Topic ID #28784 - posted 5/14/2013 5:33 AM

More bad news re: Archaeology as a profession



Oh, well...

Post ID#20169 - replied 5/14/2013 6:03 AM


"Why is this number so high? It all goes back to the same problem of having skills that are perceived as valuable in the working world - assuming you're not trying to get a job as an anthropologist or archaeologist. While you'll likely pick up skills during your course of study that could be applied to other jobs outside of these majors, good luck getting that across in a job application or interview when you say you studied anthropology, says Reynaldo."

I think that is exactly right.  The major issue to me is that our departments aren't training us to really find jobs.  I feel most are gearing an undergrad student to go to graduate school when in reality this shouldn't be the case at all.  "Oh, you can tell me the culture history of the coastal plain. . .congratulations."  Let me be clear and say this is all my opinion and based on my observations.  Degree programs should really focus on technical skills that are cross-disciplinary, like GIS and database management.

Post ID#20170 - replied 5/14/2013 6:15 AM


If you want those skills then perhaps choose majors in which those skills are a focus instead of Anthropology, which really has no place in the work world anymore.  Archaeology only provides access to CRM, Governmental agencies (though being a veteran helps more in the Fed system), and academia.  

Anthropology/Archaeology is a terrible major.  It really should be a minor only degree to save students the headache, heartache, and money.  

Post ID#20171 - replied 5/14/2013 6:46 AM


well, I dont think it has no place.  Its just not incorporated well into the present besides as a "hands off" mentality.  I think the creative will create their own niches, but unfortunately we aren't all blessed with creativity.  I self taught myself in most technicial skills but was lucky enough to realize to take GIS classes in graduate school.  In the work world, we have really become nothing more than a check in the compliance box, unfortunately.

Post ID#20173 - replied 5/14/2013 7:19 AM


Yeah, I bowed to the pressure from the faculty (the same one's you served under in grad school) to take statistics, in the sociology department.  A complete waste of time.  I wanted to do GIS and cartography, but the faculty pushed me to statistics.  It wasn't even in the Math department.... a complete waste of time.  We spent three class periods on "What is a mean?"  and some people weren't even getting that.

I self taught my own technical skills as well, and I can put that I am proficient with GIS software and concepts... but I have nothing to prove it.

An Anthropology degree is a complete waste of time for the majority of folks that pursue it.  It would be better relegated to a minor-only status or folded into to Sociology.

Post ID#20174 - replied 5/14/2013 7:42 AM


The biggest obstacle I can remember from my undergrad were that my professors were completely out-of-touch and steered most of us towards a career in academia that is essentially non-existent.  To their credit, most of them did go to graduate school in the 60s and 70s, when the university system was well funded and growing.

In practice, I doubt Anthropology is any better or worse than any other traditional liberal arts major.  I suspect the vast majority of people get a degree in a field like anthro/history/psych/ethnic studies/etc. because they're quasi-interested in it and it's considered easier than a hard science.  Essentially, a BA is a BA.  Sadly, I think the era for those getting a general, liberal arts education, in order to be a well rounded individual is over for good.

For those who want to work in the field, I think the biggest challenge is that it's very difficult for an Archaeologist without a graduate degree (I hate it when people say "just a BA") to have any kind of job stability or quality of life.  There are exceptions but this is largely true.  For somebody who wants to be an Archaeologist, you're better off focusing on forensics, GIS, geomorphology, or geophysical work, than more traditional specialties like ceramics or lithics.

Post ID#20175 - replied 5/14/2013 8:09 AM


Finding myself in the same boat, I totally agree with everything said so far. I, too, have found that anthro and especially CRM trains you to do almost nothing except wander around in the desert looking at the ground. Sure, I have technical writing skills, but I don't have a degree in English. I have taken GIS classes, but have no certificate or practical experience. Although I could do, or learn to do, a lot of things out there in the real world, I don't have the right piece of paper, and so I'm never given a moment's consideration for anything other than CRM. And lately, not even that. I've even thought of going back to grad school, but I can't afford it and am of a sufficiently advanced age that I'm not sure I would be able to work long enough to pay off the loans.

Post ID#20188 - replied 5/21/2013 12:09 PM


This is a very disapointing development that the work world has changed so much that the fields withn Anthropology and Archaeology are being squeezed out.  I am wondering if this is a symptom of American decline.

Currently, I am out of work through reason of an arthritic knee, though I don't mind so much because I no longer want to remain in a manufacturing job, and hopefully I will be on short-term disablity soon.

The reason I am back looking at this website is that I want to pursue a career in archaeology.  I have an A.A. in Anthropology from 1984 (what can I do with that nowadays?) and am taking distance learning courses from Univ. of Leicester for a certificate in archaeology.

So, is there nothing that I can do other than what I am doing to get into the field?  What jobs other than CRM would be a possibility?  What would be realistic in today's economy?

Post ID#20196 - replied 5/22/2013 4:34 AM


There are plenty of things other than fieldwork that you can do: finds specializations such as ceramics, metal, lithics analysis, etc., becoming a member of an outreach program or some other sort of public mediator, becoming a curator in a museum, doing restoration work, teaching, and those are just off the top of my head. With creativity and will you can get into this field. It is one of the most interdisciplinary fields out there.

Post ID#20198 - replied 5/24/2013 8:20 AM


I believe that I speak for many more than just myself in saying that an inquisitive nature and deep love of The Antiquities guided us - no, drove us into the profession.  Background:  I spent two years between high school and an early marriage as an anthro student at SUNY New Paltz.  A similar passion drove me into the fire service for the next twenty years.  Neither profession makes millionaires, but both create a deep satisfaction and fills a need within us.  There are many such life-roads.   

Post ID#20486 - replied 4/25/2014 12:22 PM


Here's where I see a huge problem. Everyone is right when they say the working world has no place for archaeology, anthropology, and many of the other liberal arts. The only problem is that our modern working world isn't a good one. While people don't pay these professions like they used to and the potential for a career is shrinking, the world NEEDS these professions more than ever.

When asked why Great Britain should fund music programs during WWII, Churchill said that without music what were they even fighting for? In a similar fashion, if we live in a world that completely revolves around industry and maintaining the mechanics (including war) that simply allow for the existence of civilization but rejects anything finer, what's the point of having a civilization in the first place? These are questions are ones that the public should be asking but aren't and it's OUR FAULT!

That right, it's our fault that people don't care about our profession. Now more than ever, I see anthropology classes filled with socially awkward introverts that have found haven in the these now unusual career paths. We have completely quarantined ourselves from the outside world and have been continually steering the discipline farther from the public eye. We think our own pursuit of knowledge and enrichment is what makes the study important in the first place.
If the world's view of archaeology is ever going to change, the schools need to additionally teach public speaking, non-technical writing, classroom teaching, and (tele)communication to relay to students that this discipline needs to, not just occasionally interact in the public sphere, but live there.

Lastly, schools need to teach philosophies of science and humanities (most importantly the difference) and anthropology itself. That way, when asked the all-important question that I doubt any new student can answer, "why do you study archaeology?", they will have a better answer than "because it's cool". 

Post ID#20490 - replied 5/2/2014 6:43 AM


This years Top Five professions/degrees to avoid (see the post in "News") has moved us up from #4 to #3. Oh, well. On the other hand, if one can succeed in a profession that the "experts" say you have little chance of success in, then you have a) made them look stupid; b) accomplished something real; and c) proved that you are exceptional. The reality with archaeology, as with any of life's endeavors, is that it's your choice if you succeed or not. If you are willing to pay the dues, you will eventually get admitted to the club...

Post ID#20492 - replied 5/2/2014 12:21 PM

amie de la mer

If it's any consolation, that yahoo story appears to be recycling old news.  The data in the article are unchanged from 2013; there is no new report from Georgetown University (the original report can be found at  And if you flip through the summary slide show at that link, you'll see that unemployment rate and recent graduate earnings are not well correlated, so for example, "Recreation" has a low unemployment rate (5.2%), but also a low starting salary ($29K), whereas "Social Sciences" has a higher unemployment rate (10.3%), but higher starting salary ($36K).

Post ID#20496 - replied 5/13/2014 10:20 AM


I agree with Kendoggg.  We get so caught up in the compliance obligations that we forget why we had to comply with 106 in the first place.  We let the infrastructure industry move in and put the squeeze on us as well trained and educated professionals when we agreed to take less than what we are worth. 

We need to get back to the tennants of Stewardship and Interpretation.  I think archaeology is important to our understanding of the current social trajectory and how to better understand our culture through the lens of the past, but that is not the feeling you get when you leave school and start working in the CRM world.  It just has to be done.  I see no attempt at an integration of all the information that is produced from the thousands of surveys and excavations every year.  We don't even list the sites that we deem eligible to the NRHP.  Who's job is that? 

It is frustrating that we shy away from the public out of fear of looters when we should be sharing every little find that demonstrates that the past is all around us.  

The federal goverment signs my paychecks, but I work for the people.  I wish I could share more with them about my work. 

Post ID#20506 - replied 5/24/2014 5:30 PM


Kendogg hit the nail on the head. 

Post ID#20507 - replied 5/26/2014 5:43 AM


Just jumping in here. Figured I'd give my perspective as a noob (or not even that: a guy with almost no experience hoping to get into CRM and also grad school for Archaeology)...

It seems to me that the article isn't saying the skills of an archaeologist aren't valuable in the working world. It's saying they aren't valuable outside the profession, or cross-disciplinary, as some posters pointed out.

"anthropology and archaeology graduates report a 10.5 percent unemployment rate..."

Ok, but why? 

Because these skills are not perceived as valuable in the working world - "assuming you're not trying to get a job as an anthropologist or archaeologist." Therefore it seems to be saying that people who go to school specifically FOR arch/anthro and then DON'T go into that field have a hard time getting jobs. That's not a problem specific to anthropology, it's very widespread as the other stats on there showed. And it's the price of studying what you're interested in vs. what makes money. 

Winston Churchill would say that if you only make choices based on what makes $ then you're not really being a human being -- not really "living." What's the point?

I'm not saying all of you experienced working archaeologists are wrong when you say it's hard to find work. Nor am I saying archaeology as a profession is valued as much as it should be -- obviously I think it is undervalued if I am going into it even with this information! I'm just saying, Kendogg is right because the problem isn't "them", or other people's values, it's a displacement of OUR values. As an outsider -- and, I'll add, a guy who's got a liberal arts BA and can barely find a job right now -- it seems to me that archaeologists should count their blessings that they are doing something meaningful. And not to forget that it's meaningful. I know guys who work in Finance making six digits whose lives I don't envy. 

BTW I am not a recent undergrad, I've been in the working world for a while, so I'm not just a wide-eyed idealist.


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