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What Do Archaeologists Do?
Archaeology is an area of study that focuses on the study of humans through material remains both recent and ancient. The study of archaeology provides a unique perspective on human development, culture, and society that helps to construct a way of thinking about previous generations. Specialists in the archaeology field help scientists of today understand previous generations by revealing:
- How people lived
- Where people lived
- When they lived
- Climate changes
- Cultural evolutions
- Origins of agriculture
- Social constructs
- Specialized skills of an era
- Migration patterns
- Genetic changes
Archaeologists study past cultures through remains, artifacts and records. Students pursuing an archaeology degree will learn to combine historical knowledge with evidence produced through excavation in order to support or disprove theories.
Students majoring in archaeology will develop a wide set of transferable core skills while in school. These skills will be utilized directly in work that applies to the archaeology industry or adjacent sectors. Skills archaeology majors can expect to enhance while in college include critical thinking, self-confidence, curiosity about others, empathy, persuasion, love for learning, problem solving, organization skills, and a health worldview.
How to Become an Archaeologist
The discrete steps you will need to take to become an archaeologist are laid out below. The five step process is compressed for clarity and may be rife with unforeseen challenges. Expect challenges and plan for variations in your plan as you work towards earning your archaeology degree from an accredited college.
Step 1 – Research Archaeology Schools
To begin, you will need to establish what colleges and universities fit your personal goals and professional aspirations. Write down important factors that a school must have along with important items that would be nice to have. Characteristics such as tenured staff, archaeology publications, strong alumni, and graduate degrees may be more important to you than a big library or campus overlooking the ocean. After establishing the list, utilize our proprietary matching to quickly find accredited archaeology schools.
Step 2 – Apply to an Archaeology College
Request admissions information from a number of schools and reduce your list to a handful of top universities offering archaeology. With all important factors of a college considered, you will pick schools to apply to using the common application and/or a school's application. Make sure you consciously include relevant work experience, memberships, and activities that support your unique attributes. Leverage your uniqueness to stand out from the other applicants in a hypercompetitive pool of students.
Step 3 – Attend Archaeology School
After selecting your college of choice, you make the transition and begin your journey as an archaeologist. Program length and curriculum required by each institution will vary. Generally you can expect a bachelor's degree to culminate in a degree in four years with a master's degree an additional two to three years.
Step 4 – Intern
Investing time in a qualifying archaeology internship program provide real-world experience. Internships allow students to marry practical, hands-on activities with academic knowledge. Additionally, an internship shows employers a high degree of motivation and passion in the field of archaeology.
Step 5 – Graduate, Find Employment, Upskill
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university with your archaeology degree, you can begin your quest to make an impact in the field. Establishing a mentality of a lifelong learner, will allow professionals to continue to upskill and remain curious as new information and technology helps the field of study evolve.
Why Major in Archaeology?
The reasons to study archaeology in college are varied from person to person and impossible to illuminate for every person. However, is list of common traits and benefits to students that study archaeology includes the following characteristics:
- Underlying structural and theoretical understanding of diverse groups
- Grasp of fundamental social constructs and social organizations
- Understanding of historical and cultural human links
- Respect of diverse cultures and experiences
- Ability to leverage social, biological, and behavioral research methods
- Attention to detail
- Integral laws, political influence, and processes involved in cultures around the globe
- Critical reasoning and analytical understanding of humans
- Robust written and oral communication skills
- Understanding of human diversity, commonalities, and capabilities
Student that earn a college degree in archaeology online or in class are equipped with the skills to launch a career in a variety of industries. Examples of careers for archaeology include: teaching archaeology, research organizations, social science organizations, public health organizations, historical organizations, international affairs, museums, and ethnic studies.
Educational Requirements in Archaeology
Archaeology is considered a branch of anthropology and it is rare to find an archaeology program offered as a stand-alone major at the bachelor's level. Archaeology degrees at the master's and PhD level are available and allow for more career opportunities. As students progress through an archaeology program they will choose an area of specialization; some students may choose to focus on a specific time period or culture while others may focus on a particular type of archaeology.
Additionally, students may be required to learn a second (and sometimes third) language, this especially true if a time period or culture becomes a student's focus for his or her master's or PhD in archaeology.
What Do Archaeologists Study?
The exact classes you will take while studying for an on-site or online archaeology degree program will vary by program and school and specific area of emphasis. Specializations within archaeology include:
- Prehistoric Archaeology
- Maritime Archaeology
- Art History
- Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Archaeology
- Biblical Archeology
- Urban Archaeology
- Underwater Archaeology
- Industrial Archaeology
Depending on the area of specialty, classes in an archeology program will vary from school to school. A swath of classes you may see in a course catalog for an archeology program may include: anthropology, genetics, world politics, diversity studies, history, philosophy, sociology, paleontology, cultural anthropology, evolution, linguistics, psychology, biology, human behavior, research methods, and urban studies.
Universities That Offer Archaeology Degrees
Dozens upon dozens of accredited colleges and universities offer archaeology degrees online and on-campus. For those interested, the quickest growing segment within higher education degrees has been online learning which is also known as distance learning programs. Benefits of earning a degree online include: cost savings, flexibility, access, accreditation, curriculum, and pace. All of these benefits, add value to students, colleges, and employers in real terms thus perpetuating the proliferation of programs nationwide.
To find the best archaeology degree program for you, it is important to understand your priorities and educational objectives. To create a working list of priorities, invest the time to read our books The Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process and Crush the Odds and Reducing the Cost of College. The combination of resources, tools, and data will help you immensely along your college research journey. With your goals and priorities established, you can simply request information from a number of accredited colleges and universities from across the country with a few clicks on this resource page or our matching tool to help you determine the best archaeology schools for you and your career.
Archaeologist Training Opportunities
Those wishing to pursue a career in archaeology should find archaeology schools that provide practical programs, such as working at dig sites or similar experiences, as most jobs in archaeology require a minimum amount of field experience. Positions for archaeologists are limited though expected to grow due to the requirement of construction sites to be surveyed prior to start of construction. Individuals with an archaeology bachelor degree are qualified to work at field sites.
Archaeologists who have good communication and writing skills and at least master's degree tend to have better prospects. A master's degree in archaeology allows for supervisory positions at sites while a PhD allows for work as a faculty member in colleges, universities, research facilities, or as a curator at a museum.
Careers options for students holding a degree in archaeology from an accredited college or university in the United States may include a number of pathways. Direct-hire opportunities include the following:
- Museum Curator
- Federal and State Government Agencies
- University or College Instructor
- Park Ranger
- Historic Sites
- Cultural Resource Management Organizations
- Archaeological Laboratory Technician
How Much Do Archaeologists Make?
The amount of money you will make as an archaeology will depend on work experience, degree type, job demand, job duties, geographic location, organization type, and hours worked. As such, it is important to understand a range of possible incomes as you think about a career in archaeology. The median annual income of an archaeologist is $63,190 which translates to $30.38 per hour. The top 10% of archaeologist make $99,590 and the bottom ten percent make $36,910 on an annual basis.
The Top Paying States for Archaeologist
- District of Columbia $92,200
- New York $90,340
- Pennsylvania $78,990
- Alaska $76,100
- Maryland $74,770
Top Employers of Archaeologist
- Research and Development Firms
- Scientific and Technical Consulting Firms
- Federal Government Agencies
- Architectural and Engineering Firms
- State Government Agencies
Those interested in a degree in archaeology may also wish to consider a degree in anthropology, geography, geology, history, or cartography. Collect admissions information from top ranked colleges and universities below to learn more about your educational opportunities in archaeology or any related field of study today.