Careers in Archeology

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There may be more to working in archeology than you thought.

You may not know that careers in archeology can involve much more than digging around in the dirt during an excavation while looking for the next big artifact. Once you get your degree, you can pursue a career in archeology within historical or forensic archeology.

Historical vs. Forensic

Archeology is all about using things you discover to determine more about what happened in the past. Traditionally, an archeologist is someone who does dig for artifacts and attempt to discover ancient cities to tell the rest of us how previous people and cultures lived in the past. Archeologists bring history back to life so that the rest of us can enjoy the things our ancestors created, inlcuding their artwork. Their work even allow us to learn about the struggles of ancient civilizations. This line of work is sometimes listed as anthropological archeology.

However, not all archaeology careers involve dealing with things that happened many years ago. If you're interested in law and solving mysteries, you may want to consider forensic archeology. Forensic archeologists dig through crime scenes to uncover and inspect evidence, which in turn will help solve the mystery of "whodunnit." Forensic archaeology professionals play an important role in modern law enforcement.

What the two fields have in common is the interlacing of clues to create a picture of what happened. Other than that, the two fields are incredibly different. Most people don't even think of the forensics side as archeology at all!

Degrees in Archeology

To work as an archeologist, you'll need at least a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree. Generally, archeology degrees are focused more on the historical side than the forensic side. For forensics, you may instead want to consider a criminal justice program.

Cappex lists the schools that offer degrees in archeology. You can search by state. States with schools that offer archeology programs include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Careers in Archeology: the Possibilities

With a degree in archeology, you're not destined to spend your days sifting through sand in the hot sun looking for an ancient city. You can work in a college, university, museum, law enforcement agency, or even as a consultant.

To work in a college/university, you'll need a Ph. D and you may be required to "publish or perish," so be sure if you want to go this route, you enjoy researching, analyzing, and reporting your findings in addition to teaching from experience and a textbook. While you may have summers off from classroom work, you can obtain grants to do research in the field.

In a museum, you'll be required to have at least a Master's degree. Here, your life will be similar to that of a professor. You'll be researching, reporting on your findings, and giving lectures to the public. Like to be a little creative? You'll be designing the displays too.

Consultant work will cover everything from field positions that require a B.A. to cultural resources management work that requires a Master's degree. There are also many opportunities to work in government positions.

The Nature of the Job

In most cases, careers in archeology are going to cover excavations, rather than crime scenes. That means you'll be working outdoors part of the time and in a lab during others, classifying and analyzing the items you find.

Salary Potential and More

You may be surprised by the salary connected to careers in archeology. According to, the average salary for an archeologist as of February 6, 2008 was $64,000. A supervisory archeologist could make roughly $84,000. The site does not break down the salary based on which field of archeology you choose-government, private sector, museum, university, etc.

Once you determine the field you're most interested in, do a bit more research (dig a little!) to find out what amount you can expect to earn.


You may not want to give up your current job before getting your feet dirty on a dig to see if you truly love archeology. There are plenty of places to volunteer. Check out some of the following organizations for the opportunity that works best for you:

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Careers in Archeology