Studying Archaeology

What is Archaeology? - FAQ

Listed below are answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic. Also see the further information section at the bottom of this page for more information about archaeology and studying the subject at UCC.

Why study Archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of past human societies through the material remains they have left behind. It is an exciting subject that investigates important developments in the human story over a long period of time. The greater part of the human story is beyond the range of traditional historical methods and can only be studied through the archaeological record. Today, archaeologists regularly collaborate with scientists working in such disciplines as botany and physics in, for example, the analysis of environmental remains and the dating of ancient objects. The excitement of discovery in archaeological excavation is well known through the media, however this is only one aspect of a discipline that combines humanistic interest with scientific method.

Archaeology and History, what's the difference?

Archaeologists study materials from all periods whereas Historians study only those times and places where written record survive. Archaeologists used material evidence and documentary sources, while Historians focus entirely on written records. Archaeologists are able to study prehistory, which is the period of time before the appearance of writing representing the greater part of the human story.

What are my options to study Archaeology at UCC?

You can study Archaeology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at UCC. We also offer various Continuing Adult Education/Evening courses and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Courses.

What are my study options at undergraduate level?

The subject can be taken as part of a General Arts Degree (BA). From September 2013 Archaeology can also be taken as part of a more specialised degree with Geography (BA Geography & Archaeology).

What are my study options at postgraduate level?

Postgraduate students with a primary degree in Archaeology can undertake one-year taught Masters (MA) programmes, or study for MPhil or PhD research degress. Graduates who do not have a primary degree in Archaeology, but wish to pursue further studies in the discipline can take the Higher Diploma in Archaeology. Relevant professional experience can also considered by the Department for acceptance into its various programmes.

What is involved in studying Archaeology as part of a General Arts Degree?

In a General BA Degree, Archaeology may be taken as one of your four chosen subject choices in First Year. In your Second and Third Years you chose two subjects. You may study these in equal proportions (‘Joint Honours’) or as major and minor subjects. Archaeology is available as a major subject in UCC (‘Single Honours’). In the First Year of the BA programme students are introduced to the discipline of Archaeology and to selected topics of World Archaeology. Much of the First Year course is concerned with a general introduction to the archaeology of Ireland from earliest times to the early modern era. Students who progress to Second and Third Year have an opportunity to select from a broad range of archaeology courses, covering archaeological theory, culture history, material culture, fieldwork and scientific areas. The single/major/joint honours options in the UCC BA degree allow students to determine how much archaeology they wish to take to their final degree in respect to another subject.

What other subjects can be taken with Archaeology as part of a General Arts Degree?

In general, it is possible to take the following:  Computer Science, History, Applied Mathematics, Gaeilge/Irish, History of Art, Greek and Roman Civilisation, Studies in Psychology, French, Sociology, Studies in Music, Economics, English, Greek, An Leann Dúchais, Geography, Italian, Celtic Civilisation, Philosophy and Spanish.

What is involved in studying Archaeology as part of the BA Degree in Geography and Archaeology?

This degree offers a broad foundation in the disciplines of Archaeology and Geography, with relevant teaching in the areas of Computer Science, Earth Science and Environmental Science. It is aimed at students who have an interest in the study of human societies, past and present, and in contemporary issues relating to heritage management, the environment and sustainable living. Archaeology and Geography are closely related disciplines, concerned with concepts of time and space in relation to human culture and landscape. The Archaeology teaching provides the type of intellectual and practical training necessary to become a professional archaeologist. Teaching in Geography provides a wide range of technical and communication skills, with graduates likely to find work in environmental technical fields, environmental consultancy, planning, heritage and tourism, in addition to secondary teaching posts.

Is Archaeology an interesting subject to study?

Yes! In the Archaeology Department in UCC when you get to Second and Third Years you have the option to pick the modules which are of most interest to you, making the subject as interesting as you want it to be, particularly if you are doing Single Honours Archaeology. There are no subject prerequisites required in order to study Archaeology. You are not required to have subjects like history or science in your leaving certificate though you must meet the normal subject requirements for entry to the Arts degree. Ideally, students considering Archaeology should have a broad interest in subjects like history and geography.

What are the job opportunities for me with an Archaeology Degree? 

One of the attractions of Archaeology as an Arts subject is the possibility of combining an intellectually stimulating subject with a professional career qualification. There will always be employment opportunities in this area in Ireland. Archaeologists work in the State heritage sector, for central government bodies such as the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland, as well as for local authorities in county museums and planning offices. There is a commercial archaeology sector in Ireland that services the requirements of various development agencies. Archaeologists work in survey and excavation, in environmental impact assessment, in heritage conservation projects and tourism initiatives. A degree in Archaeology is very flexible in regard to employment, whether in the archaeological profession or some applied area such as heritage tourism.

Further Information

To get a further insight into the range of work areas in Archaeology you might look at this excellent website:

You can also visit our information pages if you would like to find out more about the courses and study paths offered by us:

‌Follow us on‌ Facebook at uccarchaeology or visit our News Page or  for news, photos and videos relating to our department and what we do (and also to the wide and wonderful world of Archaeology!).

Of course, please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

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