Thank you for your interest in the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology at The
University of Memphis. This letter is intended to answer your questions about preparations
at the undergraduate level for a potential career in Egyptology. Although The University
of Memphis offers a Master's degree (M.A.) in Art History with a concentration in
Egyptian Art and Archaeology, there is no undergraduate major in Egyptology offered
here at this time. Undergraduates 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 Arts degree in Art History from The University of Memphis, with some
coursework in Egyptian art and language, would provide you with an excellent start
to a career in the field.
Students seeking an graduate degree 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.). First, you will need to complete an undergraduate degree in a related
field such as Art History, Anthropology, Archaeology, History, Near / Middle Eastern
Studies, or Classical Studies. Since Egyptological research at an advanced level 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 as soon as possible. The study of these modern
languages is more valuable for you at this stage than trying to teach yourself Egyptian
hieroglyphs (Middle Egyptian), which can wait until you can receive instruction at
the graduate level. Although a knowledge of Arabic, the language spoken in Egypt today,
is useful and practical, it is not required for the study of ancient Egypt either
at the undergraduate or graduate level at this time.
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 can 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, University of Chicago, University of California/Berkeley, University
of California/Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, and New York University; Emory
University in Atlanta and the University of Toronto in Canada also have programs.
The University of Memphis also offers a Ph.D. in Ancient History, which allows 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
in English). 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 and a few universities 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 is 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 to take now 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 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 graduate school at the University of Memphis, please
see the web pages at http://www.memphis.edu/admissions/graduate.php. You may also visit the Department of Art web site at http://deptart.memphis.edu/details.php?nav_id=92 or the Department of History at http://history.memphis.edu/egyptology/ for additional information, and instructions on how to apply.
Whatever decision you make about your future, we wish you every success in your chosen