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How to Become an Egyptologist

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How do I become an Egyptologist? What should I study in high school to prepare?

Hello Stephany,

The field of Egyptology is perhaps the most competitive area of archaeology as far as finding work that will keep you in the field and money in your pocket. But it can be done if you are diligent and work at building your knowledge and skills each and every day and never giving up. It is good that you are already preparing while you are in high school.

I am not sure how much formal classes in high school will be able to help you in becoming an Egyptologist, but you can really prepare yourself very well on your own outside of the class room.

As far as learning about ancient Egypt goes, you will have the opportunity to study a ton in college and especially in grad school. Expect to obtain a doctorate degree in order to make progress in this field, so you will be studying a lot about ancient Egypt for many years. But it does not hurt to get a head start. I would recommend reading everything you can about the subject, both popular books and academic. Learn not only about the archaeology of the region but also about the cultural history as well as current events. Keep up to date with everything about Egypt and the surrounding countries, and soak up everything that you can. Read Egyptian newspapers like the Egyptian Gazette, and live and breathe everything about the country.

Shop for Egyptology Books on Amazon

Language study is probably the most important thing that you can be doing right now. I would highly recommend studying Egyptian Arabic right away if you plan on doing fieldwork on location. Much of the academic literature about Egyptology is also written in French and German, so both of these languages are also essential. Also, by being able to speak French and German your employment and research opportunities will be expanded many fold, as France and German archaeologists have a major presence in Egypt. Italian or Greek would be my recommendation for a fourth language to begin studying. Seriously, the most important thing that you can begin doing right now is studying these languages — you WILL need them.

Learning how to write scientifically and formally for grant proposals is also essential preparation, and is something that you could begin doing while in high school. I would express your interest to your English teachers and see if they could give you extra lessons in these two areas. Maybe you could try your hand at writing grants for a local volunteer or social organization, or at least try to get tutored by someone who does. In archaeology, it is the grants that you will be trying to get, and with the grants the jobs will follow. Learn how to write grants.

Practical skills in archaeology fieldwork will also be essential skills to know, though are ones that can be learned later on. But learning GIS (Geographic Information Systems), CAD (computer aided drawing), basic cartography, drawing, surveying, as well minimal navigational skills will help out greatly when looking for employment in the field and are ones that you could begin learning in high school. If you would like, I would suggest talking to an engineering teacher to see if they would be willing to give you instruction after school in CAD — if you can make professional site maps, you will be vastly more valuable in the field.

Art history is also an area of study that you can get into in high school. Learning classical art and the processes of studying art is absolutely essential for a career in Egyptology or any other area of Mediterranean archaeology. Perhaps an art teacher at your school would be willing to refer you to a few books on Egyptian or Classical (Roman and Greek) art.

I would just recommend trying to learn everything you can that could possibly give you the added advantage over the thousands of other people trying to obtain the relatively few paying jobs available in Egyptology. There are literally tens of thousands of people who know everything there is to know about Egyptology who are unable to find work in their area of study. I work with these archaeologists all the time in the USA — they tried to become Egyptologist, they studied for many years, took field schools in Egypt, but when it came down to it they failed: there are not nearly enough positions available for every person who studies Egyptology. So every additional skill that you have that can put you over the top will be to your advantage. I stress, if you want to become an Egyptologist, learn Arabic, French, and German, learn CAD, GIS, and how to write grants.

Most importantly, never give up. The prospective Egyptologists that I have worked with failed because they gave up on their dreams — the Road got difficult and they bailed. Egyptology is not a field that you simply go to school for and then find a job — it is not a cause and effect sort of career path — it is something that requires passion, tenacity, and a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week sort of determination. You are doing good, you are starting your preparation in high school. If you work hard and never give up, you can do it, you can become an Egyptologist.

Here is a list of universities in North America that offer areas of study in Egyptology

Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
University of Toronto

Department of Egyptology
Brown University
Providence, RI
http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Egyptology/

Department of Near Eastern Studies
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD
http://www.jhu.edu/%7Eneareast/

Institute of Fine Arts
New York University
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/

Department of Near Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley
http://neareastern.berkeley.edu/

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
University of California, Los Angeles

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago

Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology
University of Memphis
http://www.memphis.edu/egypt/

Department of Near Eastern Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Yale University
New Haven, CT
http://www.yale.edu/nelc/

More information on becoming an archaeologist that may help

I hope this helps, and if you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Walk Slow,

Wade

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Original question about how to become an Egyptologist and what to study to prepare

My name is stephany, I am in Grade 11 in high school. Since I was young I have wanted to be an Egyptologist and wanted to go to Egypt and see what it is like in the field. I want to know, what do I need in high school in order to make it to be an Egyptologist?

Thanks
Stephany

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Filed under: Archaeology, Education, Egypt, Travel Help, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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