How to Become an Archaeologist in 5 Steps

Archaeologists typically have at least a master's degree. Read more about the educational requirements for becoming an archaeologist, discover what you'd learn in an archaeology internship, and review the job outlook for this field. Learn more about what archaeologists do and what eras of ancient peoples they might study. Schools offering Social Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Archeologist?

An archeologist is a scientist who locates ancient human settlements, studies the artifacts left behind, and draws conclusions about the former inhabitants' daily lives, culture, economy, and social and political organization. Their work follows a sequence and starts with identifying potential new dig sites; organizing excavation work; recording facts about surface features, finding the exact location of unearthed artifacts; identifying and dating artifacts; comparing discoveries at a new site with those from existing sites; analyzing data to develop new hypotheses or contribute to existing theories; and writing papers documenting their research findings. Archeologists may also assess and offer preservation advice at sites undergoing development or resource extraction.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree qualifies you for entry-level research assistant positions. Bachelor's degree programs provide an introduction to what is currently known about prehistoric human society around the world and teaches you field research methods. Course topics may examine hunter-gatherer societies, urbanism, and the emergence of civilization in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Many programs aim for a multidisciplinary synthesis of anthropology, geography and history.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

Through an internship, you can gain experience in the field and develop relationships that will help your career long term. Some bachelor's degree programs include an internship in their curriculum. You could also arrange to join whatever projects a local museum, historical society or your archeology professors are planning or have underway.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

You will have access to better research or curatorial positions with a master's degree. Some programs are designed to prepare you for doctoral-level studies, while others help you pursue careers that don't require a Ph.D. Master's degree programs develop your technical skills in field research and deepen your theoretical knowledge in a specialized area of your choosing. Historical archeology, osteology, Eastern studies, mezo-American studies and geoarcheology are possible specializations. Most programs require you to write a thesis on an original topic.

Step 4: Find a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, your prospective employers include research firms, cultural resource management firms, museums and federal agencies ( Anthropologists and archeologists held approximately 5,800 jobs as of 2008. Employment is projected to rise 28% from 2008-2018, driven primarily by the need to assure that large infrastructure projects comply with federal regulations on the preservation of artifacts and sites that are considered historically significant.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Consider earning a doctorate. Holding a Ph.D. in Archeology qualifies you to lead the highest level field research projects or become a professor at a college or university. Although Ph.D. programs emphasize original research, the first two years are typically devoted to classroom study and the remaining three to researching, writing and defending a dissertation. Required courses might include statistics, quantitative analysis and anthropology.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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