What Aspiring Archaeologists Need to Know Before Choosing a Major (at US colleges/universities)

If you’re an aspiring archaeologist pursuing an undergraduate degree at a US college or university, this post details what you need to know before choosing a major. In this post, you will find the YouTube video discussing this topic and a full transcript of the video.

YouTube Video

YouTube Video: What Aspiring Archaeologists Need to Know BEFORE Choosing a Major (at US colleges/universities

YouTube Video Transcript

Here you will find the complete transcript of the video in the previous section. There are time stamps for every minute in case you want to navigate to a certain part.


Hi, everyone. So in today’s video, we’re going to be discussing majors at college or university. If you want to be an archaeologist.

 This video might be a particular interest to high school students, current college undergrads, or honestly anyone who might be interested in going to school to become an archaeologist at any point in their lives. Now, if you don’t fit in any of these categories, and you’re just interested in what I have to say, thanks so much and just keep watching.

So this video is going to be broken down into six parts. First will be some really quick, useful background information. The second will be about the obvious archaeology major followed by the not so obvious anthropology major. Then we’re going to chat about interdisciplinary programs, followed by double majors and minors. And then we’re going to close out with just a quick chat on what to do next with all the information given in today’s video.

Background Information

Okay. So let’s start with some useful background information. First off, if you don’t know me, I’m Smiti. Hello. And I’m an archaeologist. I’ve been doing archaeology for [00:01:00] over 18 years now and I’ve studied in the U S and the UK. In terms of the U S I’ve been at three different institutions and I’ve also worked in higher education administration. So I have a decent idea about how programs are structured and run.

 So the second useful piece of background information is that there is a reason why this video is focused on the us. And that’s because college majors, especially for undergraduates work differently in different countries, in different regions of the world. So to provide you with most accurate information, I’m going to be focusing on the U S.

Archaeology Major

So to get started, what should you major in if you want to be in archaeologist? The obvious answer is archaeology.

The archaeology major can be offered in a number of different ways. And it just really depends on the university. So for example, a university might have an archaeology department which offers an archaeology major, and I’ll be honest, there’s not too many of those in the US but there are a number of departments that might have archaeology and their department title.

And that usually [00:02:00] signifies that they focus on a specific area. Um, or areas. So this could be art and archaeology, classical archaeology, near Eastern archaeology, and the list goes on.

Anthropology Major

 So now we come to the not so obvious major, which is anthropology. And actually a lot of archaeologists in the US uh, myself included have been trained in anthropology departments.

Now you might be asking why is this the case? Especially if you’re tuning in from elsewhere in the world where these are considered separate fields. So in the US, a Franz Boas over a hundred years ago basically developed this four-field approach to anthropology with archaeology being a sub-discipline with other fields, being linguistic anthropology, socio-cultural anthropology and biological anthropology.

So Boas’ four-field vision of anthropology still continues in a lot of places and you can find archaeologists in anthropology departments. So this means anthropology departments might offer [00:03:00] explicit archaeology majors, or in fact you might need to major in anthropology and get either a formal or informal concentration in archaeology.

Now, when I was applying to college and your university as an undergraduate, I had no idea about this and not that I would change what I did now, per se, because I’m really happy with how everything turned out. It would have broadened my options if I knew this.

Interdisciplinary Programs

So now on to interdisciplinary programs and interdisciplinary programs, aren’t necessarily a different major, but it’s more about how a major might be structured. In the previous examples about archaeology and anthropology. I was mainly talking about a singular department or program offering a major. Now with interdisciplinary programs. I often see those coming about when there are archaeologists in multiple departments.

So, for example, there could be an archaeologist in anthropology, classical archaeology, and history.

And they might come together and say, [00:04:00] Hey, you know, instead of offering just singular classes and archaeology, we could come together and offer a major where students would still need to take required courses in all these different departments and some other requirements. But then at the end of it, they would have an archaeology major.

Now another option worth noting is that some schools allow for you to design your own major. So, in theory, you could design. An archaeology or archaeology related major, and it probably would be some type of interdisciplinary program.

Double Majors and Minors

So, this brings us to the double majors and minors section. Now I think there’s two basic strategies when it comes to selecting a second major or a minor, if you want to be an archaeologist.

So, the first category could be loosely termed as doubling down. And that means pursuing a field or area that is directly related to the type of archaeology that you want to do. So, for me, I was really interested in the broader field of anthropology. So, I decided to get an [00:05:00] anthropology major. In addition to my archaeology major, other people have been interested in history or classics. I know people who were interested in GIS and archaeology. So, they opted for a geography major or a GIS minor. It really just depends on how you want to do archaeology, which honestly takes a little bit of foresight and it’s probably something you might have a better idea about later into your program.

So that brings us to the second category, which can be called broadly exploring. And all this means is that you’re going to choose a second major or minor. That you’re interested in, and it likely might not have any direct connections to archaeology and that’s okay. Because we all have interests outside of the field.

And for me that was psychology and I minored in psychology and while it didn’t have any direct connections to archaeology, it did help influence my thinking about human behavior, thus human behavior in the past. So honestly, if you pick anything that, you know, develops your critical thinking, your technical [00:06:00] skills or any sort of domain knowledge it’s going to serve you well, because archaeologists borrow from other fields all the time. So deeply diving into another discipline is going to be beneficial.

Next Steps

So you’ve gotten to the end of this video and you might be thinking what should I do next and I recommend two things The first is doing a bit more research and I hope this video gave you some key terms and broke down how certain departments and programs might be structured so you can better orient your search. Now if you want more information about uh you know being an undergraduate and pursuing archaeology I have a whole blog post filled with tips on that so check out the article linked below. Now the second thing I recommend doing is talking to people. If you’re interested in certain schools or programs reach out. I did this when I was an undergrad and it actually was the deciding factor of which school I would attend because my prospective advisor was super [00:07:00] responsive via email and even met with my mom and I when we came to visit so I felt that the program was a good fit for me. And if I were to do it again I would talk to probably current undergraduate students graduate students and alumni of the program just to see how the program was for them. And even if you’re not living close to an institution you might want to attend you can still get this information by doing what’s called an informational interview and I have a whole blog post that I’ll link below on that topic


So that is all for today’s video. If there was anything that you want more information on feel free to leave a comment below. But other than that I’ll see you in the next video. Bye.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my channel and other videos.

Add comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.



Some links on this site are monetize through VigLink. For more information, please see this site’s Privacy Policy.

VigLink badge