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Archaeology as a Stable Career Path and Fieldwork in Egypt

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Should I pursue archaeology as a stable career path?

This is a question from a reader named Lane who would like to know if he could expect to find a stable career in archaeology and do fieldwork in Egypt.

Hello Lane,

Your question sort of comes at me from right field, as my  draw to archaeology was that it was not the sort of career that would tie me to any one location, and that I could travel from place to place, state to state, country to country at my own discretion. My endevor into archaeology was to only find temp labor in which I could complete one project and move right on to another.

In point, my attraction to archaeology was from the prospective of a traveler, and doing archaeology fieldwork is a great modus operandi to traveling the globe.

But you seem to be looking for a career, and I must say that this is possible. As of now there are also many career opportunities in archaeology for people who want stable professions and permanent work. What I do is called field archaeology, I am a field archaeologist — an excavator, a grunt, a beast of burden. What you want to do is to become either a field director, a principle investigator, or work in academia.

And this is very doable if you go through the rounds of university education and obtain a doctorate degree.

There are two forms of archaeology: professional archaeology (cultural resource management) and academia. Cultural resource management is what 99% of the archaeologists in the United States are engaged in. It is archaeology that is run by private firms in order to clear archaeology sites and potential archaeology sites before developers destroy them. This field is also sometimes dubbed “salvage archaeology.” Academic archaeology probably does not need an explanation: it is archaeology that is predominately done through universities by archaeologists who have acquired grants to do this or that project.

I will tell you right now that tenured positions in universities for archaeologists are very few and that there are tons of people waiting to fill each job that becomes available. It is a hard struggle to get into a university as an archaeology professor, but it is possible.

If you are really passionate about becoming an archaeologist who does research in Egypt — they call themselves Egyptologists — then go at it with all your heart and soul, and you have a chance at being successful. But if you are wishy washy about it at all, then I cannot say that this profession has a high possibility for becoming a stable career.

Thousands upon thousands of university students study to become Egyptologists, and they go to Egypt as field school students and some of the lucky ones get hired on professionally for a few seasons, but, more likely than not they end up working in cultural resource management in the USA.

I have known many archaeologists who say shyly that they wanted to do research in Egypt who just end up spending their days digging in the dirt of America right next to me.

There is money to be made in cultural resource management, there is little monetary resources for academic archaeology — and this funding is highly competitive.

In conclusion, I say that it is very possible to obtain a stable position in archaeology in the USA — just go to grad school and take out a phd — but it is an uphill battle all the way to find fertile ground in academia. If you are passionate beyond a doubt about being an Egyptian archaeologist, then friggin’ do it, if not, then think twice because the field is full of very sharp people who ARE passionate about their studies and will do just about anything to get funding for them.

On the TV and in the movies archaeology seems glamorous, and after doing field work for 8 seasons, I must say that this is true to a very large extent. In archaeology you get to go places you would never go otherwise and do thing that you would never have the opportunity to do. I have found it the perfect way to make up my bean money for traveling WHILE traveling. It is one of the best jobs on the road that I know of.

But if you are looking for stable work, rather than just Shovel Bumming it from coast to coast, then you are looking at a lot of university study. But you can do it.

I wish you the best.

Let me know what you think.

Walk Slow,

Wade

Hi my name is Lane im a senior in high school this is the first time i have read your blog . I was wonder if i go into archaeology if i would have a steady job out in the field. I would really like to go to Egypt and study the pryamids and the ancient civilzation and if i were to persue this career would i be able to go work over in Egypt for months or would i have to live over there because i would like to have a family someday and i wouldn’t want to always be away on a dig. It would be alot of help if you emailed me back.

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Filed under: Anthropology, Archaeology, Egypt, Travel Help, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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