How Many People in the US Have Archaeology Degrees? Significantly more than a bakers dozen

Posted on July 11, 2014


‘How many people have got an archaeology degree in the US?’

People ask this question for a variety of reasons, like knowing how many people you have to compete with to get a job, how many people might be very interested in Archaeology, or they are practicing for a quiz style game-show like  Jeopardy, Who Wants to be  Millionaire, etc.

Flashback Fridays- This is part of a series in which I revisit old posts, update them, and publish them again. As you might guess this will be taking place on Fridays. This post was originally published on October 11th, 2011 @ 13:59. Updated July 11th, 2014.

92,000 Archaeology Degrees and Counting

92,000 is the number I estimate for all degrees, about 5,000 PhDs, 12,000 MA/MSc, 71,000 BA/BSc, and 3,000 other sort of degrees. At the very least there is roughly 75,000 people with an Archaeology degree, assuming everyone with an undergrad degree also got all the postgrad ones. Probably more, not everyone with an MA or PhD did an Archaeology undergrad degree. That is from roughly 1920-2012.

Crazy Findings

Half of all BA/BSc Archaeology degrees have been earned since roughly 1996. Half of all PhDs have been earned since 1990. The majority of Archaeology degrees have been earned in the last two decades. Not sure if the current profession takes this fact into account. Read on to see how I got these numbers.

Archaeology vs. Anthropology

If you have got a ‘Archaeology’ degree from the US you will probably know that there are very few ‘Archaeology’ degrees. Most universities offer an Anthropology degree with a concentration in Archaeology. It is essentially the same thing as an Archaeology degree, maybe a few more general Anthropology courses involved. I am calling all of these degrees ‘Archaeology degrees’ to cut down on cluttering terms.

Going from 0 to 75,0000

I got my data from several sources. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) both keep track of degrees awarded. The data can be accessed from this wonderful web portal, WebCASPAR. The NSF data only looks at PhDs and is from 1920-2012, but data is only available on-line from 1966.  The pre-1966 data can be found is this report, U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century, but it states, ‘For the years 1920–57, public sources, such as commencement programs and institution lists, provided limited information’. So take these numbers with a grain of salt and they are:

1920-1959 1960–64 1965–69
Anthropology 773 370 645
Archaeology 170 38 62

 The Wheat from Chaff, The Archaeologists from Anthropologists

Studies by the American Anthropology Association shows that about 25% of Anthropology PhDs are in Archaeology (source, source). Also, about 25% of advertisements for academic jobs are for Archaeologists (source, source). Because of these numbers I make the assumption that about 25% of Anthropology degrees have a focus on archaeology which converts these numbers to:

1920-1959 1960–64 1965–69
Anthropology (Archaeology) 193 93 161

The 1966-2012 data can been seen in the graphs (adjusted by .25 X all Anth PhDs). The Archaeology catagory from 1966 onwards appears to have been placed in the Anthropology catagory so all of the calculations, 1920-2012, are based on converting Archaeology degrees from general Anthropology numbers.


Another source of data is the NCES, which also runs from 1966 but includes BAs, MAs, etc. A bit of uncertainty in that this data does not have a separate catagory for archaeology degrees till 1987. However, it looks like it is included as a sub-category of Anthropology, like the NSF data. I just used the Anthropology catagory and took 25% of it to get the number of Archaeology degrees.


The NCES data also gives associate degrees, certificates, etc. and those degrees that list Anthropology as a 2nd major. The data is only for the last couple of years so there is a whole black box, all before 1983 for other degrees and before 2001 for 2nd major degrees, in which we have no idea how many of these degrees there are. Converted from Anthropology it is roughly 1200 associate degrees, certificates, etc. and 2200 Archaeology as a second major.


The AAA has been tracking numbers through their AnthroGuide lists of departments. This data goes back to the 1940s but includes schools outside of the US, but not many. Looking at the graphs you can see it pretty much tracks with the other sources but with more till quite recently.  The AAAs sent the data to me awhile ago so it only goes up till 2009.

Foreigners Coming Over Here, Taking Our Degree….. Paying Fees, Ensuring Our Professors Have Jobs.

We don’t know the number of people with Archaeology degree who have left the country or who obtained their degree from another country (looking at you Canadians). I am assuming this is wash, equal leaving vs. equal coming in, but I don’t know. Something to investigate in the future.

Pretty Pictures

Estimated number of archaeology degrees earned

Estimated number of archaeology degrees earned

Estimated number of MA/MSc archaeology degrees earned

Estimated number of MA/MSc archaeology degrees earned

Estimated number of PhD archaeology degrees earned

Estimated number of PhD archaeology degrees earned

Which Numbers Are the Right Ones?

The different numbers line up pretty close to each other, always a good sign. The AAA numbers tend to jump higher in the late 1990’s and early 00’s. I think that is due to the fact that AAA number includes schools from outside the US and those numbers jump during that time.

Degrees                  Highest Possible              Lowest Possible             Mid-Point
All Degrees            98,858                               84,694                             91,776
Other Degrees      1,212                                   1,212
2nd Major             2,232                                  2,232
PhD                        5,080                                  4,688                               4,884
MA/MSc               13,140                                 11,187                               12,163
BA/BS                   77,194                                 65,224                              71,209

My estimation is simply based on the mid-point between the highest and lowest possible estimations. Nothing fancy but I think it gives a good estimation from a range of data sources.

Open Data

If you want the data, and spreadsheet I did the calculations with, you can download it- Number of Degrees Data.

Free use – I put this data into public domain – I wave whatever legal IP rights I might have for the data which should be none because it is in public domain to begin with and you can’t copyright data. But in case of EU database laws I wave those rights too. Though if you want to let me know you used the data I would appreciate a quick email. Would love to know if someone uses it.


Boites, Salvadore Z., Geller, Pamela, and Patterson, Thomas C. 2002. The Growth and Changing Composition of Anthropology 1966-2002. American Anthropology Association.

Givens, David B., Evans, Patsy, and Jablonski, Timothy. 1997. 1997 AAA Survey of Anthropology PhDs.

Terry-Sharp, Kathleen 2009. 2009 Anthropology Faculty Job Market Report
AAA Academic Relations Dept.

Thurgood, Lori Golladay, Mary J. and Hill, Susan T. 2006. U.S. Doctorates
in the 20th Century. National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA

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