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Career: Archaeologist

 
A Day in the life of a Archaeologist

Archaeologists study artifacts of the near and distant past to develop a picture of how people lived in earlier cultures and societies. Many in the profession are also involved in the preservation of archaeological sites. Though a popular conception of the archeologist involves a khaki-clad individual in an exotic locale, who cleans sand off ancient crockery with a toothbrush, real-life archaeologists spend as little time as possible in the field. Because fieldwork is both expensive and destructive to the site, the majority of archaeological study takes place in the lab. In the lab, archeologists analyze data, write reports, and interpret findings for the public. An archaeologist’s natural curiosity about the past and the secrets it holds make the profession a fascinating one. However, the work can be slow and exacting. It may take months to examine thousands of tiny, nearly identical chipped stone axes. Some archaeologists work under the aegis of a major research institution, such as a university or a museum. Many more people in the field, however, are employed by private-sector companies that assist the government and private developers in complying with federal laws aimed at protecting archaeological sites.

Paying Your Dues

A master’s degree in anthropology and several years of fieldwork—experience as a site or project supervisor doesn’t hurt—will qualify you for most jobs in the field. Coursework valuable to a career as an archaeologist includes ancient history, geology, geography, English composition, and human physiology. Sign up to work on your professors’ archaeological digs during your vacations. Only the most distinguished (or fortunate) archaeologists become prominent in the field, and there are fewer positions available than there are qualified archaeologists to fill them. One way to draw attention to your work is by publishing articles in academic journals.

Associated Careers

Archaeology is often paired with anthropology. While archaeology is the study of cultures and societies through their material remains, anthropology focuses more on the activities of people within societies and is often applied to current cultures. The two fields share much of the same background, however, and the boundary between allows for mutual exchange. Corporate archaeologists may find work writing environmental impact statements.


 
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