Do you have an interest in studying human cultures around the globe? Do you like to look at artifacts and find out about the humans that left them behind? Then, maybe becoming an archeologist is for you. You’ll need to have a high school diploma and have passed a college entrance exam such as the SAT/ACT. It helps if you have studied high school coursework in science and history but if not you can pick this up later. It just makes it easier when you get into college. If you’re still in high school, you might consider joining a science club and go out and do some field work to get you familiar with what archeologists do and whether archeology is right for you. This will help prepare you for what you will have to do in college.
Next in line is to get a bachelor’s degree. You can stop at the bachelor’s degree if you want. This degree will allow you to work as a lab tech and/or in the field as an assistant. However, if you want to conduct your own archeological research, you will need at least a master’s degree. If you like, you can continue on to a Ph.D. degree in archeology. So, you have a number of educational levels to choose from. If you like you can stop at the bachelor’s level and work for a while and come back later to do a master’s. If you really like geography, ancient history and science this might just be the career for you.
You’ll need to consider what cultures you are interested in such as the Romans, Greeks or perhaps Aborigines. In other words, you’ll need to specialize in a culture at some point. It’s also possible to become a museum curator or perhaps an archivist. So, keep these options in mind.
The bachelor’s degree takes four years, the master’s program takes around two years and a Ph.D. can take anywhere from 5 to 8 years. A Ph.D. degree will provide you with leadership skills and advanced technical procedures and of course allow you to publish in archeology journals. Archeologists generally work together in teams so it helps if you work well with others.
You’ll need to have good investigative skills in the field as well as be able to apply what you have learned about the culture in your studies. You’ll need to develop good critical-thinking skills to be able to bring together artifacts you find in the field and any analysis you do in the laboratory. You’ll need to understand scientific method and how to analyze data that you produce.
In many cases, you will have to work in another country. This can be very exciting but you must remember that you must be aware of local customs. You must be respectful of the countries wishes.
When you graduate at any level, it is a good idea to get work in the field as soon as possible. If necessary, volunteer your services to continue getting experience. Volunteering your services will help you to meet contacts and build a network so that you are known in the field. There seem to be plenty of volunteer positions when excavations are beginning. These sites often need as many hands as they can get. Check with your state’s archeology society. If you are outside the United States, check with your countries archeology society. You also might check with the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin. This bulletin comes out once a year. No matter what country you are in, check with your archaeological institution for information about employment/volunteer work.
As you progress with your experience, you need to think about specializing in a specific area. Such specializations include but not limited to; coins, stone tools and pottery. You might also want to learn the language of that culture. This may take a bit doing but stick with it. Imagine learning Arabic, Hieroglyphics, Demotic, Coptic, Greek and/or Latin. This can be really exciting.
Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time outside not only when you’re working but in the evenings as well which means you may be in tents for a number of months. You’ll be exposed to the elements including cold, heat, rain, snakes and insects so you really need to be comfortable with this. You’ll also need to be physically in shape. If you can’t handle that, then consider being a curator or archiver in a museum or laboratory where your work will be inside.