How to Become an Archaeologist


To become an archaeologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you might be well suited for this profession:


• You have a keen interest in history and historical artifacts

• You are able to handle employment insecurity and limited project funding

• You enjoy traveling to remote locations and working closely with people from other regions

• You have excellent project management skills

• You have fundraising and negotiation skills

• You have the mental and emotional stamina needed to complete educational requirements

• You have manual dexterity


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an archaeologist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements 

The education needed to become an archaeologist ranges from a bachelor’s degree to a Ph.D., depending on the level of responsibility of the specific position.


Bachelor’s Degree: Having an undergraduate degree in archaeology or anthropology will qualify you to work an entry-level archaeology job, such as Research Assistant, Laboratory Technician, or Site Excavation Technician (also known as a “digger”). Individuals who work as diggers may be employed on a seasonal or contract basis. Their contracts may range from a couple of weeks to a couple of years. Occasionally it is possible for diggers to transfer to more permanent jobs in archaeology. 


Master’s Degree: Depending on the requirements of the employer, a master’s degree in archaeology, anthropology or a closely related field is typically sufficient for many applied research positions.


Doctoral Degree: To become an archaeologist who works as a university teacher, lecturer or researcher, a Ph.D. in archaeology, anthropology or a closely related field is generally needed. 





Archaeologist Job Description

Archeologists examine, recover, analyze and preserve artifacts, human and animal remains, and areas from past human cultures. They connect artifacts with information about past environments to learn about the history, customs, and the living habits of people in earlier eras. The artifacts and remains they examine may include human and animal skeletal remains, tools, pottery, coins, cave paintings, and ruins of buildings.


These professionals are responsible for surveying sites believed to be of archaeological significance in order to prepare for an excavation of the area. They must also manage and protect these archeological sites, and work to secure any funding necessary for the project.


Archeologists often specialize in a particular geographic area, period, or objects of study, such as coins, human remains or underwater sites.



Typical Job Duties

• Assist with displaying artifacts

• Conduct various forms of testing, such as carbon dating

• Identify potential archaeological impacts related to land development applications

• Survey potential excavation sites using methods such as aerial photography and geophysical surveys

• Use a range of digging equipment to perform meticulous excavation duties

• Record site log by preparing notes, sketches and photographs

• Ensure important buildings, monuments and sites are protected and preserved

• Write and publish excavation and site reports

• Use computer aided design and other computer programs to record and interpret findings

• Analyze finds by grouping, identifying and classifying them



Who Employs Archaeologists?

Archaeology is a diverse profession and archaeologists engage in a wide variety of work, from finding archaeological sites and excavating them, to performing scientific laboratory analysis of finds and writing papers and books related to findings.


Archaeological consulting firms: To identify, assess, and preserve archeological sites and ensure that developers comply with regulations regarding archeological site


Oil, gas, mining and natural resource companies: To find, excavate and record archaeological sites and other aspects of cultural heritage affected by development projects, as well as ensure regulatory compliance


Engineering and environmental consulting companies: For conducting impact studies and excavations


Aboriginal land councils: For conducting research and recording cultural history


Museums: As curators and exhibit directors


Colleges and universities: As researchers and instructors


Federal, provincial/state and local government departments: For conservation or research programs or in historic or cultural resource management


Success Tip: When looking for archaeologist jobs, be sure to also look under less obvious job titles, as jobs in archaeology may have such titles as “Consultant”, “Field Assistant”, “Cultural Heritage Officer” and “Heritage Consultant”.





Experience Needed to Progress

In order to be employed as an archaeologist who works in research or in the field, you need to have the appropriate level of education combined with practical experience. This experience is typically gained through participation in archaeological field projects, such as surveys and excavations, and laboratory research projects.


Practical experience in archaeological field and laboratory research projects can be gained through a variety of organizations; most university archaeology or anthropology programs, public museums, and a variety of private organizations (such as market research companies and real estate development companies), offer laboratory and field experience through ongoing excavation and research programs.


This practical experience may be paid or non-paid; taking a non-paid position looks just as good on your resume, as it demonstrates your genuine interest and commitment to the profession. 



How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level in this field can vary depending on their level of experience, their level of education, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.


Salaries in Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Anthropologists occupational group (which includes Archeologists) earn an average of $87,546 per year.


Salaries in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Anthropologists and Archeologists occupational group is $62,280 per year (May 2017 statistics).



Personal Characteristics Needed to Be Successful

In order to be satisfied in a career as an archaeologist, you need to posses a certain set of personality traits. These traits will allow you to endure the challenges of this career, and help you maintain a positive attitude towards your work.


• A keen interest in history and historical artifacts

• Enjoy traveling, and willing to travel to remote locations

• An understanding and respect for other cultures, peoples, and regions

• Patience and enthusiasm towards fieldwork

• Able to handle artifacts carefully and methodically

• A willingness to keep up to date with developments in archaeology

• Flexibility to adapt to unfamiliar and changing circumstances

• Able to handle various employment stressors, such as limited project funding and employment instability 



Skills You'll Need

In order to be great in this profession, you'll need to posses a diverse set of skills. These skills range from those related to finding archaeological sites and excavating them, to skills in the scientific and academic analysis of finds. In order to be employed as an archaeologist, a candidate must be able to demonstrate evidence of the following skills on their resume:


• Familiarity with various site-surveying methods, such as aerial photography and geophysical surveys

• Proficiency with computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS) programs

• Skills with laboratory testing methods, such as radiocarbon dating

• Excellent observational and recording skills

• The ability to liaise effectively with a range of other professionals

• Excellent attention to accuracy and detail

• Manual dexterity; for using tools and instruments

• Excellent project management skills, including managing the work of diggers

• May require fundraising and negotiation skills

• Able to conduct research and desk-based assessments of sites

• Able to effectively asses the possible archaeological impact of land development applications



Job Postings - Open Positions

Our job board below has "Archaeologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.


Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.




Research Assistant

University Professor





Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Anthropologist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Occupational Outlook Handbook - Life, Physical, and Social Science:Anthropologists and Archeologists.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Undergraduate Academics:Becoming an Archaeologist.” (n.d.). Boston University Arts & Sciences website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Getting Started:How to Become an Archaeologist.” (June 14, 2007). Current Archaeology website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.




Scholarships for Becoming an Archaeologist

The Relevant Fields of Study section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as an archaeologist. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an archaeologist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: 
Top Banner Image Title: