How to Become an Archeologist

Curious about digging up ancient secrets and uncovering the past? Wondering what archeologists really do? Join us as we explore how to become an archeologist and uncover the education requirements, internship opportunities, and archeologist salary. Let’s dig into the exciting world of archeology together!

Archeologist Salary

Much like the discoveries they make, archeologist’s salaries can vary greatly depending on a multitude of factors including experience, education, and location.

However, one thing is for sure: for those who are passionate about delving into the secrets of the past, an archeologist’s salary range goes thus: 

  • Entry (US$51K)
  • Median (US$63K)
  • Executive (US$66K)

Now, before you start planning your future career as an Indiana Jones-type adventurer, let’s put that figure into perspective– being an archeologist pays the mid-income range

What do Archeologists do?

Archeologists are scientists— skilled in excavating and studying ancient material remains to uncover the mysteries of civilizations that time has forgotten. Not only do they explore ancient cultures, but they also examine historic occupations, analyzing everything from farming techniques to social hierarchies. Archeologists truly help us understand the evolution of humanity, and it’s amazing to see their incredible discoveries about our history come to light. 

Archeologist Career Progression

  • Archeological Technician / Field Technician: Entry-level position assisting with fieldwork, excavation, artifact documentation, and data collection.
  • Laboratory Assistant / Curator: Involves working in a laboratory setting, cleaning, cataloging, and analyzing artifacts, and managing collections. Curators may also be responsible for museum curation and exhibition design.
  • Research Assistant: Assisting senior archeologists with research projects, data analysis, and report writing.
  • Project Archeologist / Field Supervisor: Overseeing fieldwork, managing excavation projects, supervising field teams, and coordinating logistics.
  • Principal Investigator / Project Director: Responsible for planning and executing archeological projects, managing budgets, coordinating with stakeholders, and ensuring compliance with regulations.
  • Academic Researcher / Professor: Pursuing a career in academia involves conducting original research, publishing scholarly articles, teaching archeology courses, and mentoring students.

Pros and Cons Working as an Archeologist 


  • Exciting opportunities for fieldwork and exploration.
  • The chance to uncover and contribute to the understanding of human history.
  • Collaborating with diverse teams and experts from various disciplines.
  • Continuous learning and engagement with new discoveries and research.
  • The potential to make valuable contributions to cultural preservation and heritage management.


  • Physical demands and challenging work environments during fieldwork.
  • Uncertain job prospects and limited funding for research projects.
  • Seasonal and project-based work, leading to temporary employment.
  • Time-consuming data analysis, report writing, and administrative tasks.
  • Balancing work-life commitments during intense fieldwork periods.

Useful Skills to Have as an Archeologist 

  • Fieldwork techniques, including excavation, surveying, and site documentation.
  • Proficiency in artifact analysis, conservation, and laboratory methods.
  • Research skills, such as data collection, analysis, and interpretation.
  • GIS and mapping skills for spatial analysis and site documentation.
  • Strong communication and collaboration abilities for working in interdisciplinary teams and engaging with stakeholders.

Popular Archeologist Specialties 

  • Historical Archeology
  • Prehistoric Archeology
  • Maritime Archeology
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Cultural Resource Management

How to Become an Archeologist

Archeologist 3 Steps to CareerArcheologist 3 Steps to Career

Archeologists need a combination of academic study, practical training, and a deep curiosity about the past to succeed in this field. This is a unique profession that allows us to learn from the past, appreciate our roots, and shape a better future. In this guide, you’ll find all the steps you can take to achieve your goal. 

Archeological Education Requirements 

Education plays a crucial role in becoming an archeologist. It provides the necessary knowledge and skills to understand and interpret the past. Here is the key information in the educational journey to becoming an archeologist. 

Do I Need a Degree to Become an Archeologist?

Knowing how to become an archeologist starts with your education, and a bachelor’s degree in archeology or anthropology is the minimum requirement. As a high school student, you’re told to master basic archeology subjects like math, science, history, and English. However, these subjects ONLY serve as the building blocks for future academic and career success. 

An archelogy major provides essential foundational knowledge in areas such as cultural remains, dating techniques, archeological methods, and more. Throughout your coursework, you will delve into various archeology techniques, including surveying, excavation, artifact processing, and analysis. 

Furthermore, obtaining additional certifications or training in areas such as GIS mapping, bioarchaeology, or cultural resource management can make you a more competitive candidate in the job market. While a degree is not the sole determining factor for success as an archeologist, it provides a strong foundation and facilitates future career growth. It’s important to note that for most professional archeologist roles, an advanced degree is typically required.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Archeology Degree?

Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all timeline for your degree. The time it takes to earn your degree in archeology can vary based on many factors such as your chosen level of degree and how quickly you decide to move through the curriculum. While a basic undergraduate degree can take about four years to achieve, a Master’s degree can take an additional 2 or 3 years, and a Doctoral degree 5 to 7 years

It’s worth noting that the timeframes mentioned above are approximate and can vary depending on the program structure, individual progress, and any breaks or part-time study. Additionally, some students may choose to pursue their degrees on a part-time basis, which can lengthen the overall time it takes to complete the degree. Ultimately, the duration of earning an archeology degree depends on the level of degree pursued, the program’s requirements, and the individual’s study pace and circumstances.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Archeology at University? 

After all, pursuing a degree in this field requires more than just a passion for uncovering the mysteries of the past–it also requires a significant financial investment. The good news is that if you’re looking to study archeology at a public college in your home state, you can expect to pay an average of US$9,422 in tuition costs. If you’re looking to expand your horizons and attend a private college out of state, though, you’ll need to budget for around US$55,038 in tuition costs. 

Can I Become an Archeologist Through Online Education? 

The answer is yes and no. It’s true that many universities offer online degrees in archeology. Some aspects of archeology can be learned through online courses, such as introductory concepts and theoretical frameworks. However, the fieldwork component is a crucial aspect of archeology that may be challenging to replicate through virtual education alone.

Fieldwork, including excavation, artifact analysis, and site documentation, is an integral part of archeological training and provides essential hands-on experience. It allows you to learn proper excavation techniques, gain familiarity with archeological tools and equipment, and develop skills in artifact identification and interpretation. Additionally, fieldwork provides valuable opportunities for collaboration, problem-solving, and understanding the complexities of archeological contexts.

In summary, while online education can contribute to your understanding of archeology and provide a theoretical background, it is typically not sufficient on its own to become a professional archeologist. Regardless, online education can provide a great foundation for you. So, if you’re up for a dig and are ready to start your journey to becoming an expert on ancient civilizations, online education may be a great starting point. 

Online Educational Resources to Learn Archeologist Skills 

Here are the top web resources to aid your career as an archeologist: 

  • Archeological Institute of America (AIA): The AIA offers various resources, including lectures, articles, and educational materials related to archeology. 
  • Archeology Data Service (ADS): ADS provides access to digital archives, databases, and resources related to archeology in the UK. Their website is a valuable source for archeological data and publications.
  • Society for American Archeology (SAA): SAA offers webinars, educational resources, and publications for students and professionals in archeology. 
  • Archeological Conservancy: The Archeological Conservancy’s website offers educational articles, webinars, and resources related to the preservation of archeological sites.
  • Archeology Magazine: The website of Archeology Magazine, offers various online courses related to archeology and ancient history.
  • National Park Service: The National Park Service’s website provides educational resources, articles, and information on archeology within U.S. national parks and historic sites.

How to Become an Archeologist Intern

You’ve taken a step in the right direction to start researching how to become an archeologist and explore archeology internships. The practical experience gained as an intern can be invaluable, offering hands-on experience to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue a career and help you build a network of professional contacts for future job opportunities. 

Also, archeologists can specialize in a variety of fields, from historic preservation to forensic archeology, so participating in internships is another step towards knowing where your passion truly lies.

Here are some examples of organizations and institutions that offer archeology internships:

  • Smithsonian Institution: The Smithsonian offers a variety of internship opportunities, including those related to archeology. Interns may work at the National Museum of Natural History or the National Museum of the American Indian, gaining hands-on experience in archeological research and curation.
  • National Park Service (NPS): The NPS often provides internships in cultural resource management and archeology. These opportunities may involve working on archeological excavations, site preservation, and interpretation at national parks.
  • Archeological Field Schools: Many universities and organizations offer archeological field schools that include internships. These programs allow students to gain practical experience in archeological excavation and research.
  • Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Firms: CRM companies like Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc. hire interns to work on archeological surveys, site assessments, and report preparation.
  • State Archeological Agencies: State archeological agencies in the U.S. provide internships for students and aspiring archeologists interested in local archeology and cultural heritage.
  • Archeological Organizations: Organizations like the Archeological Institute of America (AIA) and the Society for American Archeology (SAA) offer internship opportunities related to archeological research and outreach.
  • Nonprofit Conservation Organizations: Nonprofits like The Archeological Conservancy sometimes provide internship opportunities to assist with the preservation and protection of archeological sites.
  • University Departments: University archeology departments may offer internships, especially for their own students, to gain research experience and participate in faculty-led projects.

Key Archeologist Skills to Highlight in Your Resume

Becoming an archeologist takes hard work, dedication, and of course, the right skills to be successful. If you’re looking to land a job in the world of archeology, it’s important to highlight what makes you stand out from the rest. Likewise, you can provide specific examples or achievements that demonstrate your skills in these areas. More importantly, tailor your resume to the specific job requirements, showcasing how your skills align with the position you’re applying for.

As an archeologist, you should emphasize these skills in your resume:

  • Fieldwork Experience: Emphasize any fieldwork experience you have, including participation in archeological excavations, surveying, or site documentation. Highlight your ability to work effectively in outdoor environments and your familiarity with excavation tools and techniques. If you have experience in obtaining permits for archeological research, mention it, as this is often a requirement for fieldwork.
  • Laboratory Skills: Showcase your proficiency in artifact analysis, processing, and documentation. Mention any experience you have in artifact conservation, lab equipment usage, or data management.
  • Research Abilities: Highlight your research skills, including your ability to gather and analyze data, conduct literature reviews, and interpret findings. Mention any published research or conference presentations you have been involved in.
  • Cultural Resource Management: If you have experience in cultural resource management, emphasize your knowledge of regulations, permit processes, and the ability to assess archeological sites for potential impact.
  • GIS and Mapping: If you have experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping software, highlight your proficiency in creating maps, conducting spatial analysis, and using GPS devices for fieldwork.
  • Technical Skills: Include any technical skills relevant to archeology, such as proficiency in archeological software, database management, or photogrammetry techniques.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Showcase your ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, with team members, stakeholders, and indigenous communities. Highlight your experience in presenting research findings or leading group discussions.
  • Attention to Detail: Emphasize your meticulousness and ability to pay close attention to detail, as this is crucial in accurately documenting and recording archeological findings.
  • Adaptability and Problem-Solving: Illustrate your ability to adapt to changing field conditions and solve problems that may arise during archeological projects. Highlight your critical thinking skills and ability to make informed decisions in challenging situations.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Emphasize your understanding of and respect for diverse cultural perspectives, and your ability to work collaboratively with indigenous communities or stakeholders.
Archeologist Popular Career SpecialtiesArcheologist Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of an Archeologist? 

Digging up the past may seem like a far-fetched career, but archeology offers an exciting world of discovery and preservation.

There are several job opportunities for archeologists, such as: 

  • Field Archeologist: This role involves conducting excavations, surveys, and site documentation in the field. Field archeologists work on various projects, including research excavations, cultural resource management projects, or contract archeology assignments.
  • Laboratory Analyst: Archeologists can specialize in laboratory analysis, where they analyze artifacts, ecofacts, and samples recovered from excavations. This role may involve using scientific techniques, such as radiocarbon dating, microscopic analysis, or chemical analysis, to understand the materials and contexts of archeological finds.
  • Archeological Illustrator/Photographer: Archeologists can utilize their artistic and technical skills to create illustrations, maps, or photographs that document and visualize archeological sites, artifacts, and features. These visual representations are valuable for publications, presentations, and public outreach.
  • Cultural Heritage Manager: Archeologists can work in cultural heritage management, where they oversee the preservation, interpretation, and management of archeological sites, historic buildings, or cultural landscapes. This role involves developing conservation plans, coordinating public engagement initiatives, and ensuring the sustainable management of cultural resources.
  • Museum Curator/Archeological Collections Manager: Archeologists can work in museums or cultural institutions, curating and managing archeological collections. They may be responsible for acquiring, cataloging, preserving, and exhibiting artifacts, as well as conducting research and coordinating educational programs.
  • Cultural Resource Compliance Specialist: Archeologists can work in compliance departments of government agencies or private firms, ensuring that development projects adhere to cultural heritage laws and regulations. They assess the potential impact of construction activities on archeological sites and develop strategies for their protection or mitigation.
  • Heritage Consultant: Providing expertise and advice to government agencies, private organizations, or indigenous communities on matters related to cultural heritage management, preservation, and policy development.
  • Academic Researcher/Professor: Archeologists can pursue a career in academia, conducting original research, publishing scholarly articles, and teaching at universities or colleges. This role involves mentoring students, securing research funding, and contributing to the overall knowledge and understanding of the field.

What Types of Organizations Hire Archeologists? 

Whether you’re interested in digging up the past or preserving it for the future, becoming an archeologist can lead to exciting and rewarding career opportunities. It’s important to do your research and figure out the best path for your education and career goals.

Archeologists find employment in various sectors, including:

  • Academic Institutions: Universities and research institutions often hire archeologists for teaching positions and research projects.
  • Government Agencies: Archeologists work for government bodies such as cultural resource management offices, historic preservation agencies, and national parks.
  • Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Firms: Private companies specializing in CRM hire archeologists for archeological surveys and assessments required for construction projects.
  • Museums: Museums employ archeologists for research, curation, and exhibition design.
  • Archeological Consulting Firms: Firms specializing in archeological services may hire archeologists for various projects.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: NGOs focused on cultural heritage and archeology may hire professionals to conduct research and preservation activities.
  • Archeological Survey Companies: Companies dedicated to archeological surveying and mapping may employ archeologists.
  • Cruise Lines and Tourism Companies: Some archeologists work in cultural tourism, providing expertise on historical sites and artifacts.

What is the Work-Life Balance of an Archeologist?

When delving into the mysterious depths of ancient civilizations, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of unearthing long-lost artifacts and piecing together the secrets of the past. But for archeologists, balancing work and life is just as important as discovering the remnants of history. In the field, archeologists can spend months at a time living in remote locations, working long hours in the unforgiving elements. 

However, many also spend significant time in labs or museums, examining and cataloging their findings. While this work can be fascinating, archeologists also need to make time for their personal lives, whether that be spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies and interests, or simply taking time to recharge. Finding that balance can be a challenge, but for archeologists passionate about their work, it’s a challenge worth facing.

Work-Life Balance Challenges for Archeologists

  • Long and irregular hours: Archeologists often work long hours, especially during fieldwork, which can take them away from home for extended periods. Fieldwork can also involve irregular hours, such as early morning starts.
  • Demanding travel: Archeologists often travel to remote locations for fieldwork, which can be physically and mentally demanding. They may also need to travel frequently for conferences and presentations.
  • Stressful deadlines: Archeologists often face tight deadlines for completing projects, which can lead to stress and pressure. They may also need to work on multiple projects simultaneously, which can make it difficult to manage their time effectively.

What’s the Career Outlook for an Archeologist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for archeologists and anthropologists is projected to grow 4% between 2022 and 2032, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. With roughly 700 new job openings available each year, it’s a great time to explore the varied and exciting opportunities available to archeologists. 

Should I Become an Archeologist?

So, you’ve read the article on how to become an archeologist and are still wondering if it’s the right path for you. As an archeologist, making informed decisions is as important as spending hours on a dig site in search of ancient artifacts. It’s not just about finding treasures, but it’s about the journey we undertake to reach our goals. Therefore, you have to make an informed decision based on not only the information provided but also your own personal interests and skills. 

Are you passionate about history and uncovering the secrets of the past? Do you have a knack for detail-oriented work and analyzing data? Furthermore, it’s crucial to consider your long-term goals and how a career in archeology can help you achieve them. While the archeologist salary is undoubtedly attractive, it is essential to remember that financial gains can’t be the sole deciding factor. Keeping long-term goals in perspective is critical, as they inform the choices you make that will define your career trajectory.

Whether it’s preserving cultural heritage or advancing the field with your own discoveries, it’s up to you to decide if the rewards outweigh the challenges. So, before you take the plunge, take the time to weigh the key points and ultimately make the decision that’s right for you!

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