Topic ID #30142 - posted 11/6/2013 4:27 PM

Difficulty with finding a job


    I graduated with my BA from Western Michigan University in 2008.   Every summer since then I worked as a Seasonal Archaeologist.  It is very difficult to land a permanent job as an archaeologist with only a BA.  I only work as an archaeologist during the summer months (2.5 months).  I know having a career in archaeology is very hard to come by and very selective.  A BA degree is an equivalent to a high school diploma, no one takes you seriously.
    I have been trying to get into graduate school since 2009 with no such luck - 2.6 GPA, only one good reference, low GRE score. I am currently taking a GRE Prep class and am planning on taking the GRE.  I am also planning on going back to school to increase my GPA to at least 3.0 and also to get an academic reference too.  I would like to know, if anyone of you who continued to read to point, how more likely am I on getting a permanent job as an archaeologist with a MA than with only a BA?  I would like to note my 6 years/summers of experience.

Post ID#20324 - replied 11/6/2013 5:22 PM


It has more to do with where you are working and who you work for.

Some people might use degrees to sort through CVs. Not having one will hurt you. In the western US it matters because you need an MA to get permits for certain government land e.g. BLM. There it is key cause you need someone with the permit to run the projects i.e. the people you hire on temperamently. Where do you work?

What might be hurting you more is the fact that you only work 2.5 months as an archaeologists. Why is that? Is that by choice? 

Six summers are nice but it barely comes out to one full year of experience. That is probably hurting your chances of permanent employment too. Unless you get lucky or get in with the feds or state right away most people need at least 1-2 years season work before people even consider them for long term work. Lots of people on here will have 4-6 years and still can't get permanent jobs, degrees aside.

Post ID#20325 - replied 11/6/2013 8:45 PM


I agree with Doug; why is it you only work during the summer months?  Jobs can be hard to come by, but if you are dead set on being in this industry you HAVE to be able to move around.  I don't want to discourage anybody from this field, but what are you actually interested in doing?  Maybe your interests aren't aligned, idk.  If I were do it all again, I would have double majored in GIS or Urban Planning instead of English and Geology.  These are fields that are very relevant to anyone in anthropology but incorporate modern ideals of "progress."

You are right, a BA/BS in this field.  That is not to say you won't land a good company who will treat you right; its just very hard to land for most people.  If you have a bachelors, get an MA in GIS and thank me later. You can still practice in this field but have a much wider, and more utilized skill set. 

Post ID#20326 - replied 11/7/2013 5:13 AM


I will echo the advice.  Do NOT get an anthropological/archaeology  MA.  Go with GIS, Urban Planning, or what have you.  If the program offers electives during the MA, by all means enhance your anthropological know how.

But, if you are going to be a BA level tech and want to work year round... you are going to have to be a nomad -- going from place to place following the work.  I did that for 10 years.  Some people like it.  I definitely did not.  The MA wasn't all that much help either.  10 years post MA, I still am fairly nomadic, though I occasionally get opportunities to sit and write reports and actually see my wife.  

My advice is always Go GIS, Go Fed if you can, or make money in another profession and volunteer at sites to get your archaeology fix.

Post ID#20327 - replied 11/7/2013 10:52 AM


how more likely am I on getting a permanent job as an archaeologist with a MA than with only a BA?

In general, the vast majority of the "better" jobs in archaeology are only available to those with a graduate degree.  On the other hand, it's a lot harder to find these coveted MA-level jobs vs. temporary, non-supervisory field tech positions.  And not to sound too crass, if you're having trouble landing project-specific, temporary tech positions, it's not going to get any easier with an MA.

Post ID#20328 - replied 11/7/2013 11:01 AM


I will echo the advice.  Do NOT get an anthropological/archaeology  MA.  Go with GIS, Urban Planning, or what have you.  If the program offers electives during the MA, by all means enhance your anthropological know how.

I can't agree more.  My general advice would be to get into a geography, forensics, geology, etc. program with an adviser who can help you finagle your thesis/capstone into something related to archaeology or CRM.

I think the worse thing somebody can do is to get into a 2nd or 3rd tier school, as a terminal masters student, with no funding, and then focusing on something like lithics or ceramics for one's thesis, and not taking any project management or Section 106 courses.  I've known many people who have fallen into that trap.

Post ID#20336 - replied 11/13/2013 6:37 PM


I have an MA and could not find a job.  I applied weekly, sending dozens of resumes and cover letters.  I came back to school and will graduate with an MS in Geospatial Sciences next month.  Strangely enough, it wasn't my archaeology and it was not my GIS specialty that landed me a job because many MAs in anthro/arch are getting GIS certificates right now.  Also be aware that a GIS certificate (even at the graduate level) is not a substitute for an MA or MS.  I have several friends with BAs and BSs that spent $$ on a graduate certificate in GIS, and still haven't landed anything as employers (local/state/fed government as well as consulting companies) were going with those that had advanced degrees in those fields combined with GIS training/certification.  It is a tough call. 

It was my training in NEPA and overall flexibility to work in several service areas in environmental consulting that led to a job offer for me.  And once I landed at my desk, at least three project managers stated that it was great to have an archaeologist that understood the NEPA process and the role of Section 106 in that realm.  

Crazy.  But true.  I'm becoming of the mind that archaeologists need to be more than just cultural resources specialists.  Plus, it is super slow in my area right now, and I'm able to keep busy[er] than those who are just in cultural resources around here.  If you go into environmental consulting, the best thing I can say as someone who is relatively new upon my return to environmental compliance after my second trip to graduate school, you should aim to be billable in more than one area.  That's the only reason I was offered a job.

Edited to add: KB is right...I am in geography for this degree, and I am writing my thesis on an archaeological topic.  The local university where I am is cranking out the anthro/arch MAs, who all have the same skills.  Those that are acquiring extra training in other areas (or taking jobs outside of archaeology) are the ones finding employment right now.  It's all about diversifying your skills!  Back in 2007, I was hired solely for the fact I had an MA...that isn't the case anymore.

Post ID#20337 - replied 11/14/2013 7:55 AM


I see you have only worked summers that is a huge problem in ever becoming a permanent employee.  You should ask yourself why this is happening that you’re only getting short term work never a long term one.  When getting work in archaeology the WORK doesn’t stop at just getting the job in the career field you want.

When I get hired onto a position and show the employer that he made a smart move to hire me instead of someone else that he or she interviewed.  I have worked all the stages of archaeology projects from start to the final draft report and don’t understand why everyone places that MA so dear to get work I don’t have that.  I have often seen so many newly minted MA and PH.D. Archaeologists fail because they lack the knowledge, experience or the willingness to do the work themselves to get the project done in time.  Be smart be productive and get the work done in a timely manner.  If all you want is to be a seasonal laborer then just do what you’re doing now and go work at Wal-Mart as a stocker in the winter time or something else like unemployment.  I shine as an archaeology project field manager/writer, but if you put me into a position where I have to survey steep mountains or dig perfect square holes all day I’m your worst employee.  I guess my suggestion is to find the nitch that you fit into and work your ass off to keep that job and never be laid off.  If other employees tease you about your effort ignore them.  If a lay off happens that employer will rember your productive work and will most likely tell the next employer who calls on your work reference that you’re a good asset.  This is how to become successful in getting long term work in any field.

Post ID#20343 - replied 11/19/2013 7:24 PM


Lots of good advice here. 

I would reiterate the importance of being open to travel -anywhere- if you want to get foundation experience. Also, location, location, location. I am a recent graduate that would never find a job if I stayed in the college town where I got my degree. I moved to a major metropolitan area and now work for a few CRM firms simultaneously (a necessity if you want to pay the bills). 

Try and get experience in every part of the work. Volunteer somewhere if you have to during your downtime to beef up your resume.

If possible, seek out a mentor that can help guide you - an experienced archaeologist that takes an interest in your career development. Networking is everything. Attend seminars when possible and stay current on who is presenting, and what they are working on. Bring business cards. Utilize online networking provided by LinkedIn and

When you land a job remember we all have to start somewhere. No task is beneath you, listen, learn, never complain and work really hard - do it better than the other guy. Prove to your employer that he made the right choice in hiring you, so not only would he/she do it again (next project) he/she would tell their peers about how good you are (earning referrals).  These are rules for any job, really. You have to earn it, especially in today's economic landscape.

Most of all, don't give up and you will make it happen.

Post ID#20344 - replied 11/20/2013 4:59 PM


I'm going to piggyback off this discussion because I'm in a somewhat similar position - hope you don't mind.

Little about me. I just graduated from undergrad in May and I've been interning since then; one internship in the west and now one in the southeast, both with the Forest Service. I want to go back to get that coveted Masters next fall. I'm currently working on a list of grad schools, but I was hoping to get some input. I want to go to a school with a CRM focus, preferably one with some GIS classes. Anyone have any suggestions?

Post ID#20345 - replied 11/21/2013 4:09 AM


Mollysews- are you looking to work for the Federal Gov when you say CRM? 

What area of the country are you interested in? If you are looking for post university employment it is good to focus on a region of the country that you want to live in.

The argument can be made that a good archaeologists can work anywhere but that is a very very tough sell to most employers. If you are interested in the west look for schools that specialize in that sort of archaeology.

So what area are you interested in?

Post ID#20346 - replied 11/21/2013 4:22 AM


You beat me to it.  Find what area you are more interested in and what type of research you find interesting and go from there.

From my exposure, I don't know of a lot of universities that really have a strong focus on CRM.  I think your internships with the FS have probably prepared you a good bit.  In the southeast, the only university that comes to my mind as doing a lot of CRM type work was Tennessee, but I think most of this came out of TVA work so I am not sure.

I think most have a couple of classes dealing with public archaeology and CRM but it is basically a very skimmed down summary of the regulations.  As far as GIS, I think most universities would have professors in the geography department but it wouldn't be a bad idea to search for archaeologists who are big with GIS applications.  One that comes to mind is Edward Gonzalez-Tennant out of Monmouth Univ.  He has done some really cool stuff.

Post ID#20348 - replied 11/23/2013 11:46 AM


Well I'm from the Northeast but I loved being out west. So my current plan is to apply to some schools out west, and some schools in my home state (because the tuition rates are unbeatable).  I was really just wondering if there is any where specifically I should be considering.
Thanks for you advice!

Post ID#20349 - replied 12/2/2013 1:16 PM


So without knowing your home state that might be the best bet. Leaving school with the least amount of student loan dept is always the best bet.

Also, like most university courses it is what you make of it. As long as you have a little flexibility in the classes you can take/ if you can get an independent study or see if you can work with someone in CRM for your dissertation then you will be fine.

Post ID#20355 - replied 12/8/2013 10:46 AM


I disagree with several of the strategies posted here. I think your thoughts on heading west for grad school is a good one, but you're going to need two or three more strong letters of recommendation first, probably from academic sources. One option for this is to enroll in an archaeology field school and impress your instructors very much. They'll appreciate it and will likely write you a good rec letter. Unfortunately finding good field school experiences can be as tough as finding a good grad program.

I do agree with those that recommend GIS certificates and training but I believe combining that with an advanced degree in anthropology/archaeology would be more effective. Once you're in a graduate program, more doors will open with respect to entry level positions with the feds or even the private sector but it takes a lot of networking. The key would be to join programs in places that have a high concentration of agencies, either state SHPO or feds and make sure you have a well connected adviser.  
Best of Luck,


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