How Do I Become a Contract Archaeologist?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Someone who wants to become a contract archaeologist needs a formal education in the field and may want to consider pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree to access the best job openings. Qualified university graduates may also want to join professional organizations to have access to a network of potential contacts and job leads. Contract archaeologists visit sites slated for development so they can document them and remove culturally significant items. The job can involve substantial travel, harsh environments, and the ability to work with changing team members over time.

Jaffa, Israel, an ancient city that has been studied by many archaeologists.
Jaffa, Israel, an ancient city that has been studied by many archaeologists.

A bachelor’s degree in archaeology is the first step. This degree can include a mixture of coursework designed to help students prepare for careers, and students may have access to fieldwork and internships to develop skills and cultivate connections. Someone who plans to become a contract archaeologist may want to consider taking courses specifically recommended for people who intend to work in this field. If a college or university has a club or organization for aspiring contract archaeologists, it can be a good resource.

Some entry-level positions are open to people with a bachelor’s degree. It is possible to work as a field technician or in another support role. For people interested in being team leaders or taking on more advanced positions, a higher degree is necessary. A master’s degree can prepare someone to become a contract archaeologist, and a doctorate may be preferred by some employers. These degrees include research as well as formal education, allowing students to demonstrate their abilities and add to the body of knowledge in the field.

Students should also plan to take advantage of archaeologist training while in school for a degree. A firm looking for someone to become a contract archaeologist tends to prefer applicants with experience in the field. People may develop field experience initially by assisting on projects and completing internships, and later by organizing and maintaining their own research. An archaeology department may have job listings and information available for students to help them locate positions that may provide them with useful professional skills.

While in training to become a contract archaeologist, it helps to follow proceedings in the field. This can include subscribing to trade journals, attending conferences, and signing up for professional communications like a listserve. People need to stay familiar with ethical, legal, and other issues that arise in the field, in addition to big breakthroughs. Knowledge of the field paired with training and experience can be strong traits to present on an application for an open position with a firm that provides contract archaeology services, or a government agency involved in this work.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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