≡ Menu

How to Choose an Archaeology Field School

How to choose an archaeology field school ?

Hello Yogi,

Photo from my archaeology field school in Ecuador

First of all, make sure that the archaeology fieldwork programs that you are looking into are actual field schools. Make sure that it is for a duration for at least six weeks, that it is taught by an accredited university, and that you get some kind of certification (or university credits) for completing the training. One you have your list sorted down to the fieldwork programs that meet these parameters, ask the directors of the field schools the following questions:

Do you teach survey work, such as shovel testing? This is what you will mostly be doing in the professional sector. It helps if you get this training in field school.

Will we be actually in the field excavating? Some “field schools” just consist of washing and cataloging artifacts and doing the repetitious work that no professor wants to do. These are important skills to know, but will not give you a complete skill set for excavating.

How many years have you been excavating in this location, what have you been finding? It is not uncommon for archaeologists to run fieldschools that uncover just about nothing, make sure that the site is an active excavation that has been uncovering new elements and has been going on for a number of years. If you have other options, don’t hop on a field school that is in its first year of operation.

Whose research is this for? The higher ranking the professor the better. If the field school is being run by a grad student, don’t 100% discredit it, but ask more questions. Sometimes grad students use a field school as a way to get funding for their research, and sometimes their research is not conducted very well, or they are attempting to excavate sites that do not yield much of true scientific merit. If a full fledged professor is going to be taking the time to be in the field with you, then this is an indication that the there is something to really find where you will be excavating.

Is this a prehistoric or historic excavation? I am unsure how the different fields of archaeology are divided up in England, but in the USA, prehistoric archaeology means Native American and historic means white people or settlers who had and used writing. Be sure the type of archaeology the field school is offering is the branch that you want to go into.

Will I be doing both fieldwork and lab work? Make sure that you go to a field school that teaches both sides of field archaeology.

Will I be able to help compile the report? Try to help work on the report if you can, your name will be published as a contributor if you do.

In point, try to find the best, most highly revered field school that you can. Pay more money if you have to, it will be more than worth it to get high quality training. There are many hack field schools out there run by grade students who are unable to pay professional excavators. In order to get their research done they call their excavation a “field school” where in actuality you are just moving dirt for them for free. Also steer clear of “pay to volunteer” for a weekend type programs — these will do you no good if you want to go into professional archaeology.

After you have completed an accredited archaeology field school, you should be ready for employment. Honestly, it often matters little if your university degree is in another subject, but it could help if you went back to university and took a few anthropology and archaeology courses to get a better background for the discipline and have something of further relevance to add to your curriculum vitae.

Thanks for asking your question to me and for reading Vagabond Journey. Wish you the best in your upcoming archaeology field work endeavors.

If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Walk Slow,


Original question about what requirements an archaeology fieldschool should have

Hi Wade,

Great site. It gives the rest of us 9-5ers hope of breaking free!!!

I just had a quick question for you regarding Archaeology:

Im based in London (uk) and have an unrelated degree. I’ve managed to find many field projects. Some are over the course of a weekend, some 1 week, 2 weeks 3 weeks etc and some are for longer periods. My question is, what would you recommend I should be looking for in a field school i.e what should the ‘course’ cover?



Share on Facebook1Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Digg thisPrint this pageEmail this to someone
Filed under: Archaeology, Education, Study Abroad, 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 80 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 3165 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s travels:

Wade Shepard is currently in: Ulladulla, AustraliaMap