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What Is an Archaeologist and How to Become One

What Do Archaeologists Do?

Archaeologists investigate historic and prehistoric sites and physical remains to understand human links to the past and to preserve past cultures. Archaeologists find clues about the past. They use a variety of extraction or digging techniques. Equipment like trowels, pick-axes, and even bulldozers help archaeologists coordinate and participate in fieldwork to attempt to unearth artifacts, such as pottery, ancient tools, seeds, or animal bones. Archaeologists are also responsible for the conservation of the artifacts they recover. This usually involves bringing the items back to a lab to clean, restore, and stabilize them properly. Data collection is another key duty of the archaeologist. Before, during, and after the dig, the archaeologist records notes, images, soil samples, maps, measurements, and other information about the archaeological site. Archaeologists not only to find information but to use it to educate. Many archaeologists are professors and are involved in publishing and teaching.

Where Do Archaeologists Work?

Archaeology is a specialized career field with numerous employment opportunities in a variety of industries. Archaeologists may work for state and federal government agencies, colleges and universities, museums and historic sites, and engineering firms who have divisions dedicated to cultural research management. Many archaeologists even start their own companies or work for themselves as consultants.

How Can I Become an Archaeologist?

To obtain an entry-level archaeology position, such as a field assistant, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as anthropology. Many who are interested in fieldwork participate in an internship program to gain hands-on experience. Some archaeologists continue their education with master’s degrees or a doctorate which are necessary to get upper-level positions in the government sector, museums, and universities. A doctorate is typically required to teach at a college level or to secure a museum curator position.