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How do I Become an Archaeologist?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2018
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As with many professions, the road to become an archaeologist means lots of study in a college environment. People who want to work at top levels in this profession, like by being curators of museums, will need a doctorate (PhD). Those who want to supervise fieldwork might need this degree too, or at the very least a master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in archaeology translates to fewer opportunities and less pay. Moreover, only PhDs or very occasionally people with a master’s (MA) degree can teach archaeology at the college level.

It’s thus important to get good grades in high school, and strong grades are important in both the sciences and the humanities. Archaeology straddles both worlds, so being a well-rounded student is essential. With good grades, students can apply to schools where they can study archaeology, and if grades are poor, students should consider community college first.

It’s valuable to note that archaeology studies typically occur in anthropology departments, and most schools don’t have separate archaeology departments. Instead, students can declare their specific focus in anthropology as archaeology if they want to become an archaeologist. When choosing schools, students should simply find universities offering an archaeology focus.

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Another thing advised to a student who would become an archaeologist is to find an opportunity early in college to participate in a field school. These are summer events, lasting several weeks, where students learn how to work on an archaeological dig. Such experience can help people determine if their passion for the field is really matched by practical experience of it. Many students love field school and might participate in more than one, though this is costly. It’s possible that tuition to some field schools can be funded with student loans.

When a person is working to become an archaeologist at the bachelor degree level, she’ll probably need to make decisions about how to specialize. Those greatly interested in archaeology to uncover art of a specific culture might need to study that culture outside of their department. Many students take double majors, such as history or art history and archaeology, or archaeology and urban planning. It’s not a bad idea to consider this path, which might prove attractive on graduate school applications.

After finishing a bachelor’s, most students continue and must decide between an MA and PhD to complete their studies. The PhD takes longer and getting into programs can be more competitive, but it is the better degree for greatest employment opportunities. If a person wants to become an archaeologist who may be able to take work anywhere, the doctorate is highly recommended.

During doctoral or master’s studies, students often determine where they want to work. Many lean toward being university teachers, some want to be in the field organizing and supervising digs, and yet others are passionate about working in museums as curators. Focus in studies should reflect these interests, so that people are best prepared for work once they have graduated from school.

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