≡ Menu

How to Become A Professional Archaeologist

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 [...]

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

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

  • Past Horizons
  • Archaeology Fieldwork.com

Thank you for reading Vagabond Journey.com

Walk Slow,


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.

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?


The only way I can continue my travels and publishing this blog is by generous contributions from readers. If you can, please subscribe for just $5 per month:


If you like what you just read, please sign up for our newsletter!
* indicates required
Filed under: Archaeology, Travel Help, Work

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

8 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • tanvi January 23, 2011, 5:15 pm

    sry for the question before…happened bymistakely…my actual question is here sir…i am right doin my intermediate college with arts…as history…and wud like to continue a graduate college,abroad for archaeology….how should i head with this sir?as for it need a professional and proper guidance to give a head start to my career…hopefully waiting for your reply…

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com January 23, 2011, 5:23 pm


      Where you go for graduate studies in archaeology depend on what branch you want to go into. I would think hard about this and then begin applying for grad schools in that country. With a degree in history and art, classics — Roman and Greek archaeology — may be good for you. But be warned that this is a very competitive field and probably 95% of people with advance degrees in this field of archaeology cannot get good jobs doing it.

      This is a major problem with studying all “famous”branches of archaeology — like Egypt, Meso-America, many locals in South America — as you can study all you want and get many degrees and still not be able to find work. This is a tough field to seriously advance in.

      Studying the pre-history of a lesser known area of the world would provide you with less competition, but finding adequate education and funding could prove to be a problem.

      I would actually recommend studying the pre-history of your home country — you do not specify where you are from, but from your English I am guessing India? — as everything will be easier and cheaper this way.

      Link Reply
  • Caroline02 March 1, 2013, 2:13 am

    This is a great article! I did talk to a director from a field school over at Belize, and somehow he feels that another fieldschool over at Peru is trying to “trick” me in to attending his (telling me that after attending his, I have a better chance of getting a internship/entry-level job), and starts to say some bad stuffs, which honestly…I was really disappointed about how he reacted, as I thought he was supposed to be sorts of an educator. On second thought, do some archaeologist react in this manner? being sensitive about how applicants may choose another field school over his?
    With Regards

    Link Reply
    • Vagabond Journey March 1, 2013, 2:39 am

      @Caroline02 Ideally, you’re field school should be in the region you’re planning on focusing on in grad school. If you’re not planning on going the academia route, then it doesn’t matter at all where you take your field school: one in Ohio is just as good as one in Peru as far as credentials go. CRM employers are just interested in whether or not you’ve taken a field school somewhere. 
      I would avoid the Belize field school. Meso-American archaeologist pretty much no nothing of what’s going on in South American archaeology — at least no well enough to know about the field schools there. 
      No, the way he reacted was not normal.

      Link Reply