Topic ID #38141 - posted 3/12/2017 1:17 PM

Value of Field Archaeology Certificate


Hi Friends -

First post here. I have been scouring the Internet trying to better understand the trends and opportunities for Archaeology. I will get right to it...

I have a B.S. and Ph.D. in Science, completely unrelated to Archaeology. 3 years ago I retired my corporate job of 10 years to become a stay-at-home Dad raising my young kids. I am self-employed and have a business I ran on the side for 5 years while still in Corporate America and full-time last 3 years from home while raising my kids. Archaeology has always been fascinating to me and I am looking at ways to pursue some of my passions/goals/interests in the coming years. Archaeology is at the top of my list!

Although it would be great to build an amazing career in Archaeology, I suppose my expectations on this avenue and income are quite tempered from the research I have done. It is unfortunate that the field does not pay well and I can't quite understand how hourly wage for entry level field work with Bachelors/MS (and student debt) is similar to minimum wage at the local grocery store. Seems crazy to me.

I am not interested in pursuing even another Bachelor's level degree or graduate degree in Archaeology, but I would love to get my foot in the door. I am interested in learning more about the discipline and getting some field work experience in the process with the hopes of getting paid sooner than later given the time investment away from family. Income does not need to be substantial to make it worth my while since I am most interested in pursuing interests/goals. I will still have my business and other education to fall back on.

After much research, I have essentially narrowed down whether or not I am going to pursue Archaeology to getting a Field Archaeology Certificate. This would not only be more affordable, but also work into my schedule for my business and family. It would take me 2 years to complete with basically one course per semester (includes labs and field work). My hopes would be that via that program combined with being a member of the Minnesota Archaeological Society I could network and find work locally (no interest in significant travel).

Is there ANY value in a Field Certificate in Archaeology other than just learning more about something I enjoy? Will I be qualified to work on any projects, whether CRM, museum or otherwise? I see quite a few Certificate programs available in the U.S., but not much info on job placement or work opportunities with this background. 

This is the specific program I am considering...

Any thoughts and comments would be appreciated!!



Post ID#20856 - replied 3/13/2017 11:22 AM


First off, welcome to archfieldwork. Hopefully a look at the variety of fieldwork, curatorial and interpretive positions available gives you some inkling of how diverse a group is represented here and the many different directions the work can take you.  Second, to answer your question, very few job listings will specifically mention a field arch certificate.  Often, the minimum for fieldwork jobs is a bachelor's degree (preferably but not necessarily in anth/arch) and completion of a field school. My recommendation for you, and everyone considering a career in archaeology, whether they're a high school student or a retiree, is to attend a field school.
  A field school will be anywhere from under a thousand to several thousand dollars, depending on funding/program/location, and will take you a month or two.  In a field school you'll learn the basics of excavation, site recording, collecting and cataloging artifacts, and maybe how to use a total station or other specialized equipment.  It won't qualify you to run projects by any means, but it will give you the basic knowledge you need to work in archaeology- and more importantly, it will give you some inkling as to how you feel about fieldwork.  Many field schools focus on excavation/data recovery, which is relatively rare in the CRM world.  If you can talk to your field school director(s), ask them if their program offers experience in survey or identification work.  Survey work is the bread and butter of CRM- here in Minnesota, it generally involves long pedestrian transects and digging shovel tests every 15 meters.  
To put it simply, if you love what you're doing in field school, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll love doing other types of work, but if you hate field school, you're definitely not going to be a huge fan of slogging through brush all day digging shovel tests.
Make sure you attend an accredited field school through a reputable organization.  Here in Minnesota, St. Cloud State has a robust CRM-oriented program that offers field schools in the summer.  In Iowa, both Iowa State and University of Iowa have field school programs, as well as the Iowa Lakeside Lab and the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, Iowa.  Any of these are good options.  Often, programs that have a field or lab work requirement will allow you to waive it if you've attended a field school.
TL;DR- attend a field school first.  It'll let you get your feet wet, the investment in time and money is much lower, and if you do decide to pursue a certificate or degree it can only help you in that process.

Post ID#20857 - replied 3/13/2017 3:39 PM


Thanks so much ItsallFlakesAndTools! Love the user name.

You live in Minnesota then? I am in the Twin Cities area and would certainly be interested to hear more about your thoughts on the local job market for Archaeology. I assume it seasonally dependent with this weather! I wonder how many opportunities are near the cities where significant travel is not required? 

I really appreciate your advice and agree with your comments. I have looked into field schools and I am trying to locate an opportunity that is close enough to home where I am not away from family for weeks at field school and also more reasonable cost. Would rather not spend $3-6,000 on field school to see if I like the field (Field Arch Cert would be approx. $3-4k it seems alone). Do you know how much St. Cloud field school is these days? I could not find any info on cost. Is it a bad idea to take field school at Normandale in Twin Cities? They do offer one and I talked to their staff. I asked and they do survey work in the field school as well. They said most of the MN field schools got cancelled last summer, but Normandale still ran the field school.

Let me also ask this since you have been so helpful... I have a BS in Chemistry (Physics minor) and Ph.D. in Natural Resources Science and Management (Paper Science and Engineering specialization).

- In your opinion and experience, if I decided I liked Archaeology after getting my feet wet, would I be eligible for any jobs by having a Field Archaeology Certificate combined with my current BS/Ph.D. degrees that are not Anthropology or related? 

Thanks again, would love to hear more on your experience in Archaeology!


Post ID#20858 - replied 3/14/2017 12:11 PM



Natural Resources Management is actually considered a somewhat related field, and I've worked with many who've made the jump from natural resources to cultural resources. I think the certificate + your preexisting education should be enough to get you a field tech job and get your foot in the door. Problem with entry level field tech jobs is that traveling is almost always mandatory. However, having advanced degrees may help you out in terms of scoring a more localized position in time. Your biggest hurdle will be gaining relevant experience.

In addition to earning your cert., I would also suggest seeking out local volunteer/internship opportunities. Everyone likes cheap/free labor provided by an eager beaver, this is especially true in the public sector where funding is always scarce and on the chopping block as many politicians think what we do is a waste.

I'm a former Minnesotan so here are some places I'd be looking:

The MN Historical Society routinely hires archaeologists, and I'm sure they'd enjoy having an intern or a volunteer help out from time to time.

The DNR manages many state parks and forests where archaeology compliance takes place.

National Forests almost always want volunteers. If you don't mind heading "up nort" every once and a while the Chippewa and Superior National Forests are there, as well as the Chequamegon-Nicolet in Wisconsin.

National Parks are in the same boat as Forests, and there are several units that operate in Minnesota.
However, much of the archaeology field work in Midwestern Parks are operated by MWAC, which is located in Nebraska, but sends their staff out of state for field work so you might want to hit them up as well. 

Of course there are a number of private sector resources to check out as well, the MN Historical Society maintains a list of them here, just select "Archaeologists, Contract" from the specialists drop down.

Almost forgot, the USFS has a great cultural resources volunteer program called Passport in Time. I don't see any MN opportunities right now, but this could change as we get closer to summer.

Archaeologists with an interdisciplinary background are an asset, you just need to get some experience! Form good relationships with your instructors and mentors, attend local conferences, and network.

Also get some GIS experience if you can while at Normandale.


Post ID#20861 - replied 3/14/2017 5:34 PM


Good advice above. If you've worked in natural resource management and have experience dealing with NEPA and other regulations, you're pretty far ahead of the curve. I'm actually based in the Twin Cities- feel free to hit me up at, maybe we can grab a cup of coffee and talk about oprtions. Full disclosure- I've worked in CRM for a few years, I'm currently a grad student. I'm far from the most experienced person here, but I'm happy to help where and when I can.

Post ID#20862 - replied 3/14/2017 5:44 PM


Thank you. Thank you for the response whatamidoing!

Your response just validated my thoughts! And, your recommendations on places to look for more info and opportunities are invaluable. Thanks again, I am taking notes.

I have spoken to a few people since my original post. Today I had a great conversation with the Office of the State Archaeologist for Minnesota. I was quite encouraged. Their general assessment was similar to your feedback. They believed that my degrees combined with a a Field Archaeology Certificate would get me in the door. In the meantime, continue to build my network over time, volunteer and establish relationships. We also had some great discussion on how my Science background may provide some new ideas and opportunities for characterization and testing in Minnesota (as most advanced testing is done out-of-state, from what I understand).

I am certainly excited to give this a shot after checking in again with my family. What is the worst that can happen? Either way I learn more about something that has been intriguing to me for many years...


Post ID#20863 - replied 3/14/2017 5:47 PM


Sounds great, ItsAllFlakesAndTools. I will be interested to catch up with you. I think I will be making the commitment to move forward by the weekend, if I do at this time. My email is also

Talk soon and thanks again, much appreciated!

Post ID#20871 - replied 4/12/2017 4:19 AM


Hey friends! As always, I would appreciate any other feedback based on your thoughts and experience. Thanks again!


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