Archaeologists are scientists who study ancient human settlements and artifacts left behind to determine the inhabitants’ culture, social organization, daily lives, economic and political organization. Archaeologists start their work by locating new dig sites and then planning excavation. The next steps include recording surface features, locating unearthed artifacts, identifying and dating new artifacts, and comparing features of new sites with those found in existing sites. Archaeologists then analyze data and document their findings. 

How to Become an Archaeologist


Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree

You need a college diploma to work as an archaeologist. Most archaeologists have studied anthropology but you can study related subjects such as history or geography. Related subjects expand your understanding of your preferred career path. You can work as a laboratory or field assistant with a bachelor’s degree and some work experience. However, you must study further to conduct personal research and lead research crews. Pursuing a master’s degree enables you to advance beyond positions at the entry-level.


Get a Master’s Degree or a PhD

Pursue a master’s degree or a PhD if you want to advance in archaeology. A master’s degree takes about 2 years including 4-6 weeks of field research. The fieldwork introduces you to the real life of an archaeologist. 

A PhD qualifies you for positions that require leadership skills and/or technical knowledge and positions in other countries. A PhD takes several years after completing a master’s degree and includes a dissertation. The program requires 12-30 months of field research on the dissertation topic.


Prepare for Hard Work

Employment opportunities for archaeologists and anthropologists are projected to increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022. However, the opportunities are still few and only 1400 new jobs are likely to be created in the next 10 years. 

Getting a full-time job after your degree will be difficult without work experience. Be willing to start with an entry-level position such as a contractor in a cultural resource management firm. You will earn hourly wages once you complete your tasks. You can find entry-level jobs online or through word-of-mouth.


Become a Specialist in One Field

Specializing in a field enables you to gain all relevant knowledge in that field and become a valuable asset. The ways to specialize in a field include conducting further research, learning from experts, and learning how to use specific tools in that field. The areas of specialization in archaeology include numismatics, osteology, lithics, etc. You may need to learn ancient languages used in your chosen area. For instance, learn Arabic, Demotic, Hieroglyphic, and Coptic if you want to become an Egyptologist. Learn Latin, Italian, and Ancient Greek to specialize in classical studies and Spanish if you want to work in South America.


Read Archaeology Magazines and Books

One major step on how to become an archaeologist is to read relevant materials. High-street newsagents sell many archaeology magazines. The magazines are a quick source of information on archaeology. You can read about people who are exploring new archaeological sites instead of reading a newspaper when commuting. Introductory books on archaeology are available online. You will learn the origin, basics, and practice of archaeology. The books are easy to purchase, cheap, and published in paperback.


Watch TV Shows and Videos on Archaeology

TV shows and inline videos on archaeology are readily available. If you are interested in studying archaeology further, start watching such shows and videos. Many rising archaeologists use them as an entry point. Start watching the videos and TV shows if you have not been watching any. You will learn to differentiate between valid and invalid claims and good and bad quality shows as you increase your knowledge in archaeology. The shows are good sources of ideas, introductory concepts, and central archaeological sites.


Listen to Experts in Archaeology

There are archaeological events, walks, talks, guides in different parts of the world almost every week. Most of the events are either free or very cheap. Check for talks in the history, anthropology and archaeology departments in your local university. Most universities hold weekly talks organized by visiting scholars and university staff. The talks target staff and students but visitors are allowed to attend after making prior arrangements. You can find information on such talks on departmental homepages. You will meet like-minded people and real archaeologists in such events.


Talk to Other Archaeologists

Archaeologists are friendly and love to share their knowledge with others. They like to help others get involved in the field. Look for archaeologists working in your area and ask for advice on how to become an archaeologist. If they cannot help, they will refer you to other people who can help you. You can search online for professionals at your local government archaeologist and archaeology society. Alternatively, you can seek help from the archaeology department in your local university.


Be Willing to Volunteer

The demand for archaeology jobs is higher than the supply. Successful archaeologists work as volunteers in addition to expanding their skills, training, and expertise. Volunteer jobs are excellent opportunities for networking, self-promotion, and publication. At early career stages, archaeologists volunteer in projects at archaeological sites. At later stages, archaeologists volunteer in editing journals and newsletters, organizing events, and working in national and local organisational committees. By volunteering, archaeologists create links and contact people who may employ them in the future.


Get the Required Archaeological Skills

The following skills are required to work in the field of archaeology:

Analytical skills: Archaeologists require knowledge in scientific data and methods that are used in scientific research. The professionals use scientific data and methods to analyze time, geographical locations, objects, and periods.

Critical thinking skills: These skills are necessary when drawing conclusions after researching, conducting laboratory experiments, and making archaeological observations.

Writing skills: One important tip on how to become an archaeologist is to improve your writing skills. Excellent writing skills are necessary when preparing research reports and publishing your observations and research findings.

Investigate skills: When working as an archaeologist, you should know how to combine your knowledge and research to piece clues together and solve missing historical aspects.


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