Archaeologist Job Description
Archaeologists recover, preserve, and study artifacts from past human cultures. By collecting and studying artifacts such as ruins, bones, pottery, and tools, they are able to help us understand things about past cultures that we would otherwise never know.
There are three phases to most archaeology projects. The first phase is the field work, which is focused on the discovery of new artifacts or information. The second phase happens in a laboratory or similar setting, where archaeologists study the collected artifacts to determine their significance. The third phase is when the archaeologist releases their findings to the public, often in a scientific journal.
Some archaeologists are responsible for all three phases, while others focus on one particular part of the process. For instance, some do all of their work in a lab, while others are strictly excavators.
There are many types of work that archaeologists can do. Some work as college professors or museum archivists. Others travel to remote regions of the earth to collect artifacts, or work at national parks where they use their knowledge of archaeology to educate the public about a culture.
Because there are so many civilizations to study and explore, most archaeologists specialize in a particular subject, time period, or geographic area.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most archaeologists work for research and development firms, museums, government agencies, universities, and cultural resource management firms.
Some archaeologists spend most of their time doing field work, which often requires extensive travel to remote regions of the earth. Depending on the location, they may have to learn new languages and live in remote villages.
Living in an unfamiliar culture poses some risks, and archaeologists need to take care to understand the customs of the cultures they interact with.
This can be a very physically demanding occupation, and archaeologists need to be careful on the job. In remote areas, good emergency medical care is not guaranteed. Even in cases where archaeologists are accompanied by experienced doctors, they don’t have access to the advanced medical equipment found in your local hospital.
Archaeologists who work in an office or another traditional work environment normally enjoy a regular work schedule from Monday through Friday. Those who travel extensively and spend their time doing field work often work very long hours. Their job and life may become indistinguishable.
How to Become an Archaeologist
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to work as a field archaeologist, but you should get at least a master’s if you want to pursue a long-term career in archaeology. Without a graduate degree, opportunities for advancement are rare.
A master’s degree in archaeology is enough for most positions, but a Ph.D. can open up even more career options. With Ph.D., you can work as a college professor or a museum curator. A Ph.D. also allows you to take on more advanced leadership roles on international projects.
Before you get can get a job as an archaeologist, you will need to get some work experience beyond the field research conducted in their graduate program. Getting an internship at a museum or historical society will satisfy most requirements.
There are currently 6,100 archaeologists in the United States, with 380 new archaeologist job openings created each year.
Archaeologist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Archaeologist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most archaeologists make between $41,100 – $74,100 per year, or $19.77 – $35.62 per hour.