Archaeology Careers Advice

Dear archaeologists:

I am writing on behalf of my fourteen-year-old daughter. Her goal for several years now has been to become an archaeologist when she grows up. At her middle school the students each have to attend one semester of a career-planning course and during her time in this course, her instructor has tried on many occasions to dissuade her from this profession.

I suggested that in order to get a better idea of what this career path would entail, perhaps she should form up some questions and I would search online for archaeologists to email the questions to as she does not have an email account.

I realize you are likely very busy, but if you could take the time to answer the below questions, we would appreciate it.

Tiffany Christman & Alannah

1. What courses in school do you think best prepared you for your job?
2. What do you do primarily on the job, dig or read, or clean and preserve, etc.?
3. Is your job stable and secure?
4. What places have you gotten to visit in your job?
5. Do you think there is a need for more archaeologists in the world?
6. What field of archaeology do you specialize in?
7. What advice would you give me on getting into the field?
8. How many years of college did you need to get into a job in archaeology?
9. How many languages do you speak or read and which?
10. Do you like your field?

Hi Alannah, thanks for your message.

What fantastic questions – I can see you’ve thought very carefully about this.

Sorry to hear about the discouragement at school, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard a tale like yours. My friend Trish also grew up wanting to be an archaeologist, and she tells a great story about the careers advice she was given at her convent school. When it came to applying for university, she new exactly what she wanted to study, and all she needed was a signature from her careers advisor at the bottom of her form. Taking a deep breath, she knocked at the office door, and then entered through a thick cloud of acrid blue smoke. Sister Monica – the behemoth of nuns – otherwise known as ‘Fagash’ on account of her love of Boss Hog Cee-Gars, took one look at the form then threw it back over the desk.

‘Archaeology? That’s no job for a lady!’ spluttlered Fagash. ‘You can be a teacher,’ she scowled, and with that she wrote out a brand new form sealing Trish’s fate forever…

Only Trish had different ideas, and later that night she tiptoed back into the office – an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object – and switched the form back to her original. Prising open the envelope, making certain not to smudge the hastily forged signature, she placed it into the middle of the pile, and hoped upon hope that no one would notice before the mornings post was collected.

Trish is now a highly sought after site director, and one of the best archaeologists I know.

So this tale has two morals. The first: archaeology is quite definitely a job for a lady – it’s a very fair work place that women can succeed in, and that can’t be said for every kind of job. And the second: never ever listen to careers advice from a careers advisor. I read recently that when Stephen Fry’s careers advisor asked him what he wanted to be, he simply replied ‘careers advisor’. With all due respect to your teacher, perhaps he or she should reflect on their own brilliantly realised ambition before discouraging you from yours.

1. What courses in school do you think best prepared you for your job?
My school, like most others in the UK, encouraged me to specialise from an early age by choosing examination subjects that I excelled at. That’s why most archaeologists come from either an arts or a science background, and many continue to specialise further into their careers. This is a problem, because archaeology bridges both the sciences and the humanities, and without a good grounding in both areas you will find it difficult to fully grasp the insights of all your colleagues.

And that brings me to another crucial facet of archaeology: everything we do is teamwork, so perhaps try and seek out activities beyond the classroom that help you work with people. Sports, outdoor pursuits, pretty much anything that helps you learn how to deal with difficult people and realise when you are being difficult yourself.

2. What do you do primarily on the job, dig or read, or clean and preserve, etc?
There are basically three different careers strands in archaeology and they can be distinguished and simplified by their core focus on (a) excavation – to rescue the remains of the past before they are damaged or deteriorate; (b) research – to understand and explain our place in the world and how things came to be; and (c) enjoyment – to delight and entertain as many people as possible.

Development-led archaeologists (a) excavate the majority of sites and are paid by developers who need planning permission. Academic archaeologists (b) mostly undertake research and teach students – they are paid by universities and grant funds. Public archaeologists (c) manage museum collections or popularise archaeology through the media, and can be paid by both private companies and public institutions. Although there is an overlap between all these three careers strands, its important to remember that there are many different types of archaeologist. All of them undertake necessary and important work, but not all of them dig holes in the ground.

I do dig holes though! I am a Site Director, and I work for a commercial company excavating some of the largest sites in the world in advance of new motorways, railways, and pretty much any type of development. I have to plan and cost the project, lead the excavation team, manage the post-excavation analysis then write this up into a report for the developer, and publish it in a research journal for other archaeologists. I also have to present my findings to the public – sometimes on TV or radio, or in popular magazines or books. So although I actually only get paid for doing (a) – I strongly believe that a fully rounded archaeologist needs to be accomplished in all three strands.

3. Is your job stable and secure?
I work in the least stable sector of the profession –development-led archaeology. We are paid by private developers to help them get planning permission by thoroughly investigating the land they went to build on. With so little money about for development the market for archaeological services has pretty much collapsed, and over half the archaeologists I know have lost their jobs. This is very sad; it has caused great personal hardship and if they end up leaving the profession entirely we will all loose their skills and knowledge. That sounds very bleak, and I do hope it doesn’t put you off too much. The important thing is to have a positive outlook, think creatively and treat all set backs as a challenge. I have had a permanent contract for the last 8 years, and short of a complete economic failure I can’t see any reason why that would change in the next 30 years.

4. What places have you gotten to visit in your job?
I have excavated all over the UK and Ireland, and been lucky to find some amazing sites that have led to invitations to speak at conferences all over the world. It’s fascinating to meet with other archaeologists who are working on similar problems, but because of the history and culture of their own county, often come up with radically different solutions and answers. I really like the idea of working abroad, excavating or directing, and I’m currently trying to figure out a way to make this happen!

5. Do you think there is a need for more archaeologists in the world?
Hahaha! Out of your ten questions, this is by far the most difficult! Archaeology seems like a shameless luxury when there are people in our own cities who are starving. Lets face it, this world has far greater problems to solve than the Mesolithic – Neolithic transition. Our detractors often present archaeology as an either/or question – which makes no sense to me. There are as many different ways to live a life as there are people in the world (6.7 billion at the last count). What harm is it that an infinitesimal number of them try to give the rest some perspective by finding out where we’ve come from? The world is run by leaders who are compelled to take short-term decisions, because the people voting for them want short-term solutions. Perhaps if there were more archaeologists in the world, or at least more people with the depth of an archaeological perspective, it would be a different story.

6. What field of archaeology do you specialize in?
I am a field archaeologist and site director. My specialism is to get the excavated material out of the ground, or to advise developers how to minimise their impact on buried archaeology. To take a medical analogy, this is more akin to a GP than a hospital consultant, but as well as being a generalist, I have to also specialise and become an expert in the site I am digging at that particular moment. I have become very interested in burial and funerary ritual, and wetland archaeology, as a result of digging many of these types of site.

7. What advice would you give me on getting into the field?
This reminds me of the Carnegie Hall joke about a New Yorker asked for directions.
“Pardon me sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Practice, practice, practice.” he replied.

And then turn left at the lights.

Except in archaeology it would be volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Whenever and wherever you can. Past Horizons has some great pointers on this, but don’t be afraid to try your local museum and other local archaeologists.

8. How many years of college did you need to get into a job in archaeology?
It would be wrong to think that you need a degree to be a good archaeologist. Some of the best diggers I know have no degrees – but it is much harder to get into archaeology without a degree, and it’s also harder to move up the ranks without formal training. I did a three-year degree, and once I had some good experience, I went back to university to do a Masters. Although I work full time, I’m not through with college yet and I’m working towards a PhD.

9. How many languages do you speak or read and which?
I know an archaeologist who can toast your health in 36 different languages, though he can barely speak any of them, especially after he’s done with all that toasting. The most important thing in archaeology is that you learn how to express yourself, and being able to write succinctly and clearly is particularly important. English is enough to get by, but if you want to have responsibility for projects abroad it is essential that you are fluent in their language and culture.

10. Do you like your field?
The thing about fields is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was young, and if I had I’d certainly have tried harder at school. Before I found archaeology I did every crap job you can imagine (and a bunch you couldn’t possibly imagine). I was an Umpa Lumpa at a chocolate factory, I tested slippers for Marks and Spencer’s (using my own invention – the comfortability index) and I dug holes for the water board. I know exactly how green the grass is on the other side of the fence, and the thought of it makes me shudder.

Don’t underestimate how lucky you are; to start out with such a strong sense of purpose is a real gift. People spend their entire lives wondering what they want to be when they grow up. In some ways I wonder whether archaeology chooses you, rather than the other way round! Either way, you’ve done the hard bit – you know where you want to be. All you’ve got to do now is work out how to get there. I wish you all the best with that, and hope that this has been some help.

Follow other archaeologists careers advice on Bajrfed Or if you are an archaeologist, why not leave your own answers below…?


  1. sbarret says:

    >I'm not an archaeologist, but like this young woman, I was dissuaded from entering the archaeology field by well-meaning, but essentially wrong adults.

    I'm now in my mid 40's and going back to school part time to remedy all this. I may never manage a career out of archaeology, but I'll get the education in the field I wanted to get, back in the dim dawn of time 😉

    Moral of the story – It's your future and career, not the 'career advisor's. So only you can determine if you are willing to be a part-time slipper tester living off raman noodles in between archaeology contracts.

    (and fwiw, there are plenty of fancy marketing managers now living off raman noodles. No career is immune to ups and downs in employment options).

  2. Anthroslug says:


    If I can provide a perspective as a development-led archaeologist from the other side of the Atlantic, I would add one thing to the excellent advice already given. It would be a good idea to find out what the laws and regulations governing archaeology in the area in which this young lady would like to work. Here in the United States, we have to operate within a strange and often conflicting web of federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Knowing that before going in saved me alot of heart ache and frustration (I have seen many gifted colleagues leave the field because of their frustration with the regulatory framework). It's not romantic, but it's the world that we inhabit.

    I don't know if this would have any bearing to my European colleagues, but when I encounter students here who wish to become archaeologists, I always advise them to spend a few years in another field after graduation. They may find that better-paying jobs are also more enjoyable. If, after that, they still wish to be archaeologists, then I do all I can to help them out.

  3. Marcy Welch says:

    >I am an archaeologist and have been for 10 years. Here are MY answers-
    1. What courses in school do you think best prepared you for your job?
    None of them. No offense to my teachers, but what you learn in school is the academic side of archaeology, which is the exact opposite of CRM. The most important thing to learn-how to use a compass.

    2. What do you do primarily on the job, dig or read, or clean and preserve, etc.?
    I have done all of these things. I have done work in a museum where I read for two weeks before I could even touch an artifact. I have spent a lot of time digging, and I have done some (very little) preservation. I currently work in a lab and do artifact analysis which is by far my favorite thing.

    3. Is your job stable and secure?
    No one's job is stable and secure in the world we live in right now. Typically, if you find a good firm and fit in with the people you work with, you can find a good reliable source of income in this field. BUT, in the last year a lot of people I know in this field have been laid off. It's really hit or miss.

    4. What places have you gotten to visit in your job?
    I have worked in America. I have not been overseas for work at all. I have worked all over the southeast and done some work in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I have been lucky, I have seen some really great sites and done some very cool work.

    5. Do you think there is a need for more archaeologists in the world?
    Huh, I guess so. We need a few reliable, intelligent hard working people to join our ranks!!!

    6. What field of archaeology do you specialize in?
    I specialize in material culture in slave life. I am very interested in Ante-Bellum south.

    7. What advice would you give me on getting into the field?
    Make sure you know how to use a compass. Always be ready to travel. Don't be afraid of snakes, spiders or flying stinging insects!! Learn the reputation of each and every company you apply to-there are companies out there that are wonderful, and there are companies out there with bad reputations.

    8. How many years of college did you need to get into a job in archaeology?
    4 years. I recommend getting an MA, you will have a higher salary. I do think that a few years in the field before getting a Master's is good for someone who wants to rise through the ranks. It is important to have a good grasp on methods in field work.

    9. How many languages do you speak or read and which?
    I speak English, some Spanish and I can read and write Arabic.

    10. Do you like your field?
    I love it. There is never a dull moment when it comes to doing this sort of work. It is a different adventure everyday, even though I work in the lab. It is really fun.

  4. Archaeogirl says:

    >Hi there!

    Have to apologise for the long delay in getting back to your post on my blog! I have indeed come across your blog before and its included in my dissertation. 😀

    Glad to see your helping encourage youngsters into the subject. If you still need those questions answered just drop me a line and I'd be happy to help.


  5. protogere says:

    >I want to first thank Brendon for all of his help in garnering answers for my daughter, Alannah. After the Q&A in the Current Archaeology issue, we've received an abundance of responses, as well as requests from other would be archaeologists wanting to know what we've heard.
    So I thought I would condense some of the answers we have gotten in response here and then I can just point everyone to your wonderful site. Most all of the answers have been very informative and I have selected some of the more informative ones to note below in multiple posts as there is a character limit per post.
    I am also excited to say we found a high school that offers an introductory course in archaeology and Alannah has enrolled for the course for her freshman year so that it is early enough to run away from the career if it isn't what she wants. Thank you again!

  6. protogere says:

    What courses in school do you think best prepared you for your job?
    *Prior to college, stay close to history and earth sciences. If there is a chance to take some geology, do so.
    *Prior to university, science and literature best prepared me for my job.
    * Study of history and geography but it is also important to be able to write well in English because archaeologist need to write up reports on their research and excavations for both public and academic readers
    * For my A-Levels I took History, Politics, English and Music. None of these were particularly relevant to archaeology, though obviously history goes some way towards it. You can do an A-Level in archaeology, but yuo would probably have to go to a 6th form college which offers more variety than a 6th form attached to a school. As far as I could gather from my colleagues who did do Archaeology A-Level, it was an interesting course, but not remotely necessary for doing an archaeology degree.
    * If it was one subject it was English it is essential for good communication what ever you do; maths, although I was terrible at it, is also important as one of those basic ways of understanding the world what ever you do. History, Geography and – if you can study it at A Level – Archaeology are all useful in getting a grounding in themes and demonstrating interest. In learning it is very important to follow your passion.
    * History, English and French.
    * Geography, English, History, but now subjects such as Science and Computing
    * Obviously an interest in history is good, but if you think you might want to specialise later, possibly in studying artefacts of wood/iron/ fabric/bone/ceramics etc or DNA , or radiocarbon dating, then science subjects such as physics or chemistry are even better. One of the most important skills is the ability to think in 3D as much sitework involves trying to build the greater picture from a small keyhole of evidence. If you are looking at a section you have just cut through a feature you have to be able to imagine/interpret what level it was made from and what direction it continues in, beyond the part you can see. Can you do 3D puzzles?
    * My boss has said that he doesn't always look for the letters after someone's name and that enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard are often more important. (response from reader of CA)
    * School subjects cannot really be answered unless we know what aspects of archaeology you may want to pursue. Digging holes is a small part of the subject. But based on my own background (altho school for me was something that finished in the early 1960s) I'd say that subjects that were important to me were technical drawing, some maths and English. The reasons being that I work with aerial photographs (making maps) and drawing plays a significant part in that. English was my worst subject at school but I've learned since by reading a lot and I've written papers and books and also edit a newsletter for the aerial group. Whatever part of archaeology you chose, there's bound to be some writing involved. Maths comes into surveying, measuring, and working out if you've got enough money for a pint that night (ok, perhaps not at 14). Added to that, I'd recommend becoming as computer literate as possible. I now seem to spend most of my life in front of one. And learn to type with all fingers – I'm amazed that that is not part of standard education yet.
    * It is important to see that it is not a single subject: there are field archaeologists (diggers), museum people, scientific specialists in laboratories, and teachers of various sorts. Each has a separate career structure, and a different entry point. For the scientists, knowledge of generally zoology sometimes physics and chemistry, and a good degree in them is needed. Then attachment to one of the forensic labs. I would guess that there are fewer than 24 places per annum, and it is probably necessary to do a science degree and then an archaeology subject (as MA or similar).

  7. protogere says:

    What do you do primarily on the job, dig or read, or clean and preserve, etc.?
    *What you do usually depends on your level of engagement. I spend a lot of time trouble shooting and developing partnerships with others to preserve sites and do research. I also taught 4 field schools this year so I do get my hands dirty. Research is also an important part of what I do and I present 3-4 papers per annum at professional meetings. (from a State Archaeologist for Virginia, USA)
    *For the most part, I conduct archaeological training events for state agencies such as the Park Service, Division of Forestry, and Fish and Wildlife Conservation. (from a State Archaeologist for Florida, USA)
    * I spend a lot of time in the office managing budgets, organizing work that needs to be done, ensuring that supplies are adequate, analyzing artifacts, managing our collections of artifacts and help other researchers get access to them, reading other peoples investigation reports, writing investigation reports and sometimes I go out and find or excavate archaeological sites.(from a State Archaeologist for Kansas, USA)
    * Because I am a museum archaeologist, our primary focus is on the portable heritage and contexts of finds in the landscape. (from Museum Antiquities Keeper, Ireland)
    * I specialise in museum archaeology, which is the curation of archaeological collections for the benefit of society. Curation encompasses research, documentation, interpretation and acquisition and those headings mean finding out about objects and what they mean, explaining this to various audiences, putting objects on display and otherwise making them accessible and understandable to arrange of audiences and visitors, making sure they are accessible through accurately recording what they are and where they are, and taking things in primarily from field excavations but also via the Treasure Trove system and from casual enquiries. (from a reader of CA)
    *I spent my holidays working as a pot-washer and archive assistant. It was mucky work, but the pay was OK… This involved a lot of cleaning of finds, processing environmental samples, sorting out old files etc When I left University, I actually bypassed the digging step (something which I slightly regret), and went straight into writing full site reports and publication reports for journals. Now I am back at University and studying for a PhD, so have my head very firmly in lots of books, and am doing my own research. (from a student in archaeology in Exeter, UK)
    * I do some digging but I work on the archiving of our records at the moment. (from a museum archaeologist in Ireland)
    * As Business Development Director my job is mainly dealing with clients, senior staff, winning work and expanding the business (from a private archaeology company, UK)
    * As I went into archaeology in my 50s I didn't get the opportunity to specialise. I do commercial excavation and some geophysics surveying (and writing up the fieldwork) on a self employed basis. (from private contracted archaeologist, UK)

  8. protogere says:

    Is your job stable and secure?
    *In a normal economy, my job would be stable and secure. As secure as anyone's.
    *I would say my job is stable and somewhat secure because our agency in grant funded. Jobs in the privates sector seem to be a little less stable and secure over the last couple of years as a result of the economy.
    * Yes, I am a government employee with a permanent job
    * Obviously the recent recession has had an impact on archaeology. The vast majority of archaeological work in this country happens before building is allowed to take place on a site (this is part of government legislation called PPG16), so with an almost complete halt to building and development in the country, the stability of a career in archaeology definitely took a turn for the worse. Many commercial units had to fold, and most at least had to make redundancies. Having said this, our unit weathered the storm, and are now busy again. With a pick up in the economy building and development have restarted and archaeological services are in demand once more. So, for the vast majority of the time the job is stable. One down side to digging jobs in archaeology is that many are temporary, and remain so for about a year, with three month contracts being offered and then renewed. In a way this is good, as it means that newly qualified archaeologists can often get lots of experience with lots of different units in different parts of the country. Usually if you stay with a unit for a while they will make your contract a permanent one. Of course another option would be to take an academic path, as I have. I won funding for my PhD, which completely covers my learning and living for the next three years, so I feel very stable and secure! Also, academic work (becoming a lecturer or something like that) is generally more stable than fieldwork, and also pays a HUGE amount more.
    * My job is but there is severe unemployment in archaeology at the moment.
    * No, it is not secure, unless you are a lecturer on a contract or are employed by a museum in the public sector. I have been offered little work in the past 6 months, as most excavation work relies on building development planning procedures and there is a recession! In cases where the County Archaeologist suspectsthe development work might disturb archaeologically relevant material, a 'condition' will be attached to the planning permission, stating one of several possible levels of archaeological investigation be carried out. This has of course to be paid for , thus is known as commercial archaeology, (as opposed to university or government funded archaeological research). Most jobs are short term, ie just for the length of the contract be it a gas pipeline, quarry area, a housing estate or a home extension.
    * even in museums the jobs are not secure, it is mainly reliant on Heritage Lottery FUnding, which is hard to get and it is still poorly paid. Consequently I left and am now a Primary Teacher who has a great interest in Archaeology.

  9. protogere says:

    What places have you gotten to visit in your job?
    *In previous work as a National Forest Service archaeologist, I was responsible for cultural resoruces on 5 National Forests in 4 states (4 million acres).
    *I have been fortunate enough to travel and work all over the world ( England , Sweden , & Greece ), as well as in the USA ( Florida , Alaska , Utah , & Mississippi ); but my job is limited to places in Florida .
    * Most countries in Western Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, the United States – usually because of loan exhibitions from the National Museum of Ireland to other major museums around the world
    * Sites in Ireland, England, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey, Greece.
    * Are you looking for a travel agent or a career?

  10. protogere says:

    Do you think there is a need for more archaeologists in the world?
    *There is certainly a need for more archaeologists in the USA. Section 106 of the National Histroic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that all federal agencies consider historic values in their projects. This is called Cultural Resource Management and this is where most archaeologists work. The jobs are in looking for sites, evaluating / excavating, and preserving sites. There are 40,000 recorded archaeological resources in VA and that is increasing each year.
    *I am not sure if the world currently needs more archaeologists… unfortunately, there are currently more archaeologists than there are jobs.
    *There probably are more archeologists than jobs for them.
    *Yes there is always a need for archaeologists to document and investigate sites and monuments especially in the face of industrial activity, building and development work
    * This is a difficult one. Every year a new wave of archaeology graduates enter the world of work, but to be honest, very few will actually go into Archaeology. Of my group of friends from Uni, only 3 of us have ended up doing it. Others went into a wide range of careers (which proves that doing an archaeology degree is worthwhile, even if you decide that as a career it isn't for you). I think there's always a need for people who want to do archaeology.
    * One aspect of the definition of an advanced society is an appreciation and interest in the past, so I firmly believe we need archaeologists. In terms of more, I suspect universities will be churning out less rather than more, but if public funded archaeology and commercial development continue then there will be a need for more.
    * There is a need for better quality fieldworkers – as many qualified and clever people soon get tired of the hard graft and poor conditions involved in field work and move on to specialisms. Even if you intend to specialise. it is essential for you to have a broad experience of fieldwork, as you have to relate your research to ground-condtions and understand the contexts of the sites involved.
    * The world definitely needs more archaeologists so that as a society we can more fully engage with and protect the past and seek to understand how it influences the present and the future. At a practical level there is far more archaeology to do than there are archaeologists to do it – the problem is a general lack of resources targeted at addressing the miss-match. Making an active choice to pursue such a career also says to society that the past is something that should be valued.

  11. protogere says:

    What field of archaeology do you specialize in?
    *I am a "stones and bones" man. I do lithic analyses on stone tools and analyse animal bones from archaeological sites.
    *I specialize in the study of human and animal skeletal remains (from archaeology sites).
    * I specialise in Zooarchaeology (the study of animal bones), and in Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology in Wessex and East Anglia.
    * Early Christian and Viking Age Ireland.
    * I am a generalist but my five years digging was spent in central London excavating Roman buildings, burials and waterfronts.

  12. protogere says:

    What advice would you give me on getting into the field?
    *As far as getting into the field, it should be a passion, not just a job. You will never get rich in archaeology so the benefits will have to be dealing with the resources. You can make a living but if you're looking for a 9 to 5 job from which you can walk away, archaeology is not the place for you.
    *The best place to start in my opinion (perhaps in addition to joining any local archaeological or historical societies) is the pursuit of a graduate degree (Masters or higher) in the area of archaeology that most interests you.
    * Get experience through a field school or volunteering at a lab. Read current articles and books. Join an amateur society
    * Try to get a little experience if you can – even by visiting a local museum’s education programmes or maybe excavations that could have public open days ( you might need to be a little older to volunteer )
    * Get your GCSE's and A-Levels in subjects that interest you. Do an Archaeology degree at a good uni, and get work experience whenever you can. It is crucial. Volunteer at local digs, get paid holiday work doing pot-washing. Do as much as you can to make you stand out from the other people who will be looking for work at the same time as you.
    * Join local archaeological society and get to know archaeologists and what they do. There are many types of archaeologist who specialised in different fields.
    * get out there and join whatever local archaeology societies you can. The Council for British Archaeology has a Young Archaeologists Group, and most societies are happy to have younger members join them. Go to meetings and meet people. Archaeology is still a relatively small world and many archaeologists know each other personally or have useful ideas and contacts. When you are older, go to conferences and on training digs (I think you have to be 16, but you'll need to check this.) If you are enthusiastic and willing to learn, you will soon be noticed, you will soon make friends, and hopefully some of them will know other useful people!

  13. protogere says:

    How many years of college did you need to get into a job in archaeology?
    *College: a 4 year degree in anthropology will get you on a crew. You will get to dig holes but not much beyond. In order to direct a crew and/or manage a project, one needs a Master degree (another 2 years or so). This qualifies for higher levels in the 106 process. A PhD is nice but is more for academics than the real work. (USA response)
    *My current job required a Bachelor and Masters Degree, which typically requires about 6 years. (USA response)
    *A few years of experience in the field and the lab. At least a bachelor's degree, a Master's degree if you want a lifelong career, a PhD if you want to teach at a University. (USA response)
    * Three years for a first degree and two more years writing a thesis for a Master’s degree (UK response)
    * Most archaeologists have done a three year BA/BSc, and a good number 1-2 year MA/MScs or 2-5 year Phds, however a first degree and some experience is often enough, as was the case with me. University education does not necessarily teach how to be an archaeologist, more studying archaeology (UK Response)
    * None – went straight into digging but that was 1972 – can't do that now – need degree in related discipline
    * The real question is how many universities teach archaeology in a way that is likely to get you a job afterwards. The answer is not many as they are mainly academics training more academics. There are some practical places tho.

  14. protogere says:

    How many languages do you speak or read and which?
    *English when I am lucky.
    *Latin is useful for academic work of all sorts
    *I can read/speak in two languages Spanish and English, but I know the basics of Swedish and Greek from working overseas.
    * I speak Irish and English fluently, moderate level of competency in written and spoken French and German and some Danish ( more reading knowledge than spoken)
    * No archaeologists I know speak other languages.

  15. protogere says:

    Do you like your field?
    *Absolutely, I always wanted to be an archaeologist, and since achieving that as an adult, I can’t imagine doing anything different!
    * The main attraction is the variety in the work, both indoors and outdoors, practical and academic
    * I love it. I don't think you can be an archaeologist if you don't love it, as there are hardships. The pay tends to be fairly low, at least to start with, and it can be mucky, cold and miserable, but I wouldn't change it for the world!
    * I went in to archaeology because of an interest and to work outdoors – I now only visit sites once or twice a month. However I do enjoy my current role of helping lead and guide an expanding business. On a general point commercial archaeology in England is run like any other business, and most archaeologists are employed in that sector. Key in progression, as in most careers, though is hard work, commitment, common sense, good people skills, good verbal, written and analytical skills, an active and enquiring mind and a thirst to learn. My father was not too keen on me becoming an archaeologist but I am very glad I followed my chosen path. To be able to enjoy and enthuse about the work you do, and get paid, really is a great.
    * I love my job! Believe me – to put up with the conditions, weather, hours etc you have to love it or you wouldn't do it. TV programmes give the impression that everything is free and a specialist magically comes in and 'reconstructs' the artefact and gives its histery and dating. In fact all this extertise is very expensive and often unavailable and doesn't happen until months after the excavation so the site worker doesn't hear the outcome. I am not trying to put you off , but Time Team is extremely misleading.
    * I love my job and wouldn't change it for anything.There can be some disappointment as we don't always find archaeology on every site but when you do find something it is an amazing feeling.Also you must be prepared to work outside in all weathers.If a developer is paying you and you have a time limit to stick to you must do it whether it is raining,snowing or red hot sunshine! My advice is to work hard and enjoy archaeology as its a great privilege to uncover the past 1st hand.Gain as much fieldwork experience as possible as this is very attractive to employers.I do not mean to say that doing a masters or any other course will not get you anywhere as it most probably will,but I have a 2:1 in archaeology and now have a brilliant job that I love.
    * It is low paid, very physical and very hard on the bones; many archaeologists develop arthritis. Entry level into this job is degree. If your daughter has not been on any digs, perhaps you should looking at getting her onto a training dig in your area this summer so she has an idea what field archaeology is all about.

  16. Anonymous says:

    >Some people discouraged my going into archaeology, but my history teachers were really supportive, and I am currently studying archaeology and loving it.

    1. What courses in school do you think best prepared you for your job?
    I didn't have any experience at all with archaeology before I started my university degree. I did history at A-levels, which is relevant to archaeology. I would recommend a balance of science and humanities subjects.
    However I believe the most important thing is just that you are able to be analytical, think critically, and most important of all, be able to work hard.

    2. What do you do primarily on the job, dig or read, or clean and preserve, etc.?
    It would depend very much on what you would decide to specialise in in archaeology. It also depends on the time of year. Personally, my goal is to go into research, so I do a lot of reading and studying. This easter I'm going to be helping out at the university, looking at pollen samples so I can get some more experience in archaeological science. In the summer I go on digs where we do a lot of digging, recording, and take turns washing finds, and environmental samples. Also, I'm very interesting in working with the public, so I also volunteer at a lot of open-air museums.

    3. Is your job stable and secure?
    Archaeology is not a stable job. As shown above, your doing different things all the time, you might be working on a different dig every summer. Work always depends on funding, and if a dig is only funded for example three seasons, you'll only work for three seasons. However personally I believe thats what makes the job so amazing and fun. A lot of archaeologists also have permanent contacts.

    4. What places have you gotten to visit in your job?
    Since I'm still very new to archaeology, I've only worked in various places in England, Scotland and Denmark. I partly picked this job because it gives me the opportunity to travel.

    5. Do you think there is a need for more archaeologists in the world?
    I always shamelessly encourage people to do archaeology, but to be honest,there are more archaeologists than there are archaeology jobs. However, I believe that the skills that you learn as an archaeologist are very transferable.

    6. What field of archaeology do you specialize in?
    I'm still not particularly specialised, though I am moving towards specialising in artefacts, and public archaeology.

    7. What advice would you give me on getting into the field?
    Do an archaeology degree at university, and during your holidays, try to do as much volunteer work as possible at digs and museums.

    8. How many years of college did you need to get into a job in archaeology?
    Technically you don't need a degree in archaeology to do archaeology. If you have enough work experience, thats all you need. However I am currently doing a three-year degree at university in England.

    9. How many languages do you speak or read and which?
    Personally I speak and read both English and Danish, because my family is from Denmark, and I've lived in England half my life.
    I did one year of ancient Greek at university, because I felt it would be useful to my career. It would have been if it wasn't because I was so awful at learning languages, I got a good grade, but I wasn't confident enough to continue with it. Extra languages are not necessary to doing archaeology, though if you ant to specialise in ancient Greek or Roman archaeology, I would recommend
    taking ancient Greek or Latin.

    10. Do you like your field?
    I absolutely love archaeology, I'm really passionate about it, and will happily talk to anyone about it if they'll listen. That is partly why I'm interested in public archaeology because I love giving tours, and talking to people about what I do, and the archaeology of the sites that I work on. I love archaeology especially because you get to do so many things. Its a field that uses methods from so many different disciplines.

  17. Mike Scott says:

    Your comment about career advisers was as bad as the career advisers comment about archeologists….just a thought!

  18. maria says:

    I am in year 11 and would like to pursue archaeology as a career in the future. I have never visited a site, and living in Australia there are not many in my area. My knowledge on the topic is quite limited and unlike many other I did not consider archaeology as a career choice, nor did i even no it was to start with. Yet, despite this i have always had an intense interest in the Aztecs and Ancient civilizations; just history in general. I have visited unis looking for courses and believe I have chosen what I want to do for the rest of my life! Is archaeology a sensible career choice, or one I have based upon a lack of knowledge/time.

  19. Hi Maria,

    Thanks very much for your message!

    Well, I was quite a lot older than you when I first decided that I wanted to be an archaeologist, but just like you, I had VERY limited knowledge on the subject before I made the choice to study the topic at university.

    Apart from reading the insightful reply’s to Alana’s even more insightful questions above, I’d recommend going to your local library and borrowing an introductory book on archaeology. That’s exactly what I did. Maybe Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn’s book ‘Archaeology’ would be a good place to start.

    Whether you take this course or not, good luck with all you’re future adventures (and does it feel good to know that on the otherside of the world in Florida there’s a girl your age thinking exactly the same thing! Who knows, one day you may even end up digging together!).


  20. Nicole says:

    Never give up and never let someone else tell you what you should aspire to do or to be. I am 39 years old and in my 2nd year of an Ancient History degree. I have wanted to be an Historian/Archaeologist since I was a very small child, however, when I was 17 years old I fell pregnant and spent the next 21 years being a Mum. I am now striving for my life long dreams to come true, though later than I planned.
    For 21 years I dreamed and hoped, held down crap jobs to make do, but NEVER gave up hope.
    Let your child be who SHE wants to be. Let her make her mark on this world. Life will have many surprises for her, may they be coin hordes and ancient inscriptions and not unexpected mishaps that hold her from her destiny.
    No matter what she decides to do if she is happy, content and doing what she finds rewarding, how can that be wrong?

  21. Mrinalini says:

    I am currently 15 and I plan to take archeology as my career. My parents say that if I am able to find out the subjects I might need, they might think of it. What would I need to do? And also a way to convince them to let me do it because I am a girl, they say it’s not right for me.

  22. Hi Mrinalini – it sounds like you have exactly the same back story as Alana. I’d work through all the answers and comments fellow archaeologists were kind enough to leave here. It’s hard to convince parents and teachers sometimes, especially when they believe they have our best interests at heart. Good luck with your studies, and maybe one day I’ll see you on site!

    All the best,


  23. Aditya says:

    I’m an Indian native, just about to complete class X, and wanted to choose Archaeology as my career. I want some help regarding it, i mean about the qualification, internships. I read the whole thing above and I’m slightly confused.

  24. Aish says:

    Hi. I’m really interested in becoming an archaeologist and I’m wondering about insects. If you are afraid or bothered by insects will that affect you. I know it’s probably a stupid question but I would like to know for sure. Thanks!

  25. deekshitha says:

    Hi, i had completed my 10th standard now i don’t know which group to take but i am very interested in archaeology from my childhood . Everyone says it’s not a good option for secured and stable career are they correct? But i like it very much .PLEASE ANYONE REPLY

  26. William Strange says:

    I am a graduate from Florida State University and I have 5 months worth of experience and I am trying to get into the field, but most jobs out there want you to have at least a years worth of experience. I am trying to gain that 7 more months but I work full time at Home Depot and have bills to pay, so I am unable to leave for 7 months at a time. I really want to start my career as an archaeologists, but no matter how many applications I send out I am always told that I don’t have enough experience, so I am getting a bit discouraged that I will ever be able to start my career and full fill my dream of becoming an archaeologists. I love archaeology but right now I am lost as to what I can do, all I really need is for someone to give me a chance to be able to gain that 7 months worth of experience so that I can then finally get my career that I spent 4 years at Florida State University getting my degree and a life time worth of dreaming of becoming an archaeologists started. I would be most grateful for any and all help you can give me. Thank You.

  27. Rahmam Jorji says:

    I have Honors & Master in Archaeology from Social Science Faculty of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. Within many limitations, I got scope working as a Research Asst. & took part in several sessions of Wari-Bateshwar Excavation Project. Sorry to say, yet in the whole world, archaeology has the narrowest scope as a carrier. In my country, it has not a single scope. We the post-graduates desparately looking after a job to survive. Every sector took us as ineligible. We are just like rubbish having top university degree. I lost my total enthusiasm that I had for Archaelogy. What if I have nothing for my guts but wandering for serious research. Lolz. Just being ridiculous in a Iron Fist business prone society where an archaeologist do not add a single value to monetary value!! Now, I am desperately looking for an MBA.

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