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How to Become an Archaeologist

Exploring the Ways to Become an Archaeologist


Have you always dreamed of being an archaeologist, but don't know how to become one? To become an archaeologist takes education, reading, training, and persistence. Here's how you can get started exploring that dream job.

What is the Life of an Archaeologist Like?

Utah Project Field Crew, 2004
Tim Scarlett, Utah Project (c) 2004
A Frequently Asked Questions for the Beginner, this list answers the questions: Is there still work in archaeology? What's the best part about being an archaeologist? What's the worst? What's a typical day like? Can you make a decent living? What kind of skills do you need? What kind of education do you need? Where do archaeologists work in the world?

What's it Like to Change Your Career?

Sureyya Kose is an IT professional in Australia who is in the process of changing her career to archaeology. In this ongoing series of letters, Sureyya describes how she decided to change careers, how she got into school, and how she juggled school and job responsibilities along her way to becoming an archaeologist.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Have as an Archaeologist?

There are a whole range of different kinds of jobs that archaeologists do. The traditional image of a university professor or museum director are the best known—but perhaps 70% of the archaeological jobs available today are in the cultural resource management profession. This essay describes the kinds of jobs which are available, what their general availability is today, and also gives you a little taste of what each is like.

Where Can I Find a Group to Join?

Poster papers at the 2005 Society for American Archaeology meetings, Salt Lake City.
Kris Hirst (c) 2005
You don't have to do your studies alone, and, like every other profession on the planet, there are associations that you can join to learn about the study, hear lectures, and even go on field trips. Some require that you have your MA degree to join; others have no requirements at all. Here's a comprehensive list of professional and amateur archaeological societies compiled by archaeologist Smoke Pfeiffer.

What Kind of Online Courses Can I Take?

There are several online courses you can take, some few of which can lead to an advanced degree. But there is no substitute for the laboratory and excavation studies you'll need to take to become a professional archaeologist.

What is a Field School?

Tel Rehov Field School, Israel
Nava Panitz-Cohen
The best way to know if you really want to become an archaeologist is to go on a field school. Every year, most universities on the planet send their archaeologists out with students on training expeditions. These expeditions can last a year or a week or anything in between, and in many cases you can sign on with them to see if you like the experience.

How Do I Choose a Field School?

1795 Yeaton-Walsh House Site
Sheila Charles, Strawbery Banke Museum
There are so many to choose from, it may be difficult to know what makes a good field school from a poor one. Here are some suggestions about choosing a field school that will be a good experience for some one who is considering an archaeological profession.

Where Can I Find a Field School?

Archaeological field schools are conducted all over the world, by many if not most universities and by many other historical societies and not-for-profit research institutions. Here is a list of the current digs going on in the current year.

Where can I Find a Good School to Attend?

Know Thyself - Princeton University's Eno Hall (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
David Goehring
Archaeology is taught in different university departments in different countries: in anthropology, ancient history, classics, geography, and occasionally even in archaeology departments. Here's a listing of schools offering graduate level education in archaeology. To become a professional archaeologist, you will need a graduate degree, MA or PhD, depending on your career choice. But if you're not there yet, and need a bachelor's degree first, you can use this list to find a department that will have archaeologists on staff.

Why You Should (or Should Not) Go to Graduate School

If you're ready to leap into the education part of becoming an archaeologist, there are several things you should consider before you proceed to your nearest university. What kind of a job do you want? What kinds of things do you want to study? Can you get financial assistance? In this piece, former graduate students John Dockall and Hal Rager talk about what went into their decisions to go.

Choosing a Graduate School

The choices for graduate school are huge and may be bewildering at first. How do you pick the right university for your situation? The selection of a school is very personal, and involves questions about where you want to live, whether you can continue to work, whether you need to support a family, how much time you want to take getting that degree, in addition to what you want to study and what kind of career you want when you're done.
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