Topic ID #34916 - posted 2/12/2015 7:50 AM

I've got my Masters Degree now what do I do?


You work your butt off getting your degree, almost losing your mind in the process, only to find you don't know what to do once you have it. 
I've successfully complete my MSc in Bioarchaeology and now I'm suck. I've been looking for a job, or even just a way into the field since I graduated 5 months ago. Searching for a job has become my job, except it doesn't pay very well. I've gotten no referrals, no leads, and I'm running out of ideas. What is it exactly I can do with my degree? am I missing some way in that I haven't thought of yet? I specialized in Osteology, I figured there would always be skeletons to study, and yet here I am job less with my school debt looming ready to crush me. 
I'm willing to try anything that will allow me to use what I know and what I am passionate about. But I could use a little help and advice. 

Post ID#20610 - replied 2/12/2015 9:39 PM


The following only applies to you if you live in the U.S.A.

Okay, have you tried applying as a crew lead, P.I., or full time lab rat at any of your old places of employment (before you entered grad school)? I think that's what I'd do. Send them a letter with your new C.V. saying something to the effect of "Hey you liked me as a tech, now I'm SOI qual'd and can do more for you." 

Unless you were doing Fed work beforehand, then it's time to step it up and start applying to those GS-9+ positions that you couldn't get before. Now with your 2 year advanced degree you will start making those referral lists.

Yeah, that's what I'd do.

Post ID#20612 - replied 2/13/2015 4:29 PM


There are jobs out there... low-paying field tech work.  Even if you have the MA, but are low on actual field experience you will have to start out as a tech.  And that means travel.  Gotta go to where the work is. Live in hotels, etc.  I did it for 6 years after I got my MA before I started climbing the ladder (such that it is -- added responsibility, but that much added money).

CRM-wise, there isn't a huge need for Osteologists.  I can think of maybe 5 or 6 projects in the 15 years I've been at it where we sub-contracted out to an Osteologist.  My wife has a Ph.D. in Physical Anthropology with a specialization in Osteology and she bailed out on the Anthropology and just teaches straight up Human Anatomy.

Post ID#20613 - replied 2/15/2015 5:14 AM


I would echo the advice already given. What sort of experience do you have? Where are you located? These details can help us help you.

Also, if someone told you osteo will get you work... they lied. In the UK alone there are several Osteo, Forensic, etc. programs that knock out over a hundred (not exaggerating)  MA/MSc a year in that area. Many of them American, Candian, etc. so they do back home. It is a very very crowded field in archaeology- probably 1k+ people with osteo degrees/experience. 

Also, there are very few bones to be dug. Almost every project I have ever been that comes across human remains tries their hardest to avoid digging up the bodies. Even if they do any one can dig them up - you don't need an Oseto degree to dig them up. Only the people in the lab doing the analysis. And like I said there are hundreds of qualified people and maybe each state only needs 1 or 2. The Osteo I knew in NM was a project manager and spent most of his time running generic CRM projects. Every few months he would do some bone work- (he also did zoology) but for the most part generic CRM is the work you do.  

Post ID#20617 - replied 2/15/2015 10:06 AM


I ran into the same issue when I first finished up my MA - Stick in there! Something will come along if you keep at it!  Here's my input having been in a similar boat a few years ago:

Honestly, the biggest thing I wish I'd done sooner was to reach out to people I knew from school.  I lucked out when a friend from when I was working on my BA got a hold of me to cover for someone for a couple days on a CRM project because they were sick.  If you don't have much actual field experience (like I me when I first finished), be prepared to take those jobs no one else wants or just covering for someone for a day because they are sick - To clarify, I'm talking about (echoing McBain05 above) tech work.

I know you would like to get a full time position somewhere - as I, and probably everyone else does, too - but I wouldn't expect it right out of the gate.  Regardless, working a few crappy short projects will get you a few things: a bit of cash (everyone has bills, right?), some experience to buff up your resume/CV, a taste of the industry, and most importantly - it will put you in front of people who can give you more work and it'll give them an opportunity to see how you work.

I've found I like being a field tech - the only things I could complain about is it'd be nice to get paid more and drive less.  I'm working on these things by trying to start up an archaeological supply website on the side to bring in a bit of side-cash, and I hope to move closer to the general area where I usually work.  I don't know how typical this is, but I mainly work within 1 county (have worked a couple projects in adjacent counties, too).  I've read online a lot of techs bounce around the US, though.

As far as osteology-specific work, there is one guy at my work who is the "bone guy" and we'll have him take a look at bones we have trouble identifying or think are possibly human.  I don't know if that is the kind of position you are looking for, but he probably spends >50% of his time on generic stuff that isn't osteology related.

Post ID#20618 - replied 2/15/2015 9:05 PM


Just a note of the comment about new MAs getting referred for GS-09+ positions. The last NPS project (summer 2014) that I worked on included a GS-07 term, three GS-07 temps, and a GS-06 pathways. All 5 had MAs. The three temps had years of crew lead experience (RPAs) and were starting a PhD program, in the middle of a PhD program and completed a PhD. The pathways was also in the middle of a PhD program. In other words many early career GS-07 levels are actually filled with professional level archaeologists these days. Times have changed since experienced BAs ended up in 9/11 park archeologist positions in the 90s and early 2000s. Just like academia, permanent federal jobs require a lot of work and a lot of luck. But we try because we love it. Good luck!

Post ID#20626 - replied 2/17/2015 2:15 PM


As the person DougRM was talking about, I figured I'd chime in (howdy Doug!).  Before I respond to your questions, there are a few points of clarification that I have that might help us understand your particular situation.  Since you say you got your MSc, I am assuming you got your degree in the UK, correct? Are you looking for a job in the US, Canada, UK, or elsewhere, and what country are you a citizen of? What is your background/experience in the field prior to the MSc? What was your MSc research in?

Post ID#20630 - replied 2/18/2015 11:21 AM


Hey Robin!

Been a while. Hope you have been keeping well?

For everyone else- some generic advice for those starting out. There are dedicated lithic specialists, bones, ceramics, etc. However, those jobs tend to be far and few between. A skill like Osteo or Lithics is definitely a plus to have and can get you a job. However, what tends to happen in CRM is with those skills you get the specialists work e.g. you write the lithic portion of a report. However, the majority of your time will probably end up doing generic CRM work. 

Companies will hire you because they want those skills in house or because they can sub-contract you out to other firms. Depending on what you do and the year you can spend a lot of time going your specialists work or none. 

However it is tough to be a specialist. A piece of advice that everyone gives is "learn GIS" well now everyone knows GIS and that skill is not really in demand in archaeology. You have to really know your stuff and do a lot of work if you want to be a specialist full time or even part time. I would say 9 out of 10 times expect to be a multi-tasker when it comes to a career in archaeology. Only a very few have managed to carve out single path careers ... and they are not keen to give them up.

Post ID#20638 - replied 3/3/2015 1:56 PM


As has been pointed out, the vast majority of us had to spend time, often several years, as poorly paid field techs. This used to be called paying your dues. It's hard, since you essentially are living at the poverty level and having your butt worked off - when you can even get work. However, and I think this is true for all of us who are now making a decent living and working under decent conditions, the secret is: DON'T GIVE UP! As time goes by, your resume will build and improve, and at the same time, a lot of others will give up. The combination of the two will eventually put you on the top of the pile of resumes for job openings. It's not easy to hang in when times are tough - I have found myself on occasion mowing lawns and cleaning swimming pools to survive - but if you don't give up and do the best you possibly can when you do have jobs, you will succeed.

Post ID#20640 - replied 3/9/2015 10:55 AM


Thank you everyone for your advice. I apologize for the late reply and answering of your questions my computer broke but I'm up and running again. 

to answer some questions. I  am located in Ohio and live in the US. I'm looking for a position anywhere in the US and am willing to travel and to "pay my dues" with low paying jobs. I was broadly trained in archaeology as an undergrad, and although I haven't visited lithics or pottery in awhile I'm sure it would easily come back to me should I need it. my MSc dealt with Anglo-Saxon remains but as an undergraduate I also studied north american archaeology. 

I have noticed that it is practically impossible to get into a government job even as a park ranger or entry level position and now that I'm out of school I'm not eligible for pathways. I've also come across the problem that a lot of my professional contacts since my masters are all abroad and therefore not much help to me here in the US.

Thank you for the encouragement. I am trying not to give up.

Post ID#20648 - replied 3/26/2015 4:51 PM

Digger Michele

I have a few additional suggestions for you, in your work to find work...first, many collections have faunal material that needs examining, it might be useful to brush up on your zoological analysis skills as well.  I also suggest looking at the part time/adjunct teaching positions that come up on a semester by semester basis-colleges without graduate level students and with large amounts of lab work or associated with museums might be good places to look.  The other alternative is to contact the folks writing articles in your field of interest-it seems like a long shot, but if you have interesting ideas and questions, those folks might take notice and have too much on their plate, that they maybe willing to share.  Those opportunities are rare, but not unheard of, and why not put it out there that you're interested?  Perhaps offering your help to one of those folks on a volunteer basis will be welcomed and create a mentor relationship that serves you both well.
Good luck!

Post ID#20677 - replied 6/29/2015 7:28 PM


Here's a stupid question - how many CVs have you sent out with meaningful coverletters and to whom did you send them. I own and run a company and can't find competent staff for full time work. I don't understand how someone who can write, edit, format, dig, see, think, get along and smile can't find work. Honest. You let me know about that if you can do those things- if anyone can do those things let me know. I might have a deal you can't refuse.

Post ID#20679 - replied 7/1/2015 5:06 PM


NWAIrchCo I've been sending out resumes everyday on USA Jobs and other sites, I don't even know how many I've sent at this point. I'm not sure what it is I am doing wrong. Please if you have any lead or would like me to send you anything let me know.
Feel free to contact me

I do appreciate it.  

Post ID#20682 - replied 7/9/2015 2:43 PM


Good question.

I have a Master's in CRM Arch and I'm switching careers because of the lack of work. The market is super saturated with people with a Master's degree in archaeology and there's no point in competing for small projects. I'm going to go work in a field where I'm needed/wanted.

Post ID#20691 - replied 9/17/2015 9:22 AM


Actually, you are still eligible for Pathways for a certain period of time after graduation. I'd keep looking into that if I were you. They can still be difficult to compete for and get, but I know a couple of people who have gotten their starts that way (and even more who got in through the old programs like SCEP and STEP, which were indeed only open to current students).

Don't forget about tribal employment and work at State Historic Preservation Offices. SHPOs, especially, tend to have high turnover at the entry level. You can work in federal/state compliance doing Section 106 review for a while and hone your chops on the regulatory thing. I do Section 106 (and other laws) for a living and you'd be surprised how many consultants actually have no idea how the regulations work. Do your homework before you apply, though. When I hire people I expect them to come in knowing at least a little bit about the process.

Check out the Archaeological Centers in the National Park Service. Southeast and Midwest, specifically. They often put out announcements on USAjobs for 4s, 5s, and occasionally 6s and 7s. On the surface they appear to be for single hires, but often they'll pull multiple people from the referral list. Unfortunately the days of walking into a GS-9/11 are long gone.

Post ID#20775 - replied 4/22/2016 11:35 PM

John Wagner

Hi all, I'm new to this site and I also have a shiny new Masters degree (in my case, an Archaeo MA).  I am one of many in the same boat, except that I have only been looking seriously in the last 2 months and, I am very limited because I need to stay put here in Colorado. (My upcoming marriage, dog and house have me pretty well tied down here.)  I will do anything even remotely connected with archaeology.   Anyway, I have a mortgage and need to find work very soon!  I also have a couple of questions:

NWArchCo:  Where are you located?  I am wondering if the "Co" stands for company, or perhaps Colorado. In any case, I can assure you that I can write, edit and format well above par in standard American English. I am basically a former "techie" (software developer) who somehow also learned how to write well. Of course I wouldn't want to "steal" any opportunity from the OP but if you take him up on a contact, my CV is posted on this site.  If you are in CO, I suggest that you look me up there as well.

Also, what is this "Pathways" program a few of you have mentioned?  And why haven't I heard about it?


Post ID#20776 - replied 4/25/2016 11:47 AM


I just graduated with an MSc in Environmental Archaeology from UCL's Institute of Archaeology. I have about 8 years field tech experience prior to this. I have applied for over 40 jobs in the past 2 months all over the country and even Guam. I've been turned down for a few Government jobs, but otherwise haven't heard anything back.
Don't give up, keep applying. Be prepared to do the same work for the same pay as kids with Bachelor's degrees. Many firms don't want to pay you $19.00/hr to dig, when they can pay a BA $12.50, even if you can do better work. Some do, but they probably have a full team of dedicated and loyal MA and MS RPAs with OSHA, HAZWOPER, and first aid certifications, who all have GIS experience, and at least a couple of published articles under their belt.
My point is that the competition for full time permanent jobs is steep, but if you get your foot in the door with a company that values capable hard working employees you can earn a place among those who earn a living wage in archaeology.

In the "new economy" of archaeology a BA = HS Diploma; MA = BA; PhD = MA; PhD + ~4 or more articles a year = PhD

Post ID#20800 - replied 9/24/2016 11:22 AM



I'm a budding anthro student chasing an archaeology dream. Finished my AA and now am working on BA at ASU. Obviously, many of you are well ahead of me with masters etc., or pursuing PhDs, but I have one advantage that I can share which will probably help a lot of you seeking jobs.

See, I'm on the employed side as a hiring manager.

Ah, now I have your attention.

Here's the problem: most anthropology and archaeology students coming out of school with a fresh degree want to work in exactly what they did in school or a related activity. Well, that's nice, we would all like that. Unfortunately, the job world doesn't work like that. For most, the hard lesson is that you have to first find work you CAN do to pay your bills and then begin to move towards work you SHOULD do with your education.

For anthropology (and archaeology) most get a bad wrap because it was often compared to Basketweaving 101 in school. In other words, "what the hell are you going to do with that degree?"

The trick is to use your strengths. Anthropology, particularly the cultural studies side, ethnography, statistics and research, and general study of people has strong parallels to psychology, marketing, and organizational behavior. What many graduates need to do to widen their skillset for a paycheck is first stop trying to get into the ideal specialist position. You're not going to get it unless you are the kid of so-and-so or you are an ultra genius. For the rest of the 99.99999% you have to work your way up.

Business areas exist with large amounts of vacancies and need for people who can work stats, spreadsheets, surveys and people issues include human resources, marketing research, marketing analysis, consulting for organizational redesign, sales, commercial sales, big data analysis, statistical and actuarial work, insurance, and legal work. Is it straight anthropology or archaeology? Of course, not. But it is a job.

The second problem most anthro people have is that they don't know how to present the skills they have in the right light. I've already given you the hints above: marketing, sales, psychology, organizational behavior, and legal. Reframe your skills set to match general skills, knowledge and attributes jobs in these sectors are looking for. You will quickly find that just changing a bit of your language in an interview and knowing how to present your hard skills can improve your job landing skills.

For example, someone who comes into my office applying for an analyst position with an anthro degree but can't tell me much about how it will help me won't get hired. Sorry, the world is too competitive and I don't have time to train someone from 0 level up.

However, if you come in and say "I have a background in studying people. Your business is hinged on selling and marketing, which is driven by human behavior and how it reacts to your product or service. However, have you actually ever researched who your customers are? Are their choices driven by culture, traits, demographics, or motivations? Have you put together any data on what your customers are doing and if so, have you crunched that data statistically to identify behavioral and cultural trends? How about your office, how is the organization working? Is there the potential to find ways to get your people to work better with each other? Are there inherent groupings of your people that run counter to your organization's success?"

All of the above can easily draw principles of anthropology and apply in practice. But you need to know how to speak the language of where the job is.

Hope that helps a bit. I've been a hiring manager for more than 15 years, and the number one problem I see for new graduates is that they don't know how to start marketing themselves effectively, even though they may have great skills. Think beyond your field, and you'll get a paycheck very quickly. Then from there jump to the work you really want to do.


Post ID#20884 - replied 5/23/2017 2:33 PM


You will get attention if you specialize in something everybody else doesn't do. While almost all the people I worked with were most interested in prehistoric archaeology, I made myself useful by teaching myself to identify and analyse historical artifacts and sites. I also learned architectural history and could identify, describe, and evaluate historical building styles. This, along with the ability to do research and write reports better than most of my colleagues, regardless of their educational level, got me beyond the "field bum" level, even though I only had a bachelor's degree. However, the fact that I didn't have a graduate degree frequently held me back. I was constantly told that I wasn't qualified to do certain jobs, regardless of my experience and proven knowledge and ability, while inexperienced people just out of grad school were put in charge of me and paid more money. The unfortunate fact is that the Secretary of the Interior, a bureaucratic appointee who probably thinks archaeologists look for dinosaur bones, has mandated that no matter how much you know, how much experience you have, and how good an archaeologist you are, without a master's degree you're probably never going to rise much above low-paying digging and screening under the supervision of higher-paid yet often less-experienced people with graduate degrees. I advise you to get a degree in accounting. Accountants are needed at every office on every street corner and all the space in between. In spite of being dime-a-dozen, they are paid better than archaeologists, and aren't subject to the same idiotic, irrational type of credentialism.              


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