Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology at Michigan Tech

The M.S. Industrial Archaeology Program at Michigan Technological University is unique in the United States, and one of the few in the world to explicitly study industrial archaeology. The IA program emphasizes a truly interdisciplinary approach to to the field, fusing the academic perspectives of archaeology, historic preservation, history of technology, and anthropology. Students complete course work in all of these areas, in addition to approved electives of the Department of Social Sciences or other Departments at Michigan Tech. Most students complete the program in two academic years, using the summers to fulfill the program's archaeological fieldwork and thesis requirements. Click here for a list of recent theses written by MTU graduate students.

Career prospects for IA Master's Students

Michigan Tech's Industrial Archaeology program has a strong applied aspect designed to give students the tools to succeed in future work. Coursework includes specific practical and professional skills in addition to theoretical and intellectual content.  Thesis projects are often developed in conjunction with outside sponsors, and incorporate real-world situations concerned with site identification, interpretation, preservation, and management. Our 30+ graduates since 1993 have moved successfully into professional positions and/or Ph.D. programs for further education.

Our program logically leads to four potential career trajectories:

  • Ph.D. programs
  • Museum work
  • Government agencies
  • Private industry. 

To date, all of our graduates who have applied to Ph.D. programs have been accepted, and have gone to programs at Brown University, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nevada-Reno (2), and University of Arizona (2). Several graduates have accepted jobs with State or regional museums as curators or site historians.  For example, one graduate became curator at Sloss Furnaces National Historical Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama and has since moved on to the Detroit Historical Museums.  One is employed as curator at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, another is historian at the Soudan Mines State Park in Minnesota, and a third works as an archaeologist with the New York State Museum. Other government agencies that have hired our graduates include the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma State Historical Society, the Historic American Engineering Record/National Park Service, and the US Forest Service.  In addition, several program graduates have gone on to successful careers in private CRM firms throughout the USA.

You can download a PDF file version of a recent article from the National Parks Service's Cultural Resources Management (CRM) Bulletin describing one of the research areas of our program.

"Industrial Archeology and Historic Mining Studies at Michigan Tech," by Patrick E. Martin


The M.S. in Industrial Archaeology requires completion of, at minimum, seven classes and a thesis project. The thesis project is based on one or more semesters of graduate research.

Required classes- 1) Industrial Archaeology Proseminar I; 2) Industrial Archaeology Proseminar II; 3) Archaeology of Industry; 4) Heritage Management; 5) Archaeological Field Methods (summer class); 6) Documenting Historic Structures; and 7) one 3000/4000 level elective class from the following list: History of American Architecture; Copper Country History; Archaeology Laboratory Methods; Geographic Information Systems; or Directed Study in Industrial Archaeology.

Industrial Archaeology Proseminar I (History of Technology and Material Culture)- A graduate seminar with two purposes: to provide students with a basic introduction to work in the history of technology, and to introduce students to the interpretation and understanding of material culture.

Industrial Archaeology Proseminar II (Historical Archaeology and Industrial Communities)- A graduate seminar organized around modules covering the main components of historical archaeology and anthropological studies of industrial communities. Introduces the methods and approaches of both fields through reading and discussion of selected articles and case studies.

Heritage Management- Introduces the current field of heritage management: the legislation that underwrites its practice; the articulation of federal state and local governmental activities; the evolving philosophies of archaeologists and historic preservationists operating in the public interest; parallels on the international scene; and the impacts of heritage tourism.

Industrial Archaeology- Directed readings in Industrial Archaeology using a wide range of material from the historical, engineering, and archaeological literature. Regional case studies provide a central focus for the course.

Archaeological Field Methods- Practical experience in the methods and techniques of field archaeology. Background readings are followed by participation in site survey, testing, excavation, and record keeping. Students learn through their involvement in ongoing research in the Upper Great Lakes region.

Documentation of Historic Structures- Principles and practice of survey and documentation of historic structures. Techniques include reconnaissance survey, in-depth survey, measured drawings, architectural photography, primary research, and written descriptions. Students learn to use survey and documentation to analyze historic structures.

Directed Study in Industrial Archaeology- Directed readings or research conducted under the direction of a member of the graduate faculty. Students must meet with their supervising instructor and receive approval of their study plan before registering.

Graduate Research- Individual research work leading towards the master's thesis. Open by arrangement to students in the Industrial Archaeology master's program.

Admissions Information

Both the MS and Ph.D. programs are inherently interdisciplinary, and we encourage applications from students with backgrounds in archeology and anthropology, history, American civilization, and other areas as well, including engineering. Applicants to the program need to fulfill the general application requirements of the Graduate School. Applications are reviewed for admission by the faculty in the IA program. We use a mix of criteria for admissions decisions, such as undergraduate record, standardized test scores, recommendations, writing ability, work experience, and demonstrated interest in the field. We require the following item for consideration for admission:

1. A completed application form (sent to the Graduate School) with the application fee and official transcripts from all previous university study.

2. Results of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. The TOEFL is required for students from countries where the native language is not English.

3. A Statement of Purpose and writing sample. Please send these directly to the Director of Graduate Studies in IA.

4. Three letters of recommendation, again, sent to the Director of Graduate Studies.

The Program currently maintains an open-ended applications policy, with no deadlines for receipt of applications. We strongly encourage students to begin their course of study in the Fall term, but exceptions are made. In all cases, however, financial support decisions are made only in the Spring. To be considered for support in September, please complete your application by March 1.

You may request an application packet by email from Bruce Seely, Acting Director of Graduate Studies in IA;, or call (906) 487-2113. The main application to Michigan Tech is accessible on-line. Please go to


Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 49931
Email | Phone: (906) 487-2113 | Fax: (906) 487-2468