Topic ID #38759 - posted 9/22/2017 12:01 PM

Short Term Field Work - any ideas?


Hi all - long story short (aren't they always) after three long years of pretending I don't want to be a prehistory-changing scientist who travels the world, I am planning to apply to doctoral programs in the fall of 2018. However, I never completed field school during my undergraduate. I graduated 3 years ago and have done absolutely nothing anthropologically minded since then. I am currently pursuing the one opportunity to volunteer at a museum in my area, but my undergrad advisor suggested that I find some way to get field experience for my grad applications. 

The big catch - I have a great job which I (almost) love, which also happens to pay exceptionally well. I'm talking enough savings over the two years before I start school to cover two years of living expenses once my my humanities-sized puddle of a stipend dries up. 

I don't want to quit my job, spend $5000+ on field school, and then try to find another job that pays as well (and I also don't hate) - so a friend suggested finding short term field work opportunities that I could do during vacation time instead of giving up my income.

I'm having a hard time finding such opportunities after about a month of research - does anyone have any leads? I'm looking for weekend-weeklong options that would allow me to keep my job and save money. I figure a few sessions would be almost as good as field school as long as I promise to do it for real (with scholarships!) the first summer of my program.

Post ID#20904 - replied 9/25/2017 9:53 AM


First, if whoever you work for has to do a fair amount of basic training, they are probably going to want a week long commitment, at a minimum (though this could be several weekends). You are also going to have better luck finding someone who will take volunteers for survey work, rather than excavation.

You could try contacting the archaeologist for your local federal land management agency (National park/national forest/BLM district). They often don't mind an extra pair of eyes and feet when they have to go survey a small block. However, they usually don't work weekends.

Avocational groups are more likely to organize weekend events. Some places to look include your state's archaeological association, your state's SHPO website, your state museum, support groups for federal lands (e.g. Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument), and, if you live in the west, a local branch of the Oregon-California Trails Association.

Contacting individuals at a local university who do research in your area and asking if they want volunteers (or know someone who is looking) is also an option. While many people do the bulk of their fieldwork in the summer, there are always the exceptions (especially grad students) who are doing blocks during other times of the year.

Post ID#20905 - replied 9/27/2017 6:59 AM


I'll come out and say it:  not all field schools are 5,000 dollars, and it baffles me why anyone who hasn't even been to field school would be willing to make the commitment to a doctoral program.
Field school is more than learning how to dig a unit, fill out a level form, and operate a total station, although all of these things are important.  Field school is where you learn whether you're still interested and engaged in archaeology after your 10th consecutive day of waking up sore and covered in mosquito bites in a tent.  Field school is where you learn whether archaeology is, in fact, something you can do.  Field school is also where you pick up the ability to identify material culture on the surface or in subsurface excavations.  I can teach someone to do pedestrian survey- which makes up the great bulk of fieldwork- in a morning.  But the knowledge that doing excavations requires is something that you need to have developed at greater length and with someone whose sole focus is teaching you and your fellow students, not trying to sort out the budget and the land agent and hotel rooms and the thousand other considerations that pop up in an archaeologist's day.
If you want a chance to actually develop your skills and learn about how the practice of fieldwork articulates with archaeological theory, you aren't going to find it volunteering for a weekend here and there.  And if you actually care about the resource, then you owe it more than a slapdash "well, I guess I'll learn what I can when it's convenient" approach.  The use of trained archaeologists in the field is more than just convention, it's an ethical consideration. Additionally, in every Memorandum of Agreement I've ever seen for a Phase III excavation, it was explicitly stated that the excavators would be trained professionals.
The reason you're having trouble finding weekend or weeklong fieldwork opportunities is because no one posts those.  Most companies have a whole list of technicians they're used to working with who they can contact for short-notice, short-term projects.  

Post ID#20906 - replied 9/28/2017 2:23 PM


I have an idea for you--keep your day job. In fact, forget archaeology altogether. There are too few jobs for techs now, and even MAs are becoming a dime a dozen. And universities keep cranking out more Indiana Jones wannabes. More and more I see jobs looking for one or two techs. Companies have also discovered it's cheaper for them to not pay for motel rooms, so EVERY project is camping, whatever the season. The big projects that would employ dozens of us are no more.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my many years in this field, but every year it gets harder to make ends meet. We are already the lowest-paid professionals out there, and a bachelors degree in anthro is worth about as much as a HS diploma. Even a master's is what a beginning tech used to be. Get out while you can.


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