From time to time, I get email from people asking about career paths in archaeology. Some of them are middle and high school students who want to know what courses they should take. Some of them are college students, wondering what the real career options are in archaeology--how much do jobs pay, how easy is it to get those jobs. And some of them are adults, from varied backgrounds--biology, education, library science, chemistry, writing--and they want to know how they might change careers, and want to know if their backgrounds will be useful.
It's impossible to give a simple answer to any one of my correspondents. Because archaeology is the study of past human behavior, it is one of those sciences that uses every other science--and a lot of studies that are not science. And so, any and all courses may be useful to a career as an archaeologist. Think about it; geography, math, biology, computer science, sure. Gardening? Yep, you learn about soils and cultivation practices, that's useful. Theatrical scene design? You bet, helps with drawing plan maps and understanding ancient theaters. Basket-weaving? Absolutely, fabrics and textiles are an important study in archaeology.
Job opportunities and pay vary depending on location and what skills and background you have. If you want to be a working archaeologist in a cultural resources firm, there are plenty of jobs, and the pay is reasonable; get a master's degree in anthropology/archaeology with experience, and you're set. If you want to be a college professor, the pay is still reasonable, but the jobs are few and far between and people stay in them for a very very long time; for that you'll need a PhD from a great institution and a lot of luck.
And in many, if not most cases, choosing archaeology as a second career is a workable option. A whole slew of specialists work in archaeology--people who concentrate on animal bone, people who work with geographic information systems, people who write and produce videos for the public, people who make public policy.
What you need is a list and description of kinds of jobs that are available in the field, what the jobs entail, what kind of background you need, where are they based, what kind of money they pay. So, starting today, I'm building a database of exactly that sort of information. The Careers in Archaeology Database is just getting started, and I'll continue to add to it over the winter.
Any suggestions? Write me...