Archeologists study the origin, development, and behaviour of human beings, past and present. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.
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Drawing and building on knowledge from the humanities and social, physical, and biological sciences, archeologists examine the ways of prehistoric societies in various parts of the world. They also examine the customs, values, and social patterns of different cultures.
Many archeologists use sophisticated tools and technologies in their work. Although tasks vary by specialty, materials often include excavating tools, laboratory equipment, statistical and database software, and geographic information systems (GIS).
Archeologists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. for most positions. They also need related work experience. Many candidates fulfill this requirement through field experience or internships with museums, historical societies, or nonprofit organizations. Many students also attend archeological field schools, which teach students how to excavate, record, and interpret historical and archeological sites.
Most master’s degree programs are two years in duration and include field research, Although a master’s degree is enough for many positions, jobs that require leadership roles and more technical experience may require a Ph.D. A Ph.D. takes several years of study beyond a master’s degree and completion of a doctoral dissertation. Ph.D. students typically spend between 12 months and 30 months doing field research for their dissertation. To direct projects outside the country, anthropologists typically need a Ph.D. to comply with the requirements of foreign governments.
Most graduates with a bachelor’s degree in archeology find jobs in other fields, although a limited number find jobs as field, laboratory, or research assistants. Those with work experience in an internship or field school can work as a field archeologist or do basic laboratory work. However, they need a master’s degree to advance beyond entry-level positions
Although some archeologists work in a typical office setting, many work in laboratories or in the field. Fieldwork sometimes requires workers to travel. Most work full time during regular business hours.
Archeologists work for research organizations, colleges and universities, museums, consulting firms, private corporations, and in all levels of government. They also can work for cultural resource management (CRM) firms. CRM firms identify, assess, and preserve archeological sites and ensure that organizations, such as developers and builders, comply with regulations regarding archeological sites.
Archeologists often do fieldwork, either in their own country or in foreign countries. This may involve learning foreign languages, living in remote villages, or examining and excavating archeological sites. It also often requires travel for extended periods of time and may involve work in remote areas, They may work under rugged conditions, and their work may involve strenuous physical exertion.
The median annual wage of anthropologists and archeologists was $54,230 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $31,310, and the top 10% earned more than $89,440.