Ancient Civilizations

Learn how you can study ancient civilizations through undergraduate or graduate degree programs in anthropology or classical studies. See what you'll study, and find out what your career options are.

Is the Study of Ancient Civilizations for Me?

Career Overview

Ancient civilizations are studied in order to understand our common history as humans and to recognize the unique aspects of various ancient groups of people. This discipline includes the investigation of recovered physical materials and information dating to before the beginning of recorded history. Ancient civilizations you'll study are found in China, India, Egypt, the Mediterranean and West Asia.

Through analysis and interpretation of artifacts and data, knowledge is gathered about the origin and development of various cultures. This allows cultural, ecological and societal evolution to be understood and documented. Classical studies scholars concentrate primarily on Greek and Roman civilizations, while archaeology is more inclusive and delves deeper into antiquity; archaeologists often specialize in one or more locations or ancient societies.

By necessity, the programs are cross-disciplinary and can include studies in areas such as anthropology, paleontology, linguistics, ethnology, ancient history and geography. In addition, you might study comparative literature, art history, philosophy and religious studies. If you pursue anthropological studies, you can expect to carry out fieldwork throughout your education and career.

Employment Information

With a background in ancient civilizations, you might find employment in consulting and research, working for museums or federal government agencies. Your goal could also be to attain a position within academia. Typically, a Ph.D. in a field related to ancient civilization studies is required in order to teach at the university level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2012, the median annual wage for anthropologists and archaeologists was $57,420 ( Area, ethnic and cultural studies professors earned median pay of $67,360, and history professors earned a median salary of $65,870 that same year. According to the BLS, jobs for anthropologists and archaeologists are expected to increase 19% from 2012-2022. Jobs are predicted to increase 16% for area, ethnic and cultural studies professors and 14% for history professors during that same decade.

How Can I Work in Ancient Civilizations?


Typically, an undergraduate program will cover most ancient civilizations through a general curriculum. Bachelor's degree programs include ancient language coursework, and a certain level of foreign language proficiency may be required in order to graduate. Specific course topics could range from Roman art and architecture, archaeology of Mesopotamia and the Bible as literature to ancient philosophy, Judaic studies and ancient law. A capstone project may be required. An undergraduate degree can prepare you for entry-level work.

If you pursue an advanced degree in ancient civilizations, you'll have a few different programs to choose from. If you decide to study Egyptology, you'll need competence in hieroglyphic texts. If you continue in a classical studies program, you'll need to possess a working knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages in order to properly study the literature, history and philosophy of the past. You may also need to be proficient in French or German. In an anthropology program, you might take courses in cultural studies, archaeology, ethnological theory and linguistics. Within this discipline, you'll focus on a unique facet of ancient civilizations through a holistic perspective.

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