Archaeology offers great opportunities for taking part, whether a lifelong interest beside another career, or a career in itself. It is never too early or too late to become involved in archaeology, and archaeology transcends borders, cultures, languages and social and economic divisions.
The most excellent way to get concerned in archaeology is to get out what opportunities for contribution are available in your own neighborhood, through your local archaeology or history society or club, national organizations or local government, schools or universities. There are talks, walks, guides and events on nearly every week around the world; there are also hundreds of opportunities every year to go on more formal training in archaeological techniques and so become involved in actual fieldwork.
There are many good popular archaeology magazines now available, often from high-street newsagents rather than specialist vendors. Current Archaeology and Current World Archaeology are a good starting point, a quick and enjoyable way to find out more about archaeology. There are also many excellent introductory books on the basics, origins and practice of archaeology – mostly published in paperback, cheap to buy and easily purchased online.
The chances are that if you’re interested in getting more involved in archaeology then you’re already doing this – there are so many good TV shows on archaeology these days, as well as online videos, that these have become the main entry point for budding archaeologists.
As noted above, there are talks, walks, guides and events on about archaeology nearly every week around the world and most of these events are free or very cheap to attend. A great place to look beyond your local archaeology society or club is your local university archaeology or history department: most have weekly talks scheduled by staff and visiting scholars.
Archaeologists are friendly people who love their subject. They want to tell other people about it and help them get involved. Never, ever be afraid to look up archaeologists who work in your neighborhood and ask them for advice on how to participate. They may not be able to help you themselves, but they will know other people who can help you and be able to put you in contact with them.
Talk about your aspirations with your family and what this lifestyle might mean for them, and be realistic – if you’ve always wanted a big house with a sports car sitting in your driveway then archaeology really isn’t the career for you. Once you’ve come to a decision then plan what you need to do to make a start in your career – training, experience and contacts.
Realistically, a professional career in archaeology begins at university. You might not like to hear this but there it is. Without a university degree in archaeology then you are seriously harming your chances of getting any job in the discipline, let alone advancing your career as a professional.
Archaeologists who do well in their careers have multiple skills and fields of expertise. Multiple skills and specialism make you the most adaptable to change, the most able to apply for the largest number of jobs. This means both archaeological and non-archaeological skills, experience and expertise.
There are more archaeologists out there than available jobs – supply exceeds demand. Beyond expanding your training, skills and expertise, successful archaeologists volunteer to do things that make them, and their CVs stand out, that provide opportunities for networking, publication and self-promotion.
Don’t be afraid or dismayed if at first you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Everyone who has ever ended up with a job in archaeology, from the lowliest digger to the most senior professor, has hit a low at some point, where they wonder if they’ll ever get work and whether so many struggles are worth it. Struggle and disappointment is part of this lifestyle.