Study to become an archaeologist

A sense of deep curiosity stimulated by visiting an ancient site or a museum, when reinforced by academic study and supported by independent research can make a successful archaeologist. If this is an area of interest you would like to pursue in college, U.S. offers you plenty of opportunities.  Whether its undergraduate or postgraduate courses, you will find many colleges in the U.S. offering archaeology courses or anthropology degrees with a specialisation in archaeology.

What to study

In U.S. institutions, archaeology is usually a sub discipline within the anthropology departments. A popular trend among students is to combine archaeology with various other fields. For example, a student who wants to study ancient or classical civilisations is most likely to take up courses in art, architecture, history and so on.

A master’s degree in archaeology, the completion of a thesis, and a year of field and laboratory experience is the minimum requirement to get certified by the Society of Professional Archaeologists.

Course pre-requisities

In order to apply for a graduate degree in archaeology, you don’t need to have an undergraduate degree in anthropology; a background in almost any discipline will do.

Career opportunities

As an archaeology graduate, you can find work in colleges, museums, the federal government, state governments, in private companies, and as consultants. The roles a professional archaeologist plays include teaching, conducting field investigations, analyzing artefacts and sites, and publishing the results of their research.

To work as a field archaeologist, you will need at least a B.A. or B.S. degree with a major in anthropology or archaeology, along with previous field experience. But if you are aiming at supervisory positions, you will require a graduate degree, that is either an M.A./M.S. or a Ph.D.

There are federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and private foundations like the National Geographic Society, which provide research funds for grants. These grants help academic archaeologists working in the U.S to conduct field research during the summer.

An M.A, M.S or Postgraduate degree in the archaeology also qualifies you to work as a museum curator. Responsibilities usually include conducting research, publishing the results, giving public presentations, preparing displays, and conserving the museum collections.

Apart from these career options, you can also choose to work for the federal and state governments who usually hire archaeologists to protect archaeological sites. You get to work on construction projects which require archaeological surveys to be conducted, to locate prehistoric or historic sites, and the excavation of some sites before construction can begin. This type of archaeology is called cultural resources management (CRM). A master’s degree is required to work in these government positions.

Archaeologists also work for private companies which conduct the CRM investigations required by law. They may work for engineering and environmental companies, for companies specialising in archaeological investigations, or as private consultants. As these jobs involve a supervisory role, you require an M.A. to qualify for them.

Obviously, a bachelor’s degree alone is not sufficient to make a career out of archaeology. Just like in other science fields, you will most often need a master’s degree to become successful in this profession. Another point to be noted is that academic study is only a part of the essential training. Archaeologists need to gain experience in field work as site conditions vary greatly and can often be unpredictable.

This is a guest blog by Priya from Uniguru. Uniguru is India’s largest study-abroad website hosting information on more than 5,00,000 courses, 11,000 scholarships and 4700 universities and colleges across USA, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand.