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Careers in Archeology

What does an Archeologist Study?

Archeology is the study of human cultures from around the world throughout history. Archeologists study found items to learn about how people lived in the past, their social habits, farming and hunting practices, buildings and religious beliefs.

Occasionally, archeologists discover treasures such as tombs and valuables, although artefacts can also date from just 100 years ago.

Please note that archeology can also be spelt as archaeology. In this text we will talk about archeology careers rather archaeology careers.

Overview of Careers in Archeology

Archeologists direct their study of archeological data - i.e., sites, artefacts, features, etc. - by referring to existing and current research in their chosen field. This process of discovery and interpretation enables them to reconstruct the culture and behaviour of peoples in the past. They can be concerned with any kind of material that provides evidence, from buried buildings and communities to fragments of clothing or bone.

Besides the actual excavations, much time is spent planning beforehand, and then analysing and recording finds afterwards. Archeologists also use investigative techniques such as field walking (searching ploughed fields), aerial photography, and laboratory testing.

Archeologists may specialise in a variety of areas, such as physical archeology - looking at how humans have changed over time - sub-topics include diet or disease. Others may study cultural archeology - examining how a community organised themselves. Still others may study plant or animal remains, stone tools, ceramics, or other specialist areas.

All archeologists work to preserve and protect areas for future study or appreciation. For these reasons, archeology offers a combination of both physical and intellectual capabilities, making it a highly desirable career.

Duties of archeologists - what is a normal day like for an archaeologist?

Many archeologists study pieces in private collections. Others continue to do digs (excavations) in fields, caves, on a glacier, or in the ocean. They begin by creating a grid of the site, so they can record the location of any artefact they find. As objects or items are discovered, the archeologists take pictures or make drawings, showing how it was positioned, as this may be important in understanding how the artefact was used. This record also helps other archeologists, who may never visit the original site.

Archeologists use trowels to carefully move the soil. Once an object is found, a brush may be used to remove the dirt. Artefacts are then placed into bags and labelled. A screen may be used to separate out small objects such as seeds. Archeologists usually work in teams, with each person contributing to the explanation of the findings.

All archeologists perform their analyses in a lab, sorting, measuring and categorising their finds. Computers are used to analyse the data. Findings may be compared with findings from another site to see if there are similarities. This process of examination is also recorded, sometimes forming the basis of articles for publication in journals.

Many archeologists work in colleges, conducting research and teaching students, or in museums, where they research and maintain the collections.

When it comes to professional CV writing, you may find that some of the duties listed above form part of your CV - so note them down now, whilst you remember. Even if you plan to use a CV writing service, you should still write them down, so that you don't forget them.

The lifestyle of archeologists - Would an archaeology career suit you?

Archeologists must show excellence in three areas:

  1. In the field (data collection).
  2. In the lab (identification).
  3. In front of the computer (analysis and writing).

Field testing, excavation and laboratory techniques must be learned in the field, while lab techniques and data interpretation and analysis must be learned in the classroom.

Knowledge of techniques is critical for working in this field, as is the ability to use computers and software applications of many kinds. Research skills and the ability to read a lot are also essential.

What training do archeologists need? Nine out of ten archeologists are graduates. Although most have degrees in archeology, others have degrees in related subjects such as geography or biology. In some countries, including America, archeologists are trained as anthropologists at degree and postgraduate level, as archaeology is actually a sub-discipline of anthropology.

With a Bachelor's degree, you could get a job with cultural resource management consulting firms, or go on to graduate school to pursue a Master's degree or a PhD. From there, teaching and/or research are the best options. Archeologists with any degree have a good chance of employment with cultural resource management firms. Teaching or senior research positions are usually limited to those archeologists with a PhD.

Archeologists are likely to need to gain experience of field excavation work before getting a paid job. This means showing commitment by working as a volunteer.

Hours are extremely variable on digs, often due to quality of daylight and the weather. Some archeologists in laboratories or museums work standard office hours from Monday to Friday.

What are archaeologists yearly salary and what is the job outlook for archaeologists?

Around 40% of archaeologists work for commercial organisations which carry out field investigation and research. They are also employed by nationally funded or not-for-profit organisations. Only a small proportion of people who study archaeology make a long-term career in the profession. It can be difficult to get established, and you are likely to start with a series of short-term contracts. Salaries for Archaeologists therefore tend to be fairly low at the start of their careers.

How to ensure you get the career in archeology you want

Getting you CV right is always a big part of landing a career in archeology. Competition is very fierce for each archeology job and there's always 100's of other people that want the same job as you. To get ahead of all of them you need to make sure that your CV shines.

The CV tips section can point you in the right direction or you may want to consult a professional CV writer to give your CV the extra momentum that you will need to put your CV ahead of all the other job applicants.

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