What is an Archaeologist?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: September 14, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Science
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Understanding what an archeologist is can help you decide if this is the right career path for you. It’s a unique career requiring the right education. If you’re considering becoming an archeologist, a deeper understanding of this career is necessary.

Before we look at how to become an archeologist, let’s first look at what an archeologist is and does. This will help you choose the right career path.

What is an Archaeologist?

What is Archeology and What Does an Archeologist Do?

The common understanding of an archeologist comes from watching movies like Indiana Jones. However, this is not the right understanding of an archeologist.

Archeology is the science of unearthing history. An archeologist will study the origin, development, and behavior of past societies and present human beings. They take a closer look at the languages, physical characteristics, behaviors, and archaeological remains from societies.

Job Duties of an Archeologist

Societies of the past left behind plenty of clues to the way they lived. Archeologists spend time piecing together the evidence discovered. Some of the common duties of an archeologist include:

The job of an archeologist is an active one. You will likely do plenty of travel. Archeologists also spend time in an office, lab, or even teaching in a classroom.

Types of Archeologists

If you decide to go into archeology, you can become one of many types of archaeologists. Some of the most common types include:

If you decide archaeology is the career path for you, it can lead to these types of archaeology.

Steps to Become an Archeologist

Step #1 – Do Well in High School

If you want to become an archaeologist, you want to make sure you do well in high school. A high GPA is one of the requirements to get into a good college. It can also help if you score high on the ACT or SAT. A good ACT or SAT prep course can ensure you get a high score.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

Archaeologists will need a bachelor’s degree. You should study anthropology, history, or geography. It’s common to gain hands-on experience in a lab or do fieldwork while getting your bachelor’s degree.

Step #3 – Complete an Internship

Many new archaeologists will need to complete an internship. This is a great way to gain valuable experience. It may be a requirement of your bachelor’s degree program, too. Internships with fieldwork experience are the best for archaeologists. They allow you to gain good hands-on experience.

You may find an internship through a government agency, museum, or archaeological organization.

Step #4 – Get Your Master’s Degree

Many entry-level archaeology positions may require only a bachelor’s degree. However, the best archaeological jobs will require at least a master’s degree.

With the right master’s degree program, you can start to specialize in an area of archaeology. You can also learn technical skills to use in the field.

Step #5 – Earn Your Doctorate

If you want to climb to the top of your field, you will need a Ph.D. A doctorate in archaeology will allow you to gain the best possible jobs in this field. You can even teach as a professor once you have earned your Ph.D.

Common Skills Needed to Become an Archaeologist

Going into the field of archaeology isn’t for everybody. Certain skills will help you reach the top of this career, however. Common skills of successful archaeologists include:

These are the most common skills of successful archaeologists. If you want to enter this field, work on further developing these skills.

Frequently Asked Questions About Archaeologists

How much do archeologists earn?

As an archeologist, your average salary will likely be around $62K per year. The top 10% in this field can earn closer to $100K per year. New archeologists may start with a salary of around $37K per year.

Some companies pay more than others. For example, the United States Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of the Navy are two of the highest-paying employers for archaeologists. They both pay an average salary closer to $100K per year or more.

Some locations pay much more than others. For example, Hickam AFB in Hawaii is the highest-paying location, while Leesburg, Virginia, and Las Vegas, Nevada are higher-paying locations.

What type of employee benefits do archaeologists get?

Commonly, an archaeologist will gain access to paid time off and a 401(k) with matching benefits. In addition, they will likely get health insurance benefits, including disability, dental, and vision insurance. Some archaeologists will get employee stock ownership plans or employer assistance programs, as well.

Is the field of archaeology growing?

While the field isn’t growing fast, it is growing. It’s expected to grow by about 4% over the next ten years. This is slightly below the average of all occupations.

What is the work environment like for an archaeologist?

Most archaeologists work in an office, lab, and in the field. Some will also teach in classrooms regularly. In addition, you will likely spend many weeks traveling and countless hours working outside.

What is the work schedule like for an archaeologist?

During parts of the year, you will likely work a typical 9-to-5 type of schedule. However, there may be times when you work long hours in the field. Fieldwork can also include weekends, late evenings, and early mornings.

How long will it take to become an archaeologist?

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to become an archaeologist. This type of degree will take about four years to complete. If you get your master’s degree, you will need another two years of education. Finally, those completing a doctorate will need even more time.

How long it will take you to become an archaeologist depends on your goals. For most, it will take between 4 and 10 years. Gaining some experience will likely be necessary, too. Make sure to consider this in your timeline to becoming an archaeologist.

Do You Want to Become an Archaeologist?

If you’re a very curious person and fascinated with history, becoming an archaeologist might be right for you. This is an incredible career option with plenty of advancement opportunities. You can earn a nice salary and enjoy a changing work environment, as well.

Those looking for the right career might find archaeology to fit just right. While you will likely need to spend several years in school, it can be a very rewarding career for many people.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!