What is an Ancient History Degree?

Ancient history is the compilation of past events from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. Historians who study this span of roughly 5,000 years are concerned with the societies, cultures, politics, and intellectual worlds of old civilizations, especially Greece and Rome. In other words, the ancient history discipline is a wide one. Degree programs in the field, therefore, exist at the intersection of ancient languages, philosophy, religion, war, revolution, archaeology, anthropology, and art.

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Ancient History – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s programs in ancient history typically include archaeology and language modules and offer students options to study abroad. The language component is often comprised of Latin or ancient Greek and a modern language such as French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, or Japanese. Study abroad may take place for a single semester or an academic year.

Here is a snapshot of the kinds of courses that make up a bachelor’s level ancient history curriculum:

  • Ancient History: Sources and Controversies
  • Introduction to the Ancient World
  • Wonderful Things: World History in 40 Objects
  • Ancient Greek Language
  • Ancient Greek Philosophy
  • Ancient and Medieval Worlds
  • Archaeological Methods for Fieldwork and Analysis
  • Contemporary Debates and Issues in Archaeology
  • From Alexander to Augustus: Leadership in the Ancient World
  • Introduction to Ethnography: Food and Culture
  • Landscapes and Seascapes of Britain’s Past
  • Latin Language
  • Literary Transformations
  • Society, Culture, and Space
  • Ancient Rome: The First Metropolis
  • Arabian Nights and Days: The World of the 1001 Nights
  • Bones, Bodies, and Burials: Osteology and Comparative Anatomy
  • How the Arts Work: A Practical Introduction to Cultural Economics
  • Imperial China: From China’s Mythical Emperors to the 19th Century
  • Archaeology of Seafaring
  • Myth and the Ancient World
  • Roman Emperors and Imperial Lives
  • The Life and Afterlife of the Vikings
  • The Power of Rome: Europe’s First Empire
  • A Short History of the Ethics of War
  • Emperor Julian and the Last Pagans of Rome
  • Framing the Past: Stardom, History, and Heritage in the Cinema
  • Iron Age Societies
  • Later Anglo-Saxon England
  • Living with the Romans: Urbanism in the Roman Empire
  • Ancient Egypt: More than Pyramids and Pharaohs
  • Presenting the Past: Museums and Heritage
  • Sumerian Cuneiform Script: The Oldest Discovered Form of Coherent Writing

Master’s Degree in Ancient History – Two Year Duration
The master’s degree is the most common credential in the field. While the bachelor’s curriculum in ancient history provides a foundation made up of core courses, the master’s program is much more pointed. Students focus on a concentration of their choice and conduct research in that area, leading to their thesis.

These are some possible master’s concentrations in ancient history:

  • Art History in Rome from Late Antiquity to Present
  • Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies
  • Medieval and Early Modern Studies
  • The Ancient Mediterranean World History, Archaeology, and Art
  • Medieval Literature and Culture
  • Classics and Ancient Civilizations
  • Comparative History from 1500 to Present Time
  • Hebrew and Aramaic Studies
  • Greek and Roman Studies
  • Ancient Judaism
  • Egyptology
  • Scottish Heritage
  • Palaeoanthropology
  • Ancient Religions
  • Early Pre-History and Human Origins
  • Ancient Cultures
  • Persian Civilization
  • Visual and Material Culture of Ancient Rome
  • Visual and Material Culture of Ancient Greece
  • Classical Archaeology and the Ancient History of Macedonia
  • Ancient Languages
  • Museum and Heritage Studies
  • War and Strategy
  • Ancient Philosophy
  • Hispanics and Italian Studies
  • Historic Preservation
  • Victorian Studies

Doctoral Degree in Ancient History – Three to Five Year Duration
The master’s program in ancient history typically involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes, but their focus is on independent research, on contributing original – new – knowledge to their field.

The Doctoral Degree in Ancient History is aimed at those who want to teach the discipline at the university level. Like their master’s counterparts, ancient history Ph.D. candidates focus on a specialization area, such as those listed in the master’s section above.

Degrees Similar to Ancient History

Students of anthropology study the evolutionary history of people, how they interact, how they adapt to various environments, how they communicate and socialize with one another, and how their bodies and cultures have changed over time. The field attempts to answer big questions on many of the fundamentals of human culture, from gender to political systems to violence, religion, race, and economics.

The focus of archaeology degree programs is the study of how people lived in the past. Students of this social science learn about the culture and evolution of extinct civilizations. They attend lectures and work in labs and on research projects. They get a sense of archaeology degree jobs by conducting excavations to recover artifacts like tools, clothing, decorations, and ancient ruins.

Art History
Students of art history study the history and development of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, filmmaking, and architecture.

Biblical Studies
Degree programs in biblical studies help students understand these themes through exploration of scripture. The discipline’s curriculum spans biblical interpretation, teaching, and languages.

Classical Studies
The study of the languages, literatures, philosophy, history, archaeology, and civilization of ancient Greece and Rome is the focus of a degree in the classics.

History is the study of change over time. Degree programs in the field examine political history, diplomatic/international relations history, cultural/ideological history, social/living standards history, economic history, intellectual/philosophical history, and military/armed conflict history.

Religious Studies
The focus of religious studies degree programs is the nature and origin of religious belief and traditions. Coursework includes the study of specific religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Catholicism, as well as religious history, politics, and anthropology.

Skills You’ll Learn

Throughout the course of their studies, ancient history students develop a set of valuable and transferable skills:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Data collection, assessment, organization, and interpretation
  • Ability to identify and solve problems
  • Ability to consider and discriminate between opposing theories
  • Capacity to deal with complex subject matter
  • Oral communication
  • Debating skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Self-discipline
  • Capacity to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • Time and resource management
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Patience
  • Observational and research skills
  • Writing and presentation skills
  • Foreign language skills
  • Cross-cultural awareness
  • Computer literacy
  • Numeracy skills
  • Knowledge of statistical methods

What Can You Do with an Ancient History Degree?

Ancient history graduates apply their knowledge in several different industries and roles. Below are some of the most common. Some positions may require further education and/or specialized training.

Potential Sectors

  • Antiques and Appraising
  • Archives and Libraries
  • Art Galleries and Collections
  • Communications and Media
  • Community Development
  • Conservation and Restoration
  • Culture and Heritage
  • Database / Records Management
  • Exporting / Importing
  • Genealogy Companies
  • Historic Sites and Societies
  • Museums
  • Publishing
  • Research and Development
  • Teaching
  • Tourism

Potential Titles


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