What degree do I need to become an Archeologist?

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Who walks out of Raiders of the Lost Ark and doesn’t want to be Indiana Jones? Dashing, reckless, jaunting from one exotic location to another on a dotted line – it’s kind of life we all lead in our dreams. And if you’ve got those qualities, you could have a great career ahead of you – as a tomb robber and international criminal. Probably, eventually, in prison somewhere not so nice. But definitely not as an archeologist.

That’s because, as cool as he undeniably is, Indiana Jones is the world’s worst archeologist. Real archeologists don’t snatch the prettiest things from ancient locations and run off with them – they slowly, methodically uncover the past of a place and people to build the story of humanity’s history. They work in teams, not whip-wielding lone wolfs, and they have to be responsible and honest, since they have to work in places that are often religiously sacred or politically unstable, or both. If that sounds like you, then, by all means, become an archeologist! Tomb raiders need not apply.


However, it is true the field of Archeology is an adventure hunt, and if you possess those traits, and then seek to learn proper methodology, you too may find treasures of yesteryear to show the world. In order to work as a field Archeologist you need to obtain at the very least a 4 year college degree (BA or BS) with a major in Anthropology or Archeology.

Archeology is under the umbrella of Anthropology, which is broken down into 4 sub-fields:

  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Linguistics
  • Archeology

Many colleges feature the subfield Archeology, so it won’t be terribly hard to find a school. One thing to look out for in choosing a school, is to make sure at least one Archeologist is on the faculty in the Anthropology department.

You will need to develop your skills in English, writing, history and communications. Archeologists do a lot of research and number crunching. You will need to apply math and statistic skills to data analysis, so beef up your proficiency by taking plenty of statistic concept classes. Computer skills are also a must, mainly for data entry, but also for processing the data into comprehensible research.

The AAA Guide (American Anthropological Association) features over 400 academic programs as well as detailed information about faculty members and courses of study especially at the graduate level. It is imperative to familiarize yourself with this association, especially if you want to advance your undergraduate degree with a Master’s or Ph.D. in Archeology.

Job Expectations

Many Archeologist today work in cultural resource management (CRM). They are companies that work under federal historic preservation laws. Mainly they protects archeology sites. These Archeologists may be project managers, lab assistants, field research or they may be the public educator for a site and conduct tours of exhibits and lead speaking engagements. Some work for the government – that’s federal, state or local. Some work within tribal government agencies. And then some Archeologist work for private and public agencies.

There is a lot of opportunity for Archeologists; the best thing to do is to find your niche within the field and then work on advancing within that focus.

Archeologist may have to travel frequently, especially if they are on a team that actually does field digging. Keep in mind many in this field do not ever come in contact with field work beyond the college years; you can be an adventurer from a museum, parks, lab or an office.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is expected to grow by 19% from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

BLS statistics on wages is varied, as they lump anthropology with archeology in their statistics, but you can expect the median wage to be approximately $57k a year. Federal positions often pay more, with a median salary of $72k.