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How to Become an Egyptologist

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 [...]

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

————
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

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 88 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 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

16 comments… add one

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  • meleena May 27, 2010, 2:50 pm

    how much would you make per day, and over all a year

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com May 31, 2010, 4:26 pm

      There are no set wages. You can make as little as a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars. It depends on your education level, who you work for, your publication record throughout the year, many variables.

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  • Alexandria July 24, 2010, 10:19 am

    My name is Alexandria and I’ve wanted to be an Egyptologist since I was little. I’m going to be in 9th grade this year and I will be taking Latin. But, the 3 years of high school after that I want to take Latin and German. Would that be a good choice? I think it would be, because it will be easier to learn other languages if I take Latin.

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  • Radhicka February 8, 2011, 8:06 am

    Hello!! I’m Radhicka, 12, and I want to be an egyptologist when I grow up. I live in India and so I don’t know much about Egypt. But, I’m LOVE Egyptian history and so I want to be an egyptologist. Then should I take history and geography when I’ll be in high school? I read in a book that you need to have a ‘lot’ of money if you’re an egyptologist. How much is ‘lot’? Is egyptology interesting? I would be very pleased if you answer my questions. Becoming an egyptoloist is my dream…! 🙂

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  • Emma Johnson April 22, 2011, 8:08 am

    Hi, my name is Emma. I am 12 and am already looking into careers for the future. I am interested in Egyptology as well as archeology. But, I am also in love with marine biology and oceanography. Can anyone tell me about any of these? I would love any information you have! Thanks so much!

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com April 23, 2011, 7:23 am

      Archaeology is a good field to get into. Just remember that the romance of all of these proposed professions often does not match the reality. Some of the good jobs in some of these fields are REALLY competitive, but this is not reason to not try it. I would say go for archaeology, as there is a lot of work in the private sector in the USA — so if your academic pursuits fizzle out you can still find a job. Though you are 12, and, man, I say enjoy being 12 — there is an entire life ahead to worry about jobs and careers.

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  • Deanna June 15, 2011, 5:12 pm

    Hello,
    I read your answer to Stephany’s question, and I am relieved and overjoyed to claim I know 1 year of German and will take the Rosetta Stone program to learn more. I also finished Latin II. I want to be an Egyptologist, but I am not sure what type. Formerly I wanted to work mostly with mummies, now I do not know. I am homeschooled and my parents are not too thrilled with my ambitions. I will not let this deter me, but there is a lot needed to know to become an Egyptologist, starting in high school.
    Thanks for your explanation!

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  • sharon July 14, 2011, 1:13 am

    hi i am sharon…
    i m intersted in egyptology….i m an indian nw doing my 12th in oman as my dad is working in oman.
    so what should i do after 12th?should i do my degree course or pursue my studies somewhere abroad than in india?will it be good if i study egyptology smwhere in egypt?
    you have to help me please..it is my dream and i am so interested in ancient egypt.
    i have studied french for 2 years.is that enough or should i study more?
    i hope on seeing my interest you will reply….awaiting your reply

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  • raghav prasad September 3, 2011, 11:50 am

    hello! i am raghav,
    i wanna become an egyptologist,i have taken sciene group in high school 11th grade.
    could i become an egyptologist on taking this or i cant?
    if i could what are the colleges in india offering egyptology courses

    pls tell me about this soon!!!!

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  • Ahmedzaki December 26, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Hello
    i work as Tour guide in Egypt and already studied in my university Egyptology i have desire to get my master from American university can you help me to give me info ?

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  • Katie January 22, 2012, 5:49 pm

    Hello!
    My name is Katie and I am in the 10th grade. I know exactly what I want to be–an Egyptologist– and I’m proud to say that I’ve never entertained the idea of being anything else. I live in the US and attended a normal, American high school. I will work as hard as I can to become an Egyptologist, but I’m very worried about getting into a good university. My class rank is number 296 out of 660 students (as a sophomore) and I’m also worried about paying for university. Do you have any tips on good Egyptology programs in university or just some tips for an aspiring Egytologist?
    I know that the field is competitive, but I will work 24/7 if that is what it takes for me to be an Egyptologist.
    Thank you!

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard January 23, 2012, 9:22 am

      Hello Katie,

      Don’t worry about your high school rank. They tell you its important and that your grades determine what kind of college you can get into, but this is mostly BS. Once you earn over 21 college credit hours you generally don’t even need to show another university your high school grades or even SAT scores. So my recommendation is to go to a cheaper state school for a year or two, do well, then transfer to the university you ultimately want to graduate from.

      Becoming an Egyptologist is incredibly competitive, but 95% of people who try to go this route are going to give up, so if you keep going there is at least a chance of success.

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    • Kevin Gordon May 5, 2014, 10:42 pm

      Katie, you’re really young and you might change your mind. You probably don’t really know what being an Egyptologist is even like.
      You should find out what it’s like through careful research. Here’s my advice : get a degree you know you’ll make money with first. Become an engineer. Also, decide if you want to get married or not, because female academics aren’t married or aren’t married for long (because being an academic is time-consuming). If you’re in a PhD program until you’re like 35, you probably will only be even able to have 0-5 kids and some of them might be retarded (having kids when you’re older is hard). Or you could just marry some rich guy and let him pay for things, but this usually doesn’t work out either because you’re so busy.

      I don’t recommend being an Egyptologist in the usual sense.

      Me, I’m a scholar but not an academic. I spend all my time doing research and studying and traveling, but that’s because God blessed me with my own business and source of passive income, something I had to figure out after I graduated undergrad. I’m married and have 3 kids but it really helps that I have all the time to spend with my wife that I wouldn’t if I went into a grad program right away.

      To be brief, you’re going to eventually have to learn or teach yourself enough of whatever languages to do what kind of Egyptologist stuff you’re going to do, which probably means being able to read German and French, and varying degrees of being able to work with (not necessarily read) Egyptian hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic, and maybe Coptic. Maybe some Arabic, probably not.

      Start attending conferences and meeting the professors. Start networking and asking people how you can make it. I know the older female Egyptologist at U of Chicago, she’s really nice. The ones at U of M might be to you but never were to me.

      Here’s an idea : if you want to save money, maybe you can get your degree from the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizatins in Changchun, China. Not only can you save money in China, you can also make a ton of money and learn about your options as an American in a global economy.

      Egyptology is like Linguistics, it’s a big field. What do you want to do as an Egyptologist ? Be prepared to add to that so that you’re “marketable”, meaning people will hire you. Whatever you do, be a good one.

      Invariably, Egyptologists think they’re good Egyptologists but I read what they publish and it’s garbage. Become an Anthropologist or Linguist instead, really know what you’re doing and make Egyptology part of a bigger theoretical picture. Somehow, the Egyptologists out there are over-specialized and under-skilled. Become a scientist.

      Your parents and relatives and friends will probably all tell you not to become an Egyptologist and will probably do everything they can to stop and discourage you. Everyone’s relatives and friends are like this. You’re going to have to deal with that. Me, I have tons of people always telling me that I can’t or shouldn’t do this and that. I study so much that I’m smarter than these people. Most people are idiots. You can’t put your trust in anybody but God and your own efforts to find out the truth.

      But if you want to listen to someone who knows, don’t become an Egyptologist, or be an independent scholar Egyptologist. There’s just too many jerks in Academia, it isn’t worth it. You can study Egypt and contribute to global scholarship without wasting all the time Academia will demand of you, the years or lifetime as an adjunct professor, etc usw.

      And don’t say, “Wow, I’m not good at languages, maybe I shouldn’t become an Egyptologist …” Listen to me. Despite what the professors say, being an Egyptologist is whatever you want it to be. If you can’t learn French right away, maybe you can be the ground sonar chick for the dig or something, I don’t know. You want to plow through tombs and wrestle mummies, reading inscriptions for history or insight ? It can be done, to some degree. But you can’t have everything, and it takes time to do things. What are your priorities in life? How much are you willing to sacrifice, and for what?

      Ancient Egyptian is actually very simple. N is ‘of’, R is ‘to’. -J on the end of something is “I” or “my”, -K is “you” or “your”, and -F is “his”. This is very important. Egyptian is tranliterated into Roman consonants. It’s written in hieroglyphs, there’s about 250 of them. Every word is a few sound-glyphs, then a meaning-glyph. The hieratic and demotic are cursive forms of these, which can be best grasped through looking for the common glyphs ( N and R and F ). Coptic is written in an alphabet, but with the glottals skipped and some slightly weird orthographic conventions based on Ancient Greek of the Homeric and Linear B eras. Egyptian is a lot like Arabic, but I think it’s really more like Hausa. Budge’s intro books are the best, but they’re out of date in terms of exact details. They give you the very basics. Everyone uses Allen’s “Middle Egyptian”, but get as many books as you can on Egyptian language. Different Egyptologists have to read different amounts of Egyptian. Egyptian is not like English. Most Egyptian is written on tomb walls and is very formulaic, like tombstones. The demotic letters and documents from the NK are more vocabulaicly complex. Learn the words for “bread, beer, and everything good”. That’s about 80 or 90% of all Egyptian you could ever encounter.

      Try to go to Egypt and see if you like it there and you’d be cool working with stuff from there and finding out about the people.

      Post to “The Best Languages are Dead Languages” on Facebook, though no one will probably respond. It’s hard to find people online or in person who will help, you have to get into grad programs and stuff. But try and read what is online.

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  • Pranav November 25, 2012, 4:12 am

    Sir,

    I’m a computer undergrad, 20.I’m really keen in doing egyptology based study and explore the amazing civilization left behind.How can I work parallely to become one.

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    • Wade Shepard November 25, 2012, 5:14 am

      It is my impression that Egyptology is something that you can just do on the side. To be blunt, thousands and thousands of people around the world put many years of their lives into this line of study and very few end up becoming successful in it. So this isn’t something that you can just walk into.

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