the highest mid-career earnings in the country. 

Tuition: $15,646

Score: 91.05

3. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA

Terminal Master of Arts Program in Meditteranean Archaeology

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The Terminal Master of Arts Program in Meditteranean Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania trains students in the landscape and culture of the Meditteranean area and equips them with practical archaeological skills that will prepare them for admission to elite Ph.D. programs or work in education, museum, and resource management careers. Like many Classical Archaeology programs, Penn's MA requires proficiency in both a classical language (Greek, Latin, Akkadian, or other) and a modern language (preferably French or German). Students complete their required fieldwork experience during the summer after their first year in the program. For the 10-course program, a maximum of six years (seven on rare exception) is allowed for part-time students to complete their degree requirements. 

While course options at Penn are already very diverse, students can petition to take relevant specialized courses from other universities within commuting distance, and in some instances, classes from Bryn Mawr College or Princeton University can be taken for Penn credit. Penn students also have access to the largest collection of Meditteranean artifacts of any university in North America at The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Unsurprising for the No. 8 National University according to a 2019 U.S. News & World Report ranking, admission for the MA program is extremely competitive: most candidates will not be considered without intensive foreign language study, and applicants' writing samples should reflect their most recent research. 

Tuition: $55,584

Score: 92.00

2. University of California-Berkeley - Berkeley, CA

Master of Arts in Classical Archaeology

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The Master of Arts in Classical Archaeology from the University of California-Berkeley anticipates that MA students will continue on directly into the Ph.D. program, for which Berkeley MA graduates are directly admitted. The program offers a broad but rigorous general education of ancient Rome and Greece and encourages students to choose a particular concentration within that broad background. Students complete fieldwork in the Meditteranean, often under the direct site supervision of Berkeley faculty. Berkeley houses the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which houses archival collections spanning over 100 years of research, which Berkeley students have access to for their own research projects. 

Berkeley prides itself on housing seven Nobel Laureates, 144 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 223 Fellows of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in its graduate faculty pool. Candidates considering graduate school at Berkeley will be excited by the university's extensive volume of research, plenty of it conducted by Archaeology faculty. Students looking for a thriving campus culture will love Berkeley, as it is world-renowned for its student activism, competitive sports teams, and fierce rivalry with nearby Stanford University. 

Tuition (In-state/out-of-state): $14,184 / $43,176 

Score: 94.25

1. Harvard University - Cambridge, MA

Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, field: Anthropology and Archaeology

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Undoubtedly the most unusual and perhaps most surprising degree on this list, the Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, field: Anthropology and Archaeology, allows students to complete a world-class graduate degree in Archaeology from one of the most elite universities in the world…almost completely online. Through the program, students gain an overview of anthropological and archaeological methods and theories, and thereby gain an understanding of history, as well as what has led to modern differences in culture, ideologies, land use, etc. While fieldwork does not seem to be a graduation requirement, three of the 12 required courses must be completed on campus in Cambridge. Intensive summer and weekend classes might be available. 

Through Harvard Extension School's Earn Your Way In admissions, applicants begin by enrolling in a proseminar in graduate studies and scholarly writing, as well as two courses from the program, and must complete all three courses with at least a 3.0 GPA, on top of submitting an admissions application. Then students complete the rest of their required courses, including their thesis, and graduate with a degree from Harvard University and walk in a regular Harvard graduate school commencement. The Extension School is intended for nontraditional students with a Bachelor's degree and work experience, and students have five years to complete their MA. This could be a huge opportunity for students with Ivy League dreams but work or family commitments that keep them mostly at home.

Tuition: $50,420 

Score: 100.00