UCC Postgraduate courses

Archaeology - Archaeological Excavation

About This Course

Fact File

  • Title

    Archaeology - Archaeological Excavation

  • Code

  • College

    Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences

  • Duration

    1 Year Full-time

  • Teaching Mode


  • Qualifications


  • Entry Requirements

    You will have an honours primary degree in archaeology or anthropology to 2H2 honours level or a Higher Diploma in Archaeology to 2H1 honours level. See Requirements for full details.

  • Start Date

    Not on offer 2023-2024

Course Outline

The MA in Archaeological Excavation is a one-year taught course, offered on a full-time basis by the Department of Archaeology. Excavation is central to the practice of archaeology as an academic and professional discipline, with many employment opportunities in Ireland and abroad. This course will provide advanced training in the theory and practice of excavation, and specifically:

  • develop a critical understanding of the role of excavation in world archaeology, with particular reference to professional practice in Ireland
  • teach research and organisational skills appropriate to the design and execution of archaeological excavation projects to a high standard
  • combine academic knowledge and technical training in different areas of current practice, including pre-excavation survey, excavation strategy and methods, and post-excavation analysis.

The course will provide a strong foundation for students who wish to develop a professional career in archaeological excavation, or find employment in areas where a critical understanding of excavation is essential.

The MA is designed to achieve a desirable balance between classroom teaching and field training, covering both academic and technical areas of archaeological excavation. The course includes five taught modules, a four-week training excavation and the submission of a research dissertation.

Modules (90 credits):

  • AR6004 Excavation Planning and Research Design (5 credits)
  • AR6005 Excavation Strategy and Practice (5 credits)
  • AR6006 Post-excavation Analysis and Interpretation (5 credits)
  • AR6007 Case-studies in Archaeological Excavation (10 credits)
  • AR6013 Archaeological Survey and Remote Sensing (5 credits)
  • AR6008 Training Excavation (15 credits)
  • AR6001 Dissertation (45 credits)

For further details on the course content and module descriptions, see the Postgraduate Academic Calendar


Further details on the modules listed above can be found in our Book of Modules. Any modules listed above are indicative of the current set of modules for this course but are subject to change from year to year.

University Calendar

You can find the full academic content for the current year of any given course in our University Calendar.

Course Practicalities

Lectures take place over six months (October to March), with an average of six hours per week. You will attend additional computer lab practicals in October and November, a two-day field survey exercise in October, as well as a number of one-day excursions in the following months. There is also mandatory attendance on a one-week training excavation in April and a five-week training excavation in May.

The taught courses are examined by continuous assessment, with a combination of essays, projects, class presentations and fieldwork exercises. The training excavation is assessed by project work, while a research dissertation must be submitted at the end of the year.

Why Choose This Course

This is the only English-language, taught master’s course in Europe that offers dedicated training in archaeological excavation. The course addresses a significant demand for archaeologists to work in the commercial excavation sector.

Skills and Careers Information

On completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Apply for excavation licences in Ireland
  • Carry out historical research & cartographic analysis in advance of archaeological excavation
  • Survey archaeological sites in advance of excavation, including both surface mapping & geophysical prospection
  • Identify & organise the resources required to conduct an archaeological excavation
  • Design excavation strategies appropriate to different types of archaeological site & different excavation circumstance
  • Develop the basic skills required to carry out an archaeological excavation
  • Work effectively as part of an excavation team, & acquire management skills
  • Identify & assess the range of research carried out at the post-excavation stage
  • Write preliminary & final excavation reports, as well as related specialist reports
  • Acquire specialist skills in computing & information technology relevant to archaeological excavation
  • Compile excavation archives
  • Communicate the results of archaeological excavation to a specialist & non-specialist audience
  • Design & implement conservation works connected to public presentation & long-term preservation of archaeological sites
  • Transfer a range of critical learning & writing skills, as well as IT training & practical experience, to other employment areas


You will have honours primary degree in archaeology or anthropology to second honours level from a recognized university or third-level institution, or a higher diploma in archaeology to 2H1 honours level, and set a formal interview to establish motivation, work experience and relevant expertise.

The Additional/Supplementary Statement Questions MUST also be completed during the online application. 

References are required from applicants who have not graduated from UCC in the last two years. Please supply two letters of reference, one of which should be a previous employer or supervisor of studies. Sealed letters of references should be sent directly to the Course Director: Professor William O’Brien, Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.

Places to be offered based on a combination of academic qualifications, relevant experience and expertise and interview performance.

For Applicants with Qualifications Completed Outside of Ireland

Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants

For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

  • In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.
  • Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.

English Language Requirements

Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Please visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

Fees and Costs


If your course required a deposit, that figure will be deducted from your second semester fee payment in January.

EU student fee payment 

Fees for EU students are payable in two equal instalments. First payment is at registration in August and the second in January.

International student fee payment 

International Students can pay in two equal instalments once they have paid the appropriate deposit. The initial payment is due on registration and the balance usually by the end of January.

How can I pay? 

You can pay by Credit/Debit card online or by credit transfer.


If you have any questions on fee payment email our Fees Office at fees@ucc.ie.

How Do I Apply

1. Check Dates: Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

  • For Irish and EU applicants we operate a rounds system and you can check the rounds closing dates here.
  • Note that not all our programmes are subject to the rounds system so check the opening and closing dates for your specific programme in the fact file boxes above.

2. Gather Documents: Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

  • Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC.
  • Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply Online: Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Additional Requirements (All Applicants)

Please note you will be required to answer specific additional/supplementary questions as part of the online applications process for this programme. A copy of these additional/supplementary questions are available to view here: CKE18 Additional Questions.

Deferrals are not permitted on this programme.

For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact