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The MA in Archaeology can be studied on a full-time and part-time basis. Through sets of specialist modules, skills-oriented classes and workshops, and dissertation research it provides the opportunity to advance your skills and knowledge in archaeology with a view to progressing to doctoral level research, or to pick up vital transferable skills ready for working in commercial archaeology or in the wider employment market.

A unique feature of our MA is the provision of specialist strands within which you will study, allowing you to gain breadth and depth in your understanding of particular periods, areas and topics. The current strands are:

  • Prehistory
  • Egypt / Ancient India / Near East (EAINE)
  • The Classical World
  • Medieval and Post Medieval Archaeology

By the end of this course, you will have had a chance to engage in advanced collection, management and analysis of archaeological data and materials; to develop a sound understanding of current archaeological approaches, concepts and practice; and to acquire specialist skills and knowledge related to their strand from our team of leading experts in the field.

Course Structure

The MA in Archaeology is a 180 credit programme comprising

  • Two 15 credit modules in research and practical skills training in the first two terms (one per term)
  • Two 30 credit specialist research topic modules in the first two terms (one per term)
  • One 90 credit research dissertation of 20,000 words (developed in term 3 and summer)

You can take a 20 credit language module from the Centre for Foreign Language Study in lieu of the practical skills module. 

There is also the option of substituting a specialist research topic module with another MA module on offer in the department, and in some instances one offered by another department in the University. See below of other modules offered in the department.

Part-time students are expected to complete the course in 2 years. Typically part-time students complete the two 15 credit and two 30 credit modules in the first year and the dissertation in the second year.


The capstone of the degree is the dissertation, allowing you to develop your own line of inquiry and explore in depth a topic of interest to them. MA dissertations are 20,000 words in length, and provide experience of sustained, rigorous, independent research that is a necessary foundation for further post-graduate academic work and demonstrates intellectual mastery to professional employers. The topic may be drawn from previous experience or from a research topic or other MA module. You are supported and guided in choosing your topic, designing your projects, acquiring necessary skills and bringing them to completion through the training imparted in the RSSSA module and through one-to-one consultation with strand tutors and dissertation supervisors. You will be asked to identify a topic by term 2, but term 3 and the summer are fully dedicated to dissertation work.

Course Learning and Teaching

The course is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and workshops or practical classes. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate among archaeologists in a specific area or on a particular theme. Seminars then provide opportunities for smaller groups to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge gained through lectures and through independent study outside the formal contact hours. Practical classes and workshops allow you to gain direct experience of practical and interpretative skills in Archaeology. Finally, independent supervised study enables you to develop and undertake a research project to an advanced level. Throughout the course emphasis is placed on working independently outside the contact hours, in order to synthesise large datasets and to develop critical and analytical skills to an advanced level.

Throughout the course, you will also have access to an academic adviser who will provide you with academic support and guidance. Typically you will meet with your adviser two to three times a year. In addition, all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly research seminars which you are strongly encouraged to attend.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Department of Archaeology

Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

For further information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.

Visit the MA Archaeology page on the Durham University website for more details!




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Recipient: Durham University

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