If you have always dreamed of unraveling the mysteries of the past, and love to learn about discoveries such as King Tut’s tomb, archaeology may be your dream career.
What They Do
Archaeologists study past cultures by looking at the things they left behind (called artifacts), and coming up with theories about how lives were lived. Archaeologists experience the thrill of discovery as they look for and excavate artifacts at dig sites around the world.
Archaeologists will plan out an approach to the excavation first, and get any permissions required from local authorities. They also theorize about what might be found at the excavation, and then see how the discoveries match their expectations.
On site they will supervise crews of up to 50 excavators, making sure the project is carried out according to plan. They may also participate in hands-on tasks such as surveying the land, excavation, artifact collection, and preparing artifacts to be taken to the lab for analysis. As an archaeologist, your job may include:
– Overseeing activity at the excavation
– Excavating, cleaning and studying artifacts you or your team discover
– Solving unforeseen challenges with the excavation
– Writing reports or articles about your discoveries
– Speaking with local authorities about your progress
– Meeting with botanists, geologists and other specialists
– Researching the history of an area and its culture
– Keeping up with the latest discoveries of your peers
Who is Likely to Succeed
Archaeology is best suited to people who have an existing interest in science and in studying the past. People already working in other scientific careers will make an easier transition into archaeology. And if you like hiking, photography, studying maps, and/or examining rocks, you already have some of the skills you need.
You should enjoy traveling and learning about different cultures, and believe that there is value in preserving the past. It also helps if you have advanced writing and speaking skills so you can tell the public and fellow archaeologists about your exciting discoveries.
How to Learn the Job
While volunteers are not always accepted in every profession, archaeology takes volunteers in with open arms. There is plenty of hands-on work to be done at an excavation, and you can learn the physical tasks involved with the career.
To find volunteer opportunities in archaeology, you can contact your local college or university and speak to someone in the anthropology department. For fieldwork openings all over the world, visit the Archaeological Institute of America’s website (www.archaeological.org), which lists hundreds of opportunities by region. Individuals looking for archaeological field work can also submit a resume to the Canadian Archaeological Association database at www.canadianarchaeology.com.
You can also look for part-time or volunteer opportunities with your local museum. Working at a museum will expose you to many artifacts and help you learn their history, and may even present networking opportunities with archaeologists in your region.
You can learn about archaeology on your own through books and websites as well. Develop a personal plan where you learn about different regions of interest one at a time and build your knowledge of culture and geography, as well as the great discoveries of the past. Your region may even have an amateur archaeology society you can join. The FabJob Guide to Become an Archaeologist by Robert Larkin explains in detail how to prepare for and break into this career.
You can work with only a high school diploma in archaeology as a lab assistant, excavation laborer, or field technician, but if you want to be involved with more challenging tasks, you will want to look into obtaining an education in anthropologyeither a BA, an MA, or a PhD.
Tag and Catherine Goulet are founders of FabJob.com. This article is an excerpt from their book Dream Careers. Visit www.FabJob.com to discover your dream career.