Ancient History Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in an ancient history degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Ancient History: Degrees at a Glance

If imagining life long ago fascinates you, then an undergraduate degree in ancient history could be a good choice. In principle, ancient history encompasses the world from the advent of writing to the medieval era. It can include such wide-ranging topics as ancient China and India, Babylon, the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Mesoamerican empires. In practice, however, the field is often narrowed to Western civilization and especially the Greco-Roman world from about 1000 BCE to 500 CE.

A degree in ancient history provides the typical upsides and downsides of a liberal arts education when it comes to careers. There are professions within the field of history, but most require a graduate degree. You can, like many liberal arts graduates, opt for a career unrelated to your studies. However, you may have more of a challenge than an engineering or marketing graduate in choosing that career and landing your first job. The good news is that you will gain critical thinking, writing and research skills valued by employers in many fields.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? High school graduates who are interested in history and expect eventually to earn a liberal arts bachelor's degree High school or community college graduates who are interested in history and want a liberal arts degree
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) Associate degrees in history don't have a specific career outcome; 2-year liberal arts can provide an advantage in jobs where little or no college is required, such as receptionist or information clerks ($26,700) - High school teacher ($57,000 - teaching degree and license likely needed along with history degree)*
- Curator ($53,500 - work experience and/or a master's often needed)*
- Museum technician ($42,000)*
Time to Completion Two years of full-time study Four years of full-time study (or two post-associate)
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework - Coursework, possibly including study of an ancient language
- Thesis (normally only for honors)
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Individual courses, plus hybrid and fully online degrees Survey courses, but few degree options specifically in ancient history

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degree in Ancient History

Most associate degree programs are not specialized enough to offer degrees in ancient history per se. The degree may have a concentration in world history or, more likely, simply in history. Some history departments only have one or two ancient history classes to offer. You may also find courses of interest in closely related fields like anthropology or art history that touch on the ancient world. An associate degree in history, however, is not very effective preparation for any particular career without further study. It is best suited to students who plan to transfer to a bachelor's degree program.

Pros and Cons


  • Can be completed in two years
  • Credits can normally be applied toward a bachelor's degree
  • An associate degree program may be more affordable than the first two years of a bachelor's degree program at a four-year college or university
  • Gives you broad exposure to history with survey courses


  • History-related careers generally require at least a bachelor's degree
  • Other common careers paths for history graduates, such as teaching or the law, also require additional education
  • Not much selection in courses beyond introductory surveys

Courses and Requirements

Associate degree programs mix general education requirements with core and elective courses in history and related fields. The general education components are normally introductions to college-level science, math, English and social studies. For history coursework, students typically must complete core surveys in American history, world history and/or western civilization. Ancient history may have an introductory course of its own or be included in a broader survey of antiquity along with subsequent periods up to the medieval era or Renaissance. Many programs also offer one or more electives in ancient history on specific topics like mythology or art, or specific cultures, like those of the Greeks or Romans. Associate programs offered by departments that also award bachelor's degrees in history may offer a broader selection of electives.

Examples of classes you may be able to choose from include:

  • The ancient world
  • Classical mythology
  • Ancient Greece
  • Roman world of antiquity
  • Art history (Stone Age to medieval times)
  • Alexander the Great's empires

Online Course Info

Many associate programs offer online options. You can take some classes online or earn an entire associate degree with a concentration in history online. Courses and requirements are generally the same if you do some or all of your coursework through distance learning. In programs that offer both on-campus and online courses, you may find that online course availability is more limited; distance learning may require more careful planning to make sure you can take the courses you want and need to graduate.

Stand Out with this Degree

With career options limited for holders of an associate degree in history, it is a good idea to make the time for courses and activities that give you practical, in-demand skills. Computer knowledge and skills are a valuable addition to almost anyone's résumé. Whether you attend a two-year college or an associate program at a four-year college or university, your school will probably have classes, library sessions and other resources that promote computer literacy. You can take advantage of them to become proficient in online research and comfortable with a range of standard office software.

Bachelor's Degree in Ancient History

Bachelor's degrees in ancient history can be earned in both history and classical studies departments. Classical studies programs focus on ancient Greece and Rome and take an interdisciplinary approach, teaching languages, literature, archaeology and art along with history. In a history department, you may be able to major in ancient history or major in history with a concentration in ancient studies. Whatever the exact type of degree, you will learn about ancient civilizations (especially Greece and Rome) and their legacy. You will also study how scholars use ancient texts, art, material remains and other types of evidence to shed light on the distant past.

Greco-Roman ideas about law, philosophy and politics continue to shape our world, giving this liberal arts field distinct cultural value. That value, however, may not be self-evident to others. So, be sure to learn the art of explaining why ancient history matters - especially to prospective employers.

Pros and Cons


  • Provides training in critical thinking, research and writing that can be valuable in many fields
  • Offers expertise in the classical civilizations that still influence culture and politics
  • Study abroad programs offer opportunities for travel and enrichment
  • Greater selection of degree options and courses than at associate level


  • Many of the careers that are directly related to ancient history in academia, museums and libraries require a graduate degree
  • Distance learning options are limited
  • If you are interested in ancient history beyond the Greco-Roman world, you will not find many courses to choose from in most programs

Common Courses and Requirements

In an ancient history bachelor's program you will take introductory core courses and electives in your major as well as a range of other humanities and science courses to satisfy general education requirements. History departments often have their own requirements, ensuring students take courses in both Western and non-Western history and in both pre-modern and modern eras. They normally also require students to take a course or two in the practice of historical research and analysis. In classics departments and some history departments, you will be encouraged - or required - to study an ancient language. Many programs have an optional honors track that requires a high GPA and completion of a senior thesis. Also common are study abroad opportunities in modern cities with a rich ancient heritage, like Rome and Athens.

Examples of classes that you may take:

  • Ancient Greek and Roman science
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations
  • Pre-modern cultures in comparison
  • Ancient civilizations of the Middle East
  • The ancient world in modern film
  • Ancient slavery

Online Degree & Course Info

Many schools offer opportunities to study history via distance learning. Individual survey courses of ancient history are available online, both in and outside of degree-granting programs. However, programs leading to a bachelor's degree specifically in ancient history generally offer few if any online options. If you need to do some or all of your coursework via distance learning, you may be better off earning a degree in history or a broader field like liberal studies, choosing whatever ancient studies courses are available. If you elect to pursue a hybrid or online degree in history, the requirements and selection of courses will probably be the same as those in an on-campus program.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Whether you plan to pursue a career in history or in education, business or another field, computer skills will be valuable, if not also essential. Colleges and universities generally offer a range of classes and resources to ensure basic computer literacy among students. You can go beyond the basics, too, integrating new technologies in your studies. Make sure you become fluent with online research and take advantage of the digital resources for ancient history that are increasingly available, from online journals to databases of ancient source material. You could even volunteer to help out with a digitization project or website if your department or library has one. A liberal arts degree can be a strong credential by itself, but pairing it with new media savvy could make life easier on the job market.

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