FAQ Preparing for a Hobby or Career

What kind of education do I need to become an archaeologist?

The minimum amount of education needed to work in the field of archaeology is a 4-year college degree (BA or BS) with a major in anthropology or archaeology, including training in archaeological field and laboratory techniques. Positions available with this level of education and training are primarily restricted to field or laboratory assistants.

To qualify as a professional archaeologist as defined by the Register of Professional Archaeologists requires post-graduate study (an MA or MS)  in anthropology, as well as work experience supervising archaeology field and lab projects.

What classes should I take in high school if I want to be an archaeologist?

In high school it is important to develop your basic skills like math, science, English, and history. Archaeologists need excellent research and writing skills—they write more than they dig!  They also apply mathematical and statistical concepts in the field and in data analysis.  Studying foreign languages is also helpful, as is gaining proficiency in basic computer skills including keyboarding, word processing and presentation software.  Archaeologists also need to be good at communicating with the general public so classes that include public speaking would be helpful.

What college should I attend if I want to major in archaeology?

In North America students interested in archaeology usually major in anthropology, which has four subfields—cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology.  Students majoring in anthropology must take courses in all four subfields. When researching colleges and universities, look for a school that has a department of anthropology with at least one archaeologist on the faculty. Also look at what opportunities for field work and lab work may be available.  Some schools have an archaeology lab or a museum that may offer training, volunteer, or paid work opportunities to students.

What universities offer the best graduate programs in archaeology?

There are a number of ways to research graduate programs in archaeology to find the one that is right for you. Check out the schools listed in an online directory of archaeology grad programs, such as the Guide to Graduate Schools in Archaeology on the About.com: Archaeology web site. The AAA Guide is another good resource. It lists over 400 academic programs and contains detailed information about the faculty, and special programs offered by each department.  The Guide can be ordered from the American Anthropological Association. You can read the results of the Society for American Archaeology’s survey to determine the most important characteristics of an outstanding graduate program.

Information Courtesy of Maureen Malloy, SAA Public Education Manager.

Posted by Patrice L. Jeppson 02/18/05  Page updated 2/4/10