Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Graphic from Fagan's 2006 Archaeology Article.
This weekend I had the pleasure of answering the question, “How can I become an archaeologist?” for the 2,000th time.  I’m still excited to asnwer and on the drive home it hit me that a blog demystifying the professional process is long overdue.

First off, you need a field school.  This is where you learn the methods and techniques for excavating in the field. Plus digging long days in the sun covered in copious bug bites along with site drama will well prepare you well for a career in archaeology.

Yours truly showing students how to schnit at Princess Place.
There are several field schools here in northeast Florida.  University of Florida has two every summer, a  Prehistoric and a Historical field school.  The University of North Florida also operates an annual field school in our region.  Almost anyone can register to take a field school, but they can be expensive (room, board, tuition).  More than just an outdoor course, field schools are an initiation into the culture of archaeologists. You meet your cohorts for years to come, colleagues you’ll see at conferences and maybe depend on for a job in the future (heck, I met my husband at field school!).

A typical field school runs on average six to eight weeks during the summer.  You will learn how to schnit with a shovel, scrape with a trowel, and most importantly how to record a site through line drawings and photography. 

Still looking for a career in archaeology?

Do you need to go to college? Yes. The Secretary of the Interior standards for a field technician require a Bachelors degree in Anthropology or a related field.  Should you plan to go on from there? A Masters is a very good degree to have; it will allow you to supervise and serve as Principle Investigator on consulting projects as well as teach as an adjunct or at community colleges. For the debate on a Masters vs. a PhD I'll refer you to Brian Fagan's 2006 article, "So you want to be an archaeologist?"

How much does it pay and can you find a job?  I like to equate the pay for an archaeologist to the salary of a teacher; you don’t do either to get rich. As for jobs, I believe there is good news, provided you are willing to move.  Since getting my Masters in 2001 I have always had a full time job in archaeology. It might surprise you to know there are nearly 6,000 members that belong to the Society for American Archaeology.  Not everyone has a job, but that's a lot of archies!

Flagler County high school student helps bisect a feature.
If you’d like to look into field schools, the American Anthropology Association publishes a list of field schools. For finding an academic program, look up sites that interest you and don't forget to puruse newsletters of professional organizations such as the Society of Historical Archaeology, Society of American Archaeology, or regional groups such as the Southeastern Archaeological Conference.

It’s almost every day that I meet someone that wishes they had become an archaeologist. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are interested going the professional distance, good luck and get started researching!

For more information click on the hyperlinks in the text or additional pages listed below:

Society for Historical Archaeology's Guide to Graduate Programs

SHA Article Becoming an Archaeologist

Society for American Archaeology's FAQ for Students

Oh, and be ready for plenty of these...

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