Barbara on Following A Career in Egyptology

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Most people will tell you not to consider a career in Egyptology. I’m not one of them. I believe in following your dreams, especially when you are young. If you don’t try you will never know whether you might have succeeded. HOWEVER, and I’m writing that in capital letters, you should think very seriously about several points. A lot of people think they want to major in Egyptology. It’s a fascinating subject and it sounds glamorous. But it’s not; it’s hard work with few rewards, and you’d better be darned good and sure that’s what you want before you start investing time and money.

You can’t specialize in Egyptology as an undergraduate, so don’t expect that your freshman courses will include Hieroglyphs 101. Too much specialization is bad for the mind anyhow, in my opinion (and that of Amelia). A general liberal arts background won’t do you any harm. Take foreign languages, especially German and French; English; and as much history as you can fit in.

Egyptology is not a wise career choice. Jobs are few and the competition is fierce. If you do succeed in getting a doctorate–you won’t get anywhere without one–and an actual job, you will never be a millionaire. The training itself is expensive. We’re talking at least seven years of college, at today’s ungodly prices. Living conditions in the field aren’t five star. You will have to get up at the crack of dawn. (That’s one of the considerations that made me select an alternate career.) Some expeditions have permanent field houses, but most don’t. You will suffer from heat, a variety of insects, and in many cases terrible food. I spoke once to a young woman who had just returned from Egypt, who described a typical daily menu: boiled potatoes, boiled rice, and for dessert, french fries. If you like a little nip before or after dinner you’ll have to bring it with you. On the other hand, the beer is excellent.

There are several alternative careers that can possibly get you into the field in Egypt. Good photographers are always useful and archaeological photography is a relatively new specialty. Computers are being used more and more. Consider fields such as physical anthropology. Bones keep turning up in digs. In fact, any skill you can acquire may add to your desirability. I do not recommend that you choose the alternative I followed. Becoming a successful author (i.e., selling well enough to earn a living) is as difficult as getting a job as an Egyptologist. You’ve got two strikes against you instead of only one.

What I would recommend is that you take a summer course or sign up for a field trip in you local area. For those of you near Chicago, the Oriental Institute offers several summer courses for high school students (see below) . Your local university may do the same. There are literally dozens of state and local archaeology groups, most of whom take summer students. You won’t get paid–you may have to pay them–but you’ll learn something about methodology and field conditions. Magazines like Archaeology list some of these and you can find others on the web. So good luck, whatever you decide.

The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning you’re not old. ~ Rosalyn S. Yalow, in Barbara Shiels’ Women and the Nobel Prize

So many have indicated an interest in pursuing archaeology as a lifelong passion, or as a career, that it finally occurs to us (yes, we’re occasionally rather slow on the uptake) that this would be a great forum for information regarding learning opportunities. A few courses for those interested in extending their knowledge of Archaeology or Egyptology :

University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute offers a three week intensive summer Egyptology class for high school students which includes study of ancient Egyptian language, culture and history. You can find out more information about applying and read a sample syllabus at:

The Maryland National Parks and Planning Commission (MNPPC) sponsors summer daycamps for 10-12 year old budding archaeologists which includes tool identification, site excavation and digging techniques, artifact identification and so on. (This comes highly recommended from a 10 year old who was involved in a camp in Derwood, MD.) Check out:

If you or someone you know has attended a summer archaeology course/camp which is highly recommended, please share that information with us and then we�ll a publish a list with your comments in future editions of the newsletter

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Location(s): Cortez, Colorado

Every summer, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center offers three residential programs for teens. The one-week Middle School Archaeology Programs offers younger students an opportunity to learn about the cultures and archaeology of the Four Corners area. During the three-week High School Field School, students work alongside professional archaeologists to learn archaeological methods and theories and gain extensive excavation and analysis experience. The one-week High School Archaeology Program, offers an introduction to archaeology in the Mesa Verde region with field and lab experience.

In 1999, the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center was presented with the Award for Excellence in Public Education by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) at the organization’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Contact:Theresa Titone
Telephone: 970-565-8975 or 800-422-8975
Type: Residential
Gender: Coed