Archaeologist: Educational Requirements for a Career in Archaeology

Dec 11, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an archaeologist. Get a quick overview of the requirements - including degree programs and job duties - to find out if this is the right career for you.

An archaeologist regularly delves, digs and looks into the past. A graduate degree is the minimum education to become an archaeologist, but related careers exist with an undergraduate degree. With the proper education and training you can play a part in helping to unlock history's mysteries.

Essential Information

Archaeologists are social scientists who conduct excavations to recover, study and preserve such artifacts as ancient ruins, tools and ceramics. Their objective is to learn more about the culture and evolution of extinct civilizations. Depending on their education - which usually includes a master's degree - they may work for archaeological firms, museums, historic site preservation organizations or government agencies.

Required Education Master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 10% (for anthropologists and archaeologists)
Median Salary (2018)* $62,410 (for anthropologists and archaeologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Archaeologist Educational Requirements

Though archaeologists generally need at least a master's degree, the archaeology field offers employment opportunities for those who have bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees. The Society for American Archaeology recommends that students seek degree programs with an archaeology laboratory, at least one staff archaeologist and fieldwork opportunities.

Bachelor's Degrees

Bachelor's degrees are generally required for entry-level archaeology positions, such as field assistant, surveyor or museum technician. Aspiring archaeologists typically pursue degrees in anthropology, which consist of studies in archaeology, cultural anthropology, biological anthropology and linguistics. These programs combine classroom and laboratory instruction, and they may offer practical experience through fieldwork programs. Courses may include archaeology methods and theory, analytical techniques, prehistory, North American archaeology, evolution and sociolinguistics.

Graduate Degrees

Master's or doctoral degrees typically qualify students for upper-level positions in museums, archaeology firms and government sectors; Ph.D. degrees are also usually required for teaching positions in universities and curator positions in museums. Master's degree programs typically take 1-2 years of post-baccalaureate coursework to complete, and doctoral degree programs may last an additional 2-3 years. To graduate, students are typically required to submit a thesis or dissertation based on original research in a specific topic.


Archaeologists may gain the fieldwork experience necessary for many positions in the occupation by completing internship programs. Internships and similar training programs may be available through field schools, museums, government agencies and archaeological associations. These programs promote professional development and allow students to sharpen their archaeological research and excavation skills under the supervision of experienced archaeologists.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, archaeologists and anthropologists were expected to experience a 10% growth in employment from 2018-2028. This growth, faster than the average for all occupations, was predicted to be spurred by steady use among corporations to understand cultures and social groups.

Archaeologists are also needed to confirm that historical locations and structures are not affected by construction projects. Archaeologists qualified for cultural resource management positions may see the greatest employment opportunities. As of 2018, the median salary for archaeologists and anthropologists was $62,410, according to the BLS.

While you'll need at least a master's degree in archaeology or anthropology to secure most positions as an archaeologist, some positions or organizations require that you hold a Ph.D. A bachelor's degree and some field experience might land you an entry-level slot as a field or research technician or as an assistant in this comparatively slow-growing occupational area.

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