How Do I Become an Ethnoarchaeologist?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
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Woman posing

A person who wants to become an ethnoarchaeologist must obtain a bachelor's degree related to archaeology and anthropology, followed by a master's or doctorate in ethnoarchaeology or a closely-related area. Doctoral degrees provide the greatest flexibility and job options. During study, volunteering at field sites provides a competitive edge.

To become an ethnoarchaeologist, an individual must obtain a bachelor's degree, which is sufficient to enter the archaeologist field in low-level laboratory studies. Ethnoarchaeology is a subset of archaeology, which in turn is a subset of anthropology. Thus, in looking for a program to enter at a college or university, a person who wants to become an ethnoarchaeologist has to look at what the institutions' anthropology departments offer. Programs sometimes combine archaeology with closely related disciplines. Once a person knows what programs will work, he can apply and start his undergraduate coursework.

Specialization in archaeology doesn't truly happen until the graduate level, but as an undergraduate, students can opt to be classical or historical anthropologists. Classical anthropologists look at ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome from an interdisciplinary perspective, taking courses in art, theology and architecture. These students have more flexibility in terms of a specific major, but taking classes in both ancient and modern languages is critical. Historical anthropologists typically major in history or anthropology, taking classes such as historical architecture and folklore.

After completing the undergraduate degree, an individual can apply to graduate schools and begin to specialize in ethnoarchaeology. This requires providing items such as undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement, graduate record examination (GRE) scores and a formal application. Master's degree programs take one to two years to complete and require a thesis. These programs are good options if a person does not yet know how focused he wishes to be in ethnoarchaeology or if he wants to get some practical work experience in the field prior to furthering his education.

The best option in terms of job opportunities and flexibility for someone who wants to become an ethnoarchaeologist is a doctoral degree. If a person has a master's degree in archaeology or ethnoarchaeology already, then an additional two years of study is necessary to get a doctorate. Without a master's degree, it takes four years to obtain a doctorate. Doctoral programs require a formal dissertation.

In addition to providing the most authority and training, a doctoral degree is advantageous in that governments sometimes require a person to have a doctorate before a permit for foreign excavation is granted. This means that, without a doctorate, ethnoarchaeologists and other anthropologists are limited to field projects within the ethnoarchaeologist's jurisdiction. This has an enormous bearing on the types of findings an ethnoarchaeologist can discover and hinders the capacity to find consistent work to some degree.

Following a proper education, an ethnoarchaeologist can apply to open positions at field sites, museums, labs, schools and other institutions, depending on his degree level. At any point on the path to become an ethnoarchaeologist, an individual should volunteer at field sites because employers prefer those who have hands-on experience.

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