How to Become an Egyptologist

Great Sphinx of Giza

What is Egyptology?

From the mystery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, to the allure of Cleopatra VII, the last Egyptian pharaoh, the history of the Egyptians has fascinated people all over the world for hundreds of years.

Cave paintings discovered not far back show evidence of human settlements in Egypt as long as 15,000 years ago. But Egyptian civilisation started to take shape in 3100, when the reign of the pharaohs started out with Menes.

Pharaohs went on to rule these lands for the next 3000 years, bringing about sophisticated advances in irrigation, transport, farming and architecture, not to mention the iconic pyramids and artefacts, which are still with us today.

Howard Carter grabbed the attention of the public when he discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. The curse associated with Tut’s Tomb, and the god-king spookiness of the era has spurred hundreds of movies featuring mummies, lost arks and scarab beetles (look them up…).

As a result, the number of people studying Egyptology has increased considerably over recent years. And the number of Egyptology courses has grown to accommodate this boom.

How do you study Egyptology?

There are different schools of thought as to how Egyptologists can study this ancient civilisation. Either way, you’ll need a steadfast attention to detail, piercing focus, and a great deal of patience to succeed.

  • In Europe, it is generally referred to as a philological discipline, where Egyptologists delve into the past through studying language in written manuscripts and records.
  • In the US, it is regarded as a branch of archaeology where Egyptologist examine artefacts from the era – no doubt spending days crouching in a large hole with a small trowel and a brush.

Where do Egyptologists work?

So what careers are available to Egyptologists? The truth is, it’s a highly competitive field. But with a decent qualification and work experience, you could find work in a museum as a curator or researcher. One of your best options would be to focus on a specific subject area or era, and then find a research position in a university, research institution or museum.

Alternatively, if you prefer something a bit more swashbuckling, you could end up finding work on an archaeological dig Indiana Jones style (with less of the bugs and monkey brains). Actually, it’s not that swashbuckling – remember the trowel and the brush?

What qualifications do I need?

It’s competitive remember. So if you really want to make it as an Egyptologist, you’ll need to spend a lot of time getting qualified. In fact, if you decide to specialise, chances are you’ll be in academia all of your life.

The best approach is to start off with a basic course, so you can work out whether it’s something you want to pursue. There are lots of online Egyptology courses, which will give you a broad overview of the different eras and their histories. This will give you a chance to find out what appeals to you the most. Then you can choose further courses based on this.

If you chose an accredited course, it will be recognised by employers, and there’s always the option for you to progress and get more qualifications. You may even want to go on and study for an Egyptology degree. The best approach is simply to see where your natural interests take you.

Any other career tips?

Why not try asking at your local museum to see if they have any volunteer positions? You may be pushed to find a role working on an area as specific as Egyptology, but it will give you an idea as to what kind of work you might do.

Alternatively, you could look for an intern position at an archaeological dig. Again, you may not get lucky and end up in Egypt – Bognor Regis perhaps! But getting that rock-face experience is a good opportunity to speak to people in the industry and find out what the job really entails.

Interested in finding out more about ancient Egypt? On our Accredited Level 3 Diploma in Egyptology, you will study ancient Egyptians cities, buildings, artefacts and individuals, as well as the significance of the country’s geography and the Nile River in the civilisation’s development.