Topic ID #34959 - posted 2/16/2015 8:54 AM

Is it really that bad?


I thought before sinking $30k into my education I should ask those who are actually in the industry for some advice.  Currently, I'm 33 years old, I have a 9 year old son, and I'm a single mom.  I work as a project manager for a company that does tenant build outs and remodels for small box retail stores.  

For the last few years I've thought about going back to school to increase my earning potential.  Project managers without degrees hit a brick wall and cannot take on larger projects or work with larger companies without this.  I looked into getting a degree in sustainable building or something like that but it seems like the only places hiring would be energy companies who are not interested in actually changing anything, just using the studies to support why it's financially unwise to make changes.  That would be more depressing than building the same store after store after store.

I've been toying with the idea of going for a BA in Archaeology with an MA in Museum Studies.  Eventually I'd like to work on museum exhibits and historic restoration projects.  This will take a substantial amount of time and money to complete this education.  Because I'm looking at Leicester, I'm completely ineligible for US financial aid... which I'm not eligible for anyway because I have so many previous college credits.  US schools are a lot more expensive so Leicester seems like a good option.

I've been lurking on this site for a little while, looking at the job postings, and it really scares me that people with Master's degrees are earning less than I make right now.  I don't want to drop that much money into an education that has a lower earning potential than where I am now.  Will this be the reality for me as well?  I haven't seen many jobs posted here that are what I'm interested in, but the ones that are have really low salaries.  I hope that doesn't sound snotty... I went to art school the first time around so I'm familiar with the concept of doing what you do because you love it, not because of the money.  But I don't want to spend that many years gaining experience and education to make $14k a year less than I do now.  Is there even a market for what I want to do?

Post ID#20619 - replied 2/16/2015 10:15 AM


I have an MA and 15 years experience (10 post MA) and I make less than 50k a year (and for most of that time I made less than 35k a year).  This is in CRM.  Until my current position I would spend on average 250 days out of 365 in a hotel on project.  On average.  Some years more, some years less.  Jobs with museums are few a far between... even fewer if you aren't willing to move to some out of the way place.  I have had ALOT of field techs with Museum Studies degrees (BA and MA).

I would definitely start looking at the types of jobs in the area you wish to live and study the turnover rate, because from my experience they don't come up very often.  The Feds do have some museum positions open from time to time with decent salaries, but getting in the Fed system is tough.  State positions come up every now and again with poor to OK salaries (35 to 50 k), but depending on the locale can be very competitive. 

I usually give the same advice I wish someone had given me:  "Do whatever will make you plenty of money; keep archaeology and history as a hobby."

There are a few folks who are a little less "wet blanket" than me, so hang around for their advice.

Post ID#20620 - replied 2/16/2015 11:09 AM


Thank you for the feedback.  Wet blanket or not, this was exactly what I was looking for.  I went to school for photography and ended up in construction because I had to earn a stable living.  My son will be entering college around the time I would wrap up my degree so traveling or moving is something I'd be open to.  But what I don't want to do is drop $30k on my education, have no college fund for my kid, and have no way to pay for his college.  

What does it take education-wise in order to run these public preservation or restoration projects?  By the time I'd finish with school, I'd have over a decade of construction project management experience. From what I've seen, they seem to want people with education and *some* project management experience preferred.  To me, that says I'd be very qualified.  BUT, I don't know what the hiring managers focus on or if the field is flooded.  

Post ID#20621 - replied 2/16/2015 3:54 PM


Have you looked into getting a Historic Preservation degree?

You can do neat things that most archaeologists can't, like Urban Planning, and Adaptive Re-use. I would also suggest a Landscape Architecture program.  

These types of things are tied into heritage/cultural resource management but tend to make more cash than archaeology. Also, stay away from the museum scene. Seriously, those guys make less than archaeologists most of the time.

Post ID#20622 - replied 2/17/2015 3:36 AM


Hi FLprojectmgr 

I track the pay numbers for the US and starting out as a field tech you are looking to be making $12-14 per hour starting. More in places like California and Alaska but there the cost of living kills you. There is almost no job security at that level and it is project by project bases some only lasing a few days. So you may not even pay taxes because you make so little. 

It will take you years to break into the higher levels with "better" pay. Only in those higher levels do they care about management experience. And it will be a crap shoot if they will accept non-archaeology project management experience. I highly doubt you would get hired just off of project management exp. You should also be aware that in many cases project management can mean you will actually be out in the field doing the same work as the tech- just with more responsibility. That means you need the field experience too, 5-10 years depending.

Museums are even worse because more people want to work in museums. 

The historic preservation degree might be your best option- pay is a bit better and it sounds like you will have very relevant experience. Still tough to get a job.

I am with McBain- "Do whatever will make you plenty of money; keep archaeology and history as a hobby." Especially if you are older and have a family. Archaeology will destroy your body. It is a good career to start out in your 20s if you have no family. You can travel, see amazing things, work outside, and be in some of the best shape of your life. However, when you have a family and are older almost all of those become a negative because you're traveling 200+ days a year, working in the rain & snow, your body is wrecked, etc. etc.

Post ID#20624 - replied 2/17/2015 7:32 AM


I would just like to reiterate some of the things others have been saying. From how you've described your situation, I would say you should be thinking about how you can parlay your previous experience into the historic preservation field. Construction management experience and a background in photography immediately makes me think of someone who should be doing HABS or HAER documentation projects. Archaeology and museum studies probably won't be the best fit given that it sounds like historic preservation is a more practical career switch which could net you at least comparable money to what you're currently making. There are a few schools in Florida (UF and UWF come to mind) and several in Georgia that offer degrees and even certificates in Historic Preservation or Public History. You might also want to volunteer at a local historical site or museum in order to get a taste of what it's like and make some potential contacts. I would steer clear of online degrees for the preservation field, simply because the knowledge you would gain from a UK program wouldn't really serve you very well in the US. For archaeology a UK program is perfectly fine, but preservation is different beast. The NCPE website mentioned by whatamIdoing is a great resource. Also you might want to visit to get a better handle on the preservation field and the types of work that you could expect. Good luck.

Post ID#20625 - replied 2/17/2015 8:24 AM


Thanks for the input everyone!  

I have researched a degree in historic preservation, but I have found the only college (to my knowledge) that offers this degree via distance is SCAD.  To be perfectly honest, I did my art undergrad at Ringling and I just have no interest in dealing with any of the Colleges of Art and Design ever again.  They want the entire year's tuition upfront, which is about what I was looking to pay for my BA and MA combined.  There are just a lot of financial reasons not to go to another expensive private school.  But I do need a distance program because I can't just up and move my entire life.  

The idea of doing fieldwork makes my body hurt just thinking about it, haha.  A few years ago, I was in a car accident that jolted my back pretty badly.  Prior to that, I was a triathlete.  I suppose in the back of my mind I've also been concerned that I will develop a neurological disorder that is hereditary that my mother has and her father had (I have a 50/50 shot).  It affects speech, balance, vision, etc.  I know I wouldn't be able to do my job that I'm doing now if I developed that because I spend too much time talking.  So when looking at degree possibilities, I've wondered what else I could do... research, work in a lab, etc, because I don't want to end up sitting at home on disability at age 55.

This is certainly something to think about!

Post ID#20649 - replied 3/26/2015 5:06 PM

Digger Michele

I'd like to put in a word from down here in FLA-University of FL has some great distance learning programs, not in archaeology, but in landscape architecture, engineering, and with preservation as a concentration!  They're heavy on the construction and arts angles, with practical knowledge that might make you more employable in the field.  In our office (private environmental company) we have an Architectural Historian who is looking for people who can identify the type of structure and all the features (types of windows, roofing material, siding, etc), the likely year it was built, do research into title and ownership, as well and looking in the local libraries and historical society records for snippets about those still standing older houses and businesses.  She occasionally goes into the field, but often would like to send someone with similar knowledge in her stead, to photograph and make notes and sketches of those structures that might be listed on the NRHP.  Volunteering with a local group that does this type of work, and sitting in the town or city meetings discussing preservation interests would be helpful for you too.
If that sounds like something you might like to do, look into programs that offer degrees that would prepare you for that type of work, a BA or MA would get you there, with so many credits, you may be able to fast-track a BA in some programs...
I wish you luck!

Post ID#20665 - replied 5/6/2015 12:51 PM


I jumped into the compliance side of things with the Feds and my career has been moving figuratively and literally (quicker than expected at that).  You do hit a wall without a Masters in Archaeology because of the Secretary of Interior standards, but the education requirement is not as tough with Historic Preservation, Historian, Architecture (with experience) although it is still highly desired in the field of competition glutted with young and unemployed graduate degree holders who are able to move around.  Lots of good advice above. I would say that whatever you want the end result to be, GIS should be a major part of your skill set.  It also increases the likely hood that you will have sustained gainful employment that is geographically stable.  


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