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How to Become A Professional Archaeologist

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How do I become an archaeologist? Do I need to attend a field school?

Hello Amanda,

Doing archaeology field work is an extremely effective way to achieve your dream of traveling the world and taking photos. This is precisely how I funded my travels for the first seven years. Most professional archaeologists live on the Road, and the profession has the tendency to take you around the globe.

If you want to travel perpetually, and to constantly be working and living in new places, then it is my impression that archaeology is the ideal profession.

But if you don’t want to spend your life in academia, I would recommend the CRM (cultural resource management) route.

CRM is the acronym for professional archaeology, and firms can be found all over the USA and a few other countries in the world. As oppose to academically funded archaeology field work, CRM is done for a profit — which means that the firms have enough money to pay you relatively well. There are laws in the USA that state that if a company wishes to receive government funding for their development projects that they must first have the area inspected my a CRM firm.

Section 106 of Cultural Resource Management laws:

The Section 106 process was designed so that federal agencies and those agencies assisted by federal funding would take into account a variety of culturally relevant factors before attempting land use planning and resource management.

This basically means that money is allocated from development firms/ corporations to pay for archaeology research on the areas in which they aim to impact the ground surface or build. This is good for archaeology, and is especially good for archaeologist looking to make a living in the field.

To qualify for a position as a field archaeologist you should have at least a B.A. degree in anthropology or archaeology and have completed an accredited field school. Many archaeologists that I have work in CRM with had masters and doctorate degrees. Though it is my experience that the field school requirement is more pertinent than the degree, as all of my professional archaeology work was done before I graduated from university (although almost everyone else that I worked with obtained a degree prior to doing professional work).

The archaeology field school that I attended was through Florida Atlantic University, and the education that I received at it was vastly superior to any other field school that I have ever heard of. In point, I was able to walk right into professional work after completing this field school — and know what I was doing. I highly recommend traveling to the Manabi Coast of Ecuador for this summer time field school, even though it costs a little more than domestic ones in the USA. Believe me, it will be worth every penny.

Florida Atlantic University Field School in Ecuador

After completing a degree and a field school, finding professional field work is not usually too much of a challenge. Most professionals use the website Shovelbums.org to find archaeology firms who have projects that they need to staff.

Keep in mind that most field archaeology positions in CRM are temporary. Expect each project to only last from 2 weeks to 3 months. After a project ends, it is common for most of the field crew to be laid off, whereupon they are free to travel on to another project in another location.

CRM field work is good for the traveler.

You can easily travel from state to state around the USA working on various archaeology projects for a few months, and then have more than enough money to travel abroad for the rest of the year. This was my strategy for the first seven years of my travels. I have now worked on archaeology projects in 15 states, 3 countries, and on 2 continents.  Simply put, archaeology fieldwork is a good way to get around the world.

Archaeology employment links

Thank you for reading Vagabond Journey.com

Walk Slow,

Wade

Hello, I live and travel off of the proceeds from this website, so if you like or use this information, please consider making a donation. Thank you.

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Original question about traveling as an archaeologist

I know that after I graduate, I want to do some work in archaeology so that I can travel and actually make money while doing so. Eventually I’ll probably go to grad school but I’m not in too much of a rush. I don’t really know where to begin with trying to travel and do archaeology and I was wondering if you had any pointers? I’ve heard of field schools and I’ve tried to find information online but most of what I find leads me to a university’s field schools so I looked at LSU’s anthropology website but it’s completely outdated. I will be working in the department come fall semester so I’m hoping that will help me get my foot in the door. How does field school work and is it necessary to go? Would it be more beneficial to me if I went after I graduate or should I try to go during a summer so that I can have some experience? What are some good sources for finding jobs? I vaguely remember reading on your travelogue at one point that a lot of the time, they provide somewhere to stay while you’re working on a project. Did I completely make that up? If not, how do I find these places? Any information would be greatly, greatly appreciated.
I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been subconsciously (perhaps consciously) preparing myself to do exactly what I’ve been saying what I want to do with my life, travel and take pictures. I’ve been living on couches for the past five weeks now. I have no car anymore so that cut out a huge expense. It was ironic to me that you recently posted a blog about how traveling and preparing for travel is a lifestyle, right as I’ve been truly changing my lifestyle in order to travel, though most of my changes of lifestyle have been a necessity due to circumstances out of my hands.

How to become a professional archaeologist?

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Filed under: Archaeology, 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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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap