Thank you for your interest in the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology at the
University of Memphis. This letter is intended to answer questions from high school
and junior high / middle school students about preparations for a potential career
Young persons often ask what preparation is necessary for a career in Egyptology,
and what are the job prospects. Egyptology is an extremely competitive field requiring
many years of specialized graduate study resulting in a doctoral level degree (Ph.D.).
Before proceeding on to graduate study in Egyptology, you will first need to complete
an undergraduate degree in a related field such as Art History, Anthropology, Archaeology,
History, Near / Middle Eastern Studies or Classical Studies. Undergraduate students
at The University of Memphis may choose to major in Art History or History, and take
courses in Egyptian art, language and culture offered at the undergraduate level.
A Bachelor of Art degree in Art History or History from the University of Memphis,
with some coursework in Egyptian art, history and language, would provide you with
an excellent start to your career as an Egyptologist.
Since Egyptological research requires use of books and articles written in French
and German, it is a very good idea to begin study of one or both languages before
entering college. Egyptology degree programs are very competitive, with many students
applying each year for only a few openings. High scholastic achievement (good grades)
in college is necessary to compete successfully with other applicants. Learning and
practicing good study habits in high school will prepare you to succeed in college.
In addition, students with good grades are more likely to get fellowships and scholarships
which will ease the financial burden of attending college.
Upon completion of an undergraduate degree in one of the major fields mentioned above,
qualified students can enter a Master's degree program such as the one offered at
the University of Memphis (one of a very few such Egyptology programs in North America).
Exceptional students with the proper undergraduate preparation may also apply directly
to a Ph.D. program at one of the centers of Egyptological research. Universities with
well-regarded Ph.D. programs in Egyptology include (among others) Brown, Yale, University
of Pennsylvania, The Johns Hopkins University, University of Chicago, University of
California/Berkeley, University of California/Los Angeles, the University of Michigan,
New York University, Emory University in Atlanta, and the University of Toronto in
Canada. The University of Memphis offers a Ph.D. in Ancient History with a specialization
in Egyptian history. Egyptology programs abound in the United Kingdom and Europe.
There is also a program at The American University in Cairo (where instruction is
Most universities with a graduate program in Egyptology also offer courses at the
undergraduate level, and will allow interested undergraduates to take graduate courses
with permission; a few have undergraduate degree programs. Each university program
tends to have its own sub-specialties, depending on the background and interests of
the faculty. For example, the University of Memphis has one of very few programs which
centers primarily on the art of Egypt, as do the programs at New York University's
Institute of Fine Arts and Emory University.
Students also frequently ask about the need or desirability of archaeological field
experience for a career in Egyptology. No archaeological experience is required for
acceptance to any Egyptology program of study. However, if you would like to eventually
work on an archaeological project in Egypt, your best action is to enroll in an archaeological
field school run by a reputable U.S. college or university. The field school experience
trains you in the methods and theory of excavation. Some field schools around the
U.S. and the world are listed in a print publication entitled the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin, available through the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). The AIA also makes
available an on-line database of Fieldwork opportunities. A few of these programs will take high school students. Excavation
work in Egypt is generally limited to students at the graduate level who have acquired
a strong Egyptological background. For answers to questions about a career in archaeology,
you might visit: http://archnet.asu.edu/faq/career_faq.php. Another web site of interest is from the Society of American Archaeology at http://www.saa.org/ForthePublic/tabid/56/Default.aspx.
The Egyptology job market is extremely competitive, with many well-qualified candidates
competing for a few, fairly low-paying jobs. The two main career tracks are that of
university professor and museum curator (usually in a museum with a fairly large Egyptian
collection). The preparation for both career paths is similar, although the aspiring
curator will want to have coursework and one or more degrees in Art History or Anthropology.
Coursework in Museum Studies is also beneficial. While it is possible for a trained
Egyptologist to work in the ancient art or auction market, these jobs are extremely
few in number, and you should be aware that professionally trained archaeologists
are prohibited by their code of ethics from participating in the trade in ancient
Egyptian art. No Egyptologist chooses the study of ancient Egyptian culture as a career
expecting material rewards; professional degrees such as law, business, or medicine
are better routes for anyone looking for a more secure financial future. For more
information on careers in Egyptology and a list of Egyptology programs abroad, you
can also go to http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/er/.
For information about applying to the University of Memphis as an undergraduate student,
please see the web pages at http://www.memphis.edu/admissions/freshman.php. You may also visit the Department of Art web site at http://www.memphis.edu/art for additional information, and instructions on how to apply.
Whatever decision you make about your future, we wish you every success in your chosen