CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become an archaeologist.
Is becoming an archaeologist right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Undergraduate programs generally provide an introduction to prehistoric human societies and teach field research methods. Courses may examine hunter-gatherer societies, urbanism, and the emergence of civilization in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Many programs aim for a multidisciplinary synthesis of anthropology, geography, and history.
A Bachelor’s Degree in Archaeology qualifies job seekers in archaeology for entry-level research positions, such as research assistant, laboratory technician, or site excavation technician (also known as a digger). Diggers are often employed on a seasonal or contract basis and are sometimes transferred to more permanent roles based on their performance.
After earning a bachelor’s, most students complete an internship to gain fieldwork experience, which is mandatory for many jobs. Internships and similar training programs may be available through field schools, museums, historical societies, government agencies, and archaeological associations.
These programs promote professional development and allow students to sharpen their archaeological research and excavation skills under the supervision of experienced archaeologists. Some bachelor’s degree programs include an internship.
A Master’s Degree in Archaeology, Anthropology, or a closely related discipline is the common requirement for applied research and curator positions. It is also the degree held by most archaeologists. Some master’s programs are designed to lay the foundation for doctoral-level studies; while others prepare students for careers that do not demand a Ph.D. All master’s programs focus on the development of technical skills in field research and allow students to focus on a specialized area of study.
The specialization options in archaeology are extremely diverse and can be very specific. For instance, cognitive archaeology is the study of the material expression of human ways of thinking about things, based on gender, class, status, and kinship. Commercial archaeology focuses on the material culture aspects of commerce and transportation.
Archaeologists with a Ph.D. are qualified to lead the highest level of field research projects or teach at the college or university level. Although doctoral programs include coursework in statistics, quantitative analysis, and anthropology, the focus is on researching, writing, and defending a dissertation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth in the archaeological field will be driven primarily by the need to assure that large infrastructure projects comply with federal regulations regarding the preservation of sites and artifacts that are considered historically significant.
There are a number of archaeological societies and professional organizations all over the world. These two main groups facilitate career networking and the exchange of industry specific ideas:
The Archaeological Institute of America is the oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archaeology. The Institute supports archaeologists and promotes archaeological inquiry and public understanding of the material record of the human past.
The Council for British Archaeology is an educational charity working throughout the United Kingdom. Its mandate is to involve people in archaeology and to promote the application and care of the historic environment, for the benefit of present and future generations.