As I said in my earlier post, anyone can be an archaeologist. You just have to look for opportunities and ask them to join up. Usually, you can volunteer, attend a field school, or search for jobs.
Volunteering requires the least amount of commitment and the least amount of money. It also technically requires the least amount of training, but that can either help you or hurt you depending on the dig. Volunteers are usually not expected to pay anything, though some digs might charge a small fee if you are hoping to have meals provided, use their transport, or borrow/use their equipment. Volunteers are usually expected to find their own lodging, transport, and meals.
One thing to note about being a volunteer, particularly at field schools, is that you will probably fall lowest on the hierarchical ladder of a project. This isn’t to be rude, it’s merely an acknowledgement that most volunteers lack proper archaeological training. Volunteers are often a large part of the dig, but many of the more technical, complex things will be left for either students at the field school, grad students completing theses, or faculty members.
Volunteering is a good way to get your foot in the door, though, and to see what archaeology is like for minimal cost. It’s a good test-run for anyone considering entering the field, and it’s a good way to spend an afternoon or two for anyone who has an interest in archaeology.
The Archaeological Institute of America has a large database of opportunities called the Archaeological Field Opportunities Bulletin. Most of them are field schools, but some are volunteer or accept volunteers as well. Here’s a list of their current volunteer opportunities.
Past Horizons is another good database and has several really useful filters for finding digs. You can search by country, region, or the type of project you’re looking for (e.g. excavation, field school, museum, etc). Then scroll down to the options and look for the little square in the top right corner of each advert that says “Volunteers Welcome.” Past Horizons is run by the British Archaeological Jobs Resource and has a lot more British and European opportunities.
If those don’t help much, then try searching for local archaeological or historical societies. They may not have as much of a field opportunity, but some conduct their own digs. Historic New England is a good example in the US, and there are numerous groups in the UK as well.
The most common field opportunity for non-archaeologists or new archaeologists is a field school. Field schools are excavations set up by a university (or sometimes museum) in order to teach people how to excavate properly at an archaeological site.
Field schools generally provide lodging, meals, training, transport from your lodging to the site, and a certain amount of university credits/credit hours. the downside is that they tend to cost a lot of money (in the several thousands of dollars) and they don’t include transport from your home to the site of lodging. Some field schools also require recommendations from academic sources, making it difficult for anyone not already in an archaeology program to get in. If you need help with funding, check out the opportunities listed here.
That being said, field schools are where you will learn the most and are generally worth the money you pay for them. It’s a summer course from a university and a crash course in basic archaeological methods. This is where most professional archaeologists get their start, and it’s the best option for anyone seriously wanting to enter the field.
Here are some links where you can browse the field schools open for the current season.
NOTE: Many field schools are already in full swing, since it’s summer and the height of dig season in the northern hemisphere, but some don’t begin until August or later. Some digs operate year-round, depending on the weather.
Shovelbums is good for field schools and has an interactive map to help you find them. Shovelbums is among the top sites for field school adverts, so it should be one of your first stops.
The Archaeological Institute of America also has a large database of opportunities called the Archaeological Field Opportunities Bulletin. Many of the sites listed here are the same as Shovelbums, but both sites have field schools that the other doesn’t. It’s always good to check out both.
Past Horizons is another good database and has several really useful filters for finding digs. You can search by country, region, or the type of project you’re looking for (e.g. field school, lab, museum, etc). It’s also run by the British Archaeological Jobs Resource and has a lot more British and European field schools.
If those don’t find you any good opportunities, you can always check with universities. Usually universities with a larger archaeology department (or anthropology with an archaeology sector in the US) will run a field school. SERF is a good example run by a joint team from the University of Glasgow and the University of Aberdeen. Take a look at various universities and see what they have to offer.
As a disclaimer here, you should really only be looking for jobs in archaeology if you already have at least three seasons of field work under your belt. You should also hold at least a BA in something related to archaeology. If you don’t have at least that (and that is pretty minimal), then consider the options above before you peruse this section.
NOTE: Many places have already hired for the summer and are not interested in hiring more people. That being said, some projects are still looking for workers and some don’t start up until the fall.
Shovelbums is as good for jobs as it is for field schools. Shovelbums is among the top sites for job adverts, so it should be one of your first stops.
The Society for American Archaeology has a number of job listings, as does the British Archaeological Job Resource (BAJR). Other national archaeological societies may also have good databases. Check within your own country to see what’s available.
Another really good source for jobs is archaeologyfieldwork.com, a site that is geared mostly towards jobs and rarely lists field school opportunities. This is actually nice when searching specifically for jobs, largely because there are so many field schools. It also has useful forums where you can garner support throughout your search.
Past Horizons is another good database and has several really useful filters for finding digs. You can search by country, region, or the type of project you’re looking for (e.g. field school, lab, museum, etc). It’s also run by the British Archaeological Jobs Resource and has a lot more British and European stuff. The downside is that it doesn’t have too many job listings.
If all that fails, ask your colleagues or check out the local universities to see if they know of any openings anywhere. The main secret to finding an archaeology job, like many other jobs, is networking. Get out there, make yourself known, and you should be able to find a job.
*For those reading this who are archaeologists or historians: If you would like to add anything, please send it to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, use the contact page, or leave a comment!