Archaeology and Anthropology

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Career Opportunities for Archaeological Studies Majors

U.S. News & World Report ranks Anthropologist and Archaeologist among the Top 10 Best Science Jobs for 2016 and 2017. In 2016 Anthropologist was ranked #4 and Archaeologist was ranked #6, and in 2017 Anthropologist and Archaeologist were ranked #7 and #8, respectively ( The median salary for Anthropologists and Archaeologists is $61,220, the unemployment rate is only 2.8%, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the fields to grow 4% between 2014-2024.

A recent issue of the SAA Archaeological Record focuses on "Diverse Careers in Archaeology," written by those in a wide range of specialities, telling how they made their decisions, and what their careers are now like. 

Anthropology is good preparation for Med School, and so much more. Check out this podcast  from Minnesota Public Radio at the Minnesota State Fair. At the 43:20 mark, UWL's Peter Stovall asks about good majors to prepare for medical school, and is told that Anthropology is an excellent major to set yourself apart as a great med school applicant.

There are three main employment areas for archaeologists:

1. Research and government employment

Research archaeologists may be hired by Federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  State Agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, State Historical Societies, state burial sites preservation programs, and historic preservation programs, typically have one or more archaeologists on staff. Museums and research institutions, such as the Smithsonian, the Field Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center (UW-La Crosse), have staffs of archaeologists.  Some job titles include:

Regional Archaeologist 
Research Archaeologist 
State Archaeologist 
Historic Preservation Officer 
Park Ranger 
Archaeological Field Technician* 
Archaeological Lab Technician* 
Museum Technician* 
Archaeological Surveyor* 
Public Education and Outreach Coordinator 
     *Entry-level positions that require only a bachelor's degree.  Other positions require graduate training.

2. Teaching

Most teaching positions are at colleges or universities and typically require a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree.  Teaching specialties include:

Prehistoric Archaeology 
Classical Archaeology 
Near Eastern or Biblical Archaeology 
Historical Archaeology 
North American Archaeology 
Environmental Archaeology 

3. Cultural Resources Management (CRM)

State and Federal legislation has created the fastest-growing area for archaeological career opportunities, cultural resources management. CRM archaeologists assist developers and public agencies in meeting the requirements of preservation legislation by contracting their services.  These archaeologists locate previously unknown archaeological resources (sites and artifacts), evaluate the importance of the resources, and if necessary conduct rescue excavations if the remains are threatened by development.  Job titles include:

Contract Archaeologist 
Cultural Resources Specialist 
Director of a CRM company 
Archaeological Field Director 
Archaeological Lab Director 
Collections Manager 
Archaeological Lab Technician* 
Archaeological Field Technician* 
Public Education and Outreach Coordinator 
   *Entry-level positions requiring only an undergraduate degree.

Many professional archaeologists have careers that involve work in more than one of the three major areas mentioned.  For example, an archaeologist who is a university or college professor during the academic year is often involved in research or consulting during the summer.

Archaeological Studies: Also a good choice for those planning careers in other fields.

Many undergraduates choose Archaeological Studies as a major not because it is their career choice, but because it is an interesting, broad-based and challenging Liberal Arts major.  These students go on to careers in business, teaching, communications, legal, or medical professions.

Career Opportunities in Cultural Anthropology and the Anthropology Minor

Students in the Archaeological Studies program who plan to pursue a graduate program in cultural anthropology are expected to complete the anthropology minor.  Each student interested in a graduate program in this area should consult at length with the UWL anthropologist, Dr. Christine Hippert.

Anthropologists can be found in a surprising array of fields and careers because training in anthropology gives any student a great background for understanding, working with, and assessing cultural differences.  People working in all walks of life have used their training in Anthropology, including former President Barak Obama's mother: Anthropologists can be found in corporations, all levels of government, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. Anthropologists work in disaster areas, including Ground Zero in New York and the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Today there are four main career paths for anthropology graduates:

1. Careers in International, US, and Community-Based Non-profit Organizations

Non-governmental organizations, such as international health organizations and development banks employ anthropologists to help design and implement a wide variety of programs. Many anthropologists work in local, community-based settings for non-profit agencies. Sometimes, they work through community-based research organizations gathering data and surveying communities to design programs that are targeted to their specific needs and priorities. Other times, anthropologists might work for established organizations in a community working on issues such as food security, improved health care, environmental issues, and social and economic justice.
2. Corporate and Business Careers
Many corporations look explicitly for anthropologists, recognizing the utility of their perspective on a corporate team. A corporate anthropologist working in market research might conduct targeted focus groups to examine consumer preference patterns not readily apparent through statistical or survey methods. These anthropologists use their research skills to talk to consumers and users of technology to find out how products and services could be improved to better meet the needs of consumers.

3. Government Careers
State and local governmental organizations use anthropologists in planning, research and managerial capacities. Contract archaeology is a growing occupation with state and federal legislative mandates to assess cultural resources affected by government funded projects. Forensic anthropologists not only work with police departments to help identify mysterious or unknown remains but also work in university and museum settings.
The federal government is one of the largest employers of anthropologists outside of academia. Possible career paths include: international development, cultural and natural resource management, preservation, local politics, forensic and physical anthropology, and defense and security sectors.

4. Careers in Education

On campuses, in departments of anthropology, and in research laboratories, anthropologists teach and conduct research. They spend a great deal of time preparing for classes, writing lectures, grading papers, working with individual students, composing scholarly articles, and writing books. A number of academic anthropologists find careers in K-12 education, especially when related to fields such as global studies or social studies.  Students have used what they've learned in their Anthropology minors to work in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL), evaluating and assessing educational programs on cultural diversity, and study abroad programs, just to name a few.

In response to a survey by the American Anthropological Association's Committee on Practicing, Applied and Public Interest Anthropology (CoPAPIA)*, respondents provided the following responses to describe their post-graduate employment:
Education/Outreach Administration/Management
Archaeology Ethnography/Cultural Anthropology
Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Evaluation/Assessment
Historic Preservation Health (international/public health)
Museum/Curation/Project Design Environment and Natural Resources
Community Development Business
Advocacy (human rights/social justice) Tourism/Heritage
Human/Social Services Healthcare Management/Services/Deliver
Computers/Software Development/Information Technology Management Consulting/Organizational Development/Training
Design (products and/or services) Social Impact Assessment
International Development/Affairs Market Research
Forensics Law/Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement
Mass Communication Humanitarian Efforts


For those of you who are planning on a professional career in archaeology, graduate school, sooner or later, probably is a must. Here is where you will get the chance to not only focus more on archaeology, but also to develop areas of specialization within archaeology. In addition to the specific courses required of all majors (ARC 200, ARC 204, ARC 402, and ARC 499), students who plan to apply to a graduate program in archaeology should try to take the following courses: Physical Anthropology (ANT 102), Bones for the Archaeologist (ARC/ANT 334), Archaeology Lab Methods (ARC 403), History of Archaeology (ARC 433), Cultural Resources Management (ARC 435), and Archaeological Theory (ARC 455).  These courses are not a requirement for graduate school but they are extremely beneficial.  Graduate schools typically require a strong background in cultural anthropology and a knowledge of linguistics, and an anthropology minor is recommended. 
The following courses are strongly recommended for students who plan to pursue one of the following graduate-to-professional career areas (to find out more about each course, visit the Archaeology course description or the Anthropology course description pages of this web site)

Possible Course Sequences for Different Careers

Cultural Resources Management*

ARC 205             North American Archaeology 
ARC/ANT 334    Bones for the Archaeologist 
ARC 403             Archaeology Lab Methods 
ARC 404             Environmental Archaeology 
ARC 435             Cultural Resources Management 
GEO/ESC 343    Geoarchaeology 
*A minor in geoarchaeology is strongly recommended.

Environmental Archaeology*

ANT/ARC 305    Indigenous Agricultural Societies 
ARC 403            Archaeology Lab Methods 
ARC 404            Environmental Archaeology 
GEO/ESC 343    Geoarchaeology 
GEO/ESC 425    Biogeography 
ESC 221             Introduction to Climate Systems 
*A minor in geoarchaeology is strongly recommended.

Forensic Anthropology*

ANT 102               Introduction to Physical Anthropology 
BIO 102 or 103    Introductory Biology or General Biology 
CHM 103              General Chemistry 
Bio 312                Human Anatomy and Physiology 
ANT/ARC 334      Bones for the Archaeologist 
*A second major or a minor in biology is strongly recommended.

Midwest/Plains Archaeology*

ARC 205             North American Archaeology 
ARC 310             Midwest Archaeology 
ARC 403             Archaeology Lab Methods 
ARC 404             Environmental Archaeology 
ANT 343             North American Indians 
ARC/ANT 304    Hunter and Gatherer Societies 
ARC/ANT 305    Indigenous Agricultural Societies 
ARC/ANT 334    Bones for the Archaeologist 
*A minor in geoarchaeology is strongly recommended.

Old World Archaeology or Classics*

GEO 304           Geography of Europe 
GEO 331           Geography of the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia 
ARC/HIS 331    The Ancient Greek World 
ARC/HIS 332    Ancient Rome and the Mediterranean 
ARC/HIS 340    The Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilizations 
ARC 350            Independent Foreign Research in Archaeology 
ARC 365            Ancient Egypt 
ARC 433            History of Archaeology 
*Foreign language expertise will be required (Latin for Classics, French or German for Old World).

Latin American archaeology

ARC/ANT 285     Archaeology of Mexico and Central America 
ARC/ANT 353    Maya Civilization 
ARC 360             Archaeology of the Andes

At least one course on contemporary cultures in Latin America 
In addition to the suggestions given above for those interested in prehistoric archaeology in graduate school, individuals who intend to specialize in Latin American Archaeology should consider the following: 
1.    Develop a reading knowledge of Spanish. 
2.    A strong background in archaeology and archaeological field work, preferably in Latin America 
3.    Knowledge of statistics and computer skills


GEO/ESC 323, geomorphology 
GEO/ESC 326, soil morphology and genesis 
GEO/ESC 343   geoarchaeology 
1.    A strong background in archaeology and archaeology field work 
2.    Knowledge of statistics and computer skills are essential.

NOTE: These career tracks are not set in stone.  Students do not need to follow one of these tracks - they are only suggestions.  Students are encouraged to customize their course choices to their particular area of interest, with the assistance of their mentor and/or advisor

Links of Interest