Archeology is a relatively niche career compared to many jobs currently. Even after so many years, there aren’t many opportunities for someone who chooses archeology as a career. Also, the pay is not as attractive as other easier jobs compared to archeology. But archeology is one of those jobs that have only people interested in them, and those who do not care much about pay, as long as they can do the job they love. So, what is archeology, and what is your work as an archeologist, and what to expect from this from a career point of view, and is it sustainable?
What is archeology?
Archeology is the field of science that focuses on the ancient human culture of buildings, lifestyle, and many more, through the analysis of remains and carbon dating. Archeology requires knowledge in multiple streams of science, such as geology, biology, and chemistry. So, what do archeologists do? We know that our mankind came into existence millions of years ago. Throughout history, there have been many changes through evolution to the place where we are currently. The remains of our ancestors, who lived millions of years ago, remain in the form of fossils buried beneath the earth. An archeologist’s job is to uncover the remains, carefully examine them, and analyze whatever data can be obtained from them. Usually, those remains can be a piece of bone, or in some cases, animals are preserved entirely with their whole skeleton intact. When examined, these remains can explain how life was millions of years ago and how it changed over the period. Not only that, but science has also advanced so much that, recently, a DNA sample from a sort of bubble gum, possibly from millions of years ago, that contained the saliva of the individual, was used to reconstruct the entire body of the individual. Scientists have been able to determine the loss as well. From an overview, an archeologist’s work will not seem much, but it requires immense patience and knowledge to execute.
What does an archeologist do?
Archeology is different from paleontology, which involves only the study of fossils. If you select archeology, you need to have expertise in all fields, and though it is not competitive, it requires patience. An archeologist’s job varies from identifying the right area for research to analyzing the results in a lab. Hence, if you are interested, there are lots of areas in which one can specialize.
An archeologist searches for excavation sites that may contain potential fossils or items of interest. They use scientific tools to dig up the remains carefully, not to disturb the evidence. Once they have dug up the remains, they use science to identify the details of the remains they have dug up. Usually, carbon dating is used to determine the approximate age of the remains. Archeology involves different areas of science to arrive at the results. Hence, expertise in all fields and knowledge is required. So now that we have known what an archeologist does, we will now see what you should study to become one and a sustainable career.
Is archeology a good career?
To become an archeologist, one must study a bachelor’s and master’s degree related to archeology or any of its fields. The masters require a Ph.D., which involves fieldwork that may last up to 30 months. The more, the better. Unlike other generic jobs, archeology is not popular because there isn’t much demand for archeologists in the first place. This explains why even though they study a two-degree course like others, you come across very rarely an archeologist. There are different reasons why the job isn’t popular and not sought after by many.
- First, an archeologist is required to do a lot of fieldwork. They need to work extensively every day, and if you are someone who prefers an office job, then this isn’t for you. Plus, an archeologist must travel frequently to wherever the work is. The work of an archeologist is not in a single area. Based on your specialty, you will be called to places all over the world to work. Unlike shown in the movies, the results will be often obtained after long and extensive work in the lab, which requires great patience and knowledge.
- There are two paths for someone who studies archeology. One is to work in heritage management, you can look after cultural remains and fossils, either working in a public or private sector company. The primary job is to preserve the sites that excavation is being made. Another path is to become a professor of history or work in a museum as an instructor. Due to these limited options, and the fact that it is difficult to change your career as both of your bachelor’s and master’s degrees will be related to archeology, people seem to not choose this stream of the job.
- The next thing is the pay. Archeology is particularly not known for its high-paying salary jobs. Except for top archeologists, a common archeologist earns a medium salary. In the US, the median salary for an archeologist is $63,670 with some times as low as $49,760. This may not seem attractive for everyone, especially when you are going to have to work extremely hard to earn this. It is this reason why lots of universities do not offer this course because many choose not to take this up as a career.
- And unlike shown in movies, you would not be digging up excavation sites and analyzing samples from the beginning. It requires years of expertise and patience to get to that level of seniority. Sometimes, you might have to stay in the excavation sites, under harsh conditions, in a camp. You always must work collaboratively and there is no scope for individual work in this area of career.
Should you consider archeology as a career?
That question depends on your mindset. Sit down and think carefully about the pros and cons of choosing archeology as a career. If you are interested in history and want to learn more in the process, this is the right career choice. On the other hand, you must also be someone who does not wish to earn a lot from the get-go of getting a job as an archeologist, as it will take some time. Finally, you must be mentally prepared to take up this career because it requires patience and interest. It is a good practice to look at what others have done or said about archeology but not only focus on the negatives. Everyone should work where their interest lies. And if you are quite talented when it comes to history and geology, you can think positively about taking archeology as a career choice. If you are unsure, look for internships that might offer a gist of what the job will offer in the future and whether you will fit in the role.
To keep in mind, the better job opportunity for you is if you have more and extensive field experience. Try to make sure you get the maximum exposure during your bachelor’s and master’s, which may help you big time when it comes to searching for a job. Multi-Disciplined expertise will be of great help in this field, as you will have more job opportunities. Reach out to archeologists, listen to their podcasts, documentaries about their journey, and make sure you are 100% interested in this career. On the surface, it does not feel like a good job for everyone, but it can be a gem of a career for someone interested in the field. You must also be ready to take up teaching jobs and lecturer jobs in museums, as it is not always expected for an archeologist to dig up excavation sites. You will only be called up when there is specific work for you, and the rest of the time, you must be okay to do the teaching work. All the best in your career!