Few careers inspire ideas of adventure and intrigue quite like the job of an archaeologist. Some people find inspiration in popular movies that feature archaeologists. Others develop an unrivaled love for a particular ancient culture and spend a lifetime pursuing artifacts that deepen the cultural knowledge of that ancient people. One thing is certain, young people and career-changers alike often ask “How do I become an archeologist?” While the path to this career is not a simple one, the rewards are rich.
Life as an Archaeologist
The experience of being a professional archaeologist varies a great deal because individuals employed in this field have so many varied opportunities. Entry-level archeologists find steady field work that allows them to travel extensively. Supervisory-level archaeologists enjoy broader responsibilities and opportunities to specialize. The upper echelon of archaeologists often enjoy the life of a university academic during the school year and attend digs during the summer months.
Archaeologists are well-trained professionals. The first step in attaining an educational preparation to become an archaeologist is earning a B.A. Prospective archaeologists major in history, anthropology, or archaeology. Students with a particular field or region of interest will choose coursework that augments their knowledge of the specialization. Many students study both ancient and modern languages. Students seek additional training and experience through a summer field school that offers prospective archaeologists the opportunity to participate in archaeological digs in a hands-on capacity.
While individuals in possession of a BA and field school experience can easily find employment as a field tech, many students pursue advanced training in order to advance in the field of archeology. Indeed, to become an archaeologist with membership in the Society of Professional Archaeologists one must have a minimum of an MA/MS degree, a published thesis, and one year of field experience. This graduate degree also opens doors for career advancement on a dig site or as an educator at the community college level. Highly motivated students often pursue a PhD in archeology. This level of education, in concert with a dissertation and adequate field experience, paves the way for work in any sector of the field of archaeology.
Salary and Job Opportunities
The career opportunities in archaeology vary a great deal based upon the level of education an individual has attained. Individuals with a BA in a will find steady work as a field tech on dig sites throughout the world. Some dig sites may even hire a student who wants to become an archeologist and who is in the midst of earning a B.A. Archaeologists with an MA/MS and field experience may be employed as project archeologists or prime investigators. In addition to overseeing the dig site, these individuals also write proposals for digs, secure funding, and publish reports on findings. Finally, individuals who earn a PhD may work in academia, in a museum, or as a lead archaeologist on foreign soil.
The median salary for a professional archaeologist with an MA is $54,230. With careers in this field expected to grow faster than average, it is certain that individuals who pursue a career as an archaeologist will always find steady opportunities for both employment and adventure.