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 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:
- Use satellites to find archeological sites and survey the ground
- Perform surveys of the surface to examine a specific area better
- Conducting excavation
- Handling artifacts
- Archiving research
- Maintaining a resource of information
- Maintain archeological inventories
- Presenting findings to the public
- Drawing sketch maps, preparing profiles, and planning field drawings
- Washing, sorting, bagging, and labeling artifacts
- Ensuring laws and regulations are followed in the excavation area
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:
- Environmental archeologists – If you choose this path, you will look at the natural environment and its relationship with a group of people. For example, you might be tasked with determining the type of plants and animals present during a time and how people used them in their lives.
- Industrial archaeologists – This is the field for you if you want to look at industrial artifacts. This type of archaeologist will look at how previous cultures created goods and the industries of the time.
- Underwater archaeologists – If you want to look at shipwrecks and other underwater sites, this is the specialty for you. As an underwater archaeologist, you will use specific techniques to study lost cities and ships found in the oceans and seas.
- Ethnoarchaeologists – This type of archaeologist will look for clues and insights related to ethnography. They will study the habits and customs of a culture or region.
- Historical archaeologists – As a historical archaeologist, you will look at the written evidence and artifacts of a time in history. You will study different aspects, such as trade and industry.
- Aviation archeologists – This type of archaeologist will explore the historic remains of an aircraft, airborne weapon, or an aircraft runway.
- Classical archaeologist – This type of archeologist will focus specifically on Greece and Rome. You will study ancient societies as a classical archaeologist.
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:
- Perseverance – Not only will you need to spend years in school, but it can also be difficult to find projects. Some projects will take many months or years. When excavating, you need to be patient to find the best artifacts.
- Critical Thinking Skills – You will need to solve problems and make decisions often in this field.
- Physical Stamina – Sometimes, you will be working in a kneeling or standing position for hours. You might also need to hike to the excavation site while carrying gear.
- Excellent Communication Skills – As an archaeologist, you will need to communicate well. Writing and verbal communication skills are vital in this job. You should also be an active listener.
- Curiosity – Every archaeologist needs a healthy curiosity. Your job is to discover and analyze societies. Without curiosity, why would you even want to work in this career?
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.