Career in Archaeology

You might have an interest in a career in archaeology, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you. There is a bit of a myth that those involved in this field were simply born to be. That usually isn’t the case. While many people have dreamed of being involved in archaeology all their lives, most have not. In fact, there are many interesting stories of people who went through rather surprising career changes to enter the field. This has included members of law enforcement, providers of limo services to the rich and famous, math teachers and even construction contractors, just to name a few!
First of all, if you decide to pursue archaeology seriously, you’ll likely need to obtain an advanced college degree. If your main goal is to work “in the field”, then a Masters degree will probably be required. If you wish to teach archaeology at the college level, you will more than likely need a Ph.D. Most start off working in the field, and work toward their Ph.D while doing so.
To work in this field, you will need a love, or at least a willingness, to travel on a regular basis -as in overseas traveling. Most of us realize that most major archaeological discoveries aren’t made in the middle of Kansas! You must also be prepared to be away from home for weeks or months at a time, which requires a great deal of support from a significant other or family.
You must also be realistic about what this career entails. Back in the 1980’s, when the timeless “Top Gun” movie came out, Naval recruiting centers across America had record numbers of potential enlistees interested in Naval aviation careers. Similarly, when the first “Indiana Jones” movie hit box offices, there was a huge number of young, enthusiastic folks lining up at the admissions offices of universities offering degrees in archaeology. While there will obviously be the occasional amazing find during an archaeologist’s career, the majority of their time is spent doing research, interacting with various local cultures in whatever region of the world they’re working, and writing reports regarding their findings in the field. This isn’t quite the impression one gets while watching “Indiana Jones” for the 400th time!
Archaeologists must possess excellent math skills, which some interested in the science don’t necessarily realize. They do countless hours of measuring things like depth and distance. So if you’re strongly considering archaeology as a career, take as many advanced math courses as possible!
The best way to learn more about the field of archaeology is to seek out those working in it, and speak with them. If you’re serious, make an appointment with the head of an archaeology program at a local university, and come armed with your questions. If you’re already enrolled in a college with such a program, an internship is a fabulous way to get your foot in the door and see if archaeology is the right career path for you!