Navigating the Field: Education and Employment in a Changing Job Market

This year the Student Subcommittee of the Academic and Professional Training Committee (APTC) and the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA) Student Council are cosponsoring a forum dedicated to helping students navigate the current job market in archaeology. Thanks to the efforts of my co-organizer, Barry Bleichner, the forum will host six engaging panelists, and it will be held on Thursday, January 10, 2013. For location, time and a list of panelists, click here.

The global economic downturn has shifted government funding priorities away from cultural and historic resource preservation, and jobs have been lost. However, the enthusiasm and dedication of archaeologists across the world has allowed public programming and archaeology education initiatives to grow with exceptional speed and direction (see list of organizations at the bottom of this blog).

Image from the Archaeological Institute of America’s website for the second annual National Archaeology Day [NAD] held on October 20, 2012; each blue marker represents a separate event organized in honor of the day (image courtesy of American Anthropological Association).

This image exhibits the passion and devotion of the professional archaeological community and their beloved volunteers who engendered over 280 archaeology themed events on National Archaeology Day 2012. Without the work of volunteers and interns, many of these events may have been understaffed or inadequately prepared for the hundreds of visitors who participated in the day of celebration and education. Many of the volunteers were students who are being trained as the next generation of archaeologists.

I conducted a small informal survey to gain a better understanding of student perspectives about the current job market. According to the results, the insecurities that archaeology students have about the pressure to find work in a depressed economy are abundant, but with a network of support, students will find jobs! Remember, the insights to follow serve only as an introduction; the forum in January will host several professionals who are prepared to tackle these topics in-depth.

“Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!”
Fewer paid positions at archaeological venues has meant an increase in the skill requirements of new hires as well as an increase in the amount and type of work produced by volunteers and interns. The anxiety of making yourself the ideal candidate for a job can seem overwhelming, but it is important to stay calm and work on acquiring new, resume-bolstering skills.

I asked respondents of my survey, “Beyond acing exams and essays, what can students do to prepare themselves to be great candidates for jobs in archaeology?” The overwhelming answer from students and professionals, alike? VOLUNTEER. One participant responded with fervor, “Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! Entry level jobs can be hard to come by for students looking to gain experience. Volunteering allows you to not only fill up your CV and gain skills, but also make professional connections that could help you land that job.”

Employers are looking for people who are able to engage the community and solve problems with creativity and innovation. Volunteering can help you practice your skills while showing potential employers what you have to offer.

As a graduate student at the University of South Florida’s Applied Anthropology program, Becky O’Sullivan began her career by volunteering with Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). Soon, this volunteer position became a paid graduate assistantship. This experience gave O’Sullivan an opportunity to practice what might not have seemed natural to her, “Presenting at a professional conference can be nerve-wracking, I’m naturally adverse to getting up to talk in front of large groups, but the benefits of sharing your work with others and in turn learning from their work far outweigh those drawbacks. A good presentation can make you rethink even your most basic assumptions about what archaeology is and should be and make you a stronger researcher as a result!” This excerpt, written by Ms. O’Sullivan in January 2012, is taken from FPAN West Central Region’s blog. Ms. O’Sullivan is now the outreach coordinator for FPAN’s West Central Region office.

Flexibility can be useful when you are looking for a paid job, but whether you are in a small town or a big city, there is a cultural organization willing to train you as a volunteer. Start by donating two hours a week; this allows you to keep your “after-college bill-paying job” while you start to build professional connections in your field. Once your schedule opens up, you can invest more time in a project to which you already contribute.

Keep an Open Mind
In response to my questionnaire, one student reports about her experience using her degree outside of archaeology, “As far as alternate job routes go, I am looking at teaching positions from a wide range of disciplines. I find that my type of scholarship will probably fit in better in an American Studies department, so I am looking at jobs in American Studies, history, and American Indian studies departments along with anthropology.”

Try reexamining your own career goals and consider different ways to use your educational background in archaeology. This exercise invites you to think about ways to make archaeology skills useful to employers outside the discipline. See the list at the bottom of this blog for ideas about where to find jobs.

When you are working on your CV or preparing for an interview, mention your special skills. Sometimes your “hobbies” (theater, photography, painting, archery, singing, film-making, poetry, basketball, etc.) can be a great asset to employers. Many successful archaeologists and anthropologists use such hobbies to enhance their projects and outreach programs.

The following excerpt comes from a book edited by John H. Jameson Jr. and Sherene Baugher called Past Meets Present: Archaeologists Partnering with Museum Curators, Teachers, and Community Groups,“In the face of an increasing public interest and demand for information, archaeologists are collaborating with historians, educators, interpreters, museum curators, exhibit designers, landscape architects, and other cultural resource specialists to devise the best strategies for translating an explosion of archaeological information for the public.” This book (and many others) provides examples of how archaeologists collaborate with people from other disciplines or work within other disciplines to help protect and share the cultural resources of our nation.

Communicate, Stay Involved and Believe in Yourself
Consider how large your support network is when you are looking for work. University students have many resources, but as a professor once told me, “Your most valuable tool is the connections you make with the people around you.” When you graduate, many other students will be at your side, and it is invaluable to keep in touch with friends and colleagues who may one day be able to help you land a new job.

You can acquaint yourself with people who are working as professionals in archaeology by attending and presenting at conferences. I am amazed by the kindness of professors and other professionals who I have met at various conferences. Reaching out to the people I admire has given me the confidence to continue working towards my goal of being a paid employee in the field. Social-networking sites like LinkedIn,, or Facebook can be great tools for keeping up with people you have met.

Becky O’Sullivan, Rita Elliott, and Roz Crews (author) at SEAC (South Eastern Archaeology Conference) Public Day 2011; thanks to Jeff Moates, director at FPAN WC,  for taking the photo

I met Becky O’Sullivan and Rita Elliott as an intern working on my undergraduate honors thesis about archaeology education and outreach. Talking with them gave me the courage to present my ideas to a wider audience. Rita Elliott and her team from the Society for Georgia Archaeology created ArchaeoBUS, a mobile learning classroom, and they have since shared Georgia archaeology with people across the state.

If you would like to reach me directly, my e-mail is

Archaeology outreach programs:
Project Archaeology, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Arkansas Archaeological Survey, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Northwest Cultural Resources Institute, Hawai`i Junior Archaeology Outreach Program

Job opportunities:
National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, your local Sate Historic Preservation Office (SHIPO) or Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THIPO), a local museum or visitor center, a local university lab or ethnography department, or a state archaeology or history society. Don’t forget to check USAJobs for archaeology jobs around the country.

Works Cited

  • Jameson, John H. and Sherene Baugher (eds.)
    • 2007 Past Meets Present: Archaeologists Partnering with Museum Curators, Teachers and Community Groups. Springer.

SHA 2013: Leicester’s Pubs

Early registration closes on Monday 3rd December, so you have only one week left to register for SHA 2013 before fees increase. Conference pre-registration will close on 21st December. Members of the Society for Historical Archaeology or Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology get a substantial discount on the registration fee, so don’t delay!

Don’t forget to book your accommodation; there are still rooms available in the four conference hotels, as well as other budget options in the city. And don’t forget to arrange your travel either. The conference committee has negotiated a special offer for delegates travelling up from London by train, and there are many other bargain train travel options for those who book in advance.

The Globe Inn, Silver Street

The Globe Inn, Silver Street, Leicester

In the meantime, and as the cold winter nights are drawing in, our attention has turned to the cosy warmth and hospitality of Leicester’s pubs. The city has a great range, from continental-style cafe-bars to homely inns, all serving a wide range of drinks and food. Some of our favourites are on this map.

The East Midlands boasts a number of craft breweries, producing ales for sale in the city’s pubs. Everards is a major employer in Leicester, and most of the city’s pubs stock their ale; unfortunately the brewery is unable to offer group tours, but you can take an interactive tour of their Leicester brewery, here. The Grainstore Brewery is next to Oakham Railway Station, only a 25-minute train ride from Leicester, and offers group tours and tastings.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is a national voluntary organisation which campaigns for real ale, community pubs, and consumer rights; the members of its Leicester Branch keep a keen eye on the region’s pubs.

Delegates who have been lucky enough to get tickets for the now sold-out Guildhall Reception will have the chance to sample local ales, alongside local delicacies such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton cheese, and Leicester’s Indian cuisine; but if you are still looking for something to do on the evening of Thursday 10th January, do not despair! We will be holding a free pub quiz (sponsored by Antiquity), with a mystery prize for the winning team. Further details will follow…

SHA 2013: Trips and Tours

The conference program for the SHA 2013 conference in Leicester boasts a number of trips and tours; here is your opportunity to see more of Leicester and the surrounding area. You can register for these trips and tours, which take place on the days immediately before and after the conference, via the online conference registration website, or with the registration form enclosed with your latest copy of the SHA newsletter. All tours depart from the Mercure Hotel, in the centre of Leicester. Any tour that fails to register a minimum number of participants will be cancelled, and any moneys paid will be refunded to the registrant.

‘City of contrasts’ – a walking tour of Leicester

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 11.00am to 3.30pm

Cost: $10.00; lunch is not included; there are many places to eat in Leicester City Centre.

Leicester is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the UK outside London, with a rich urban heritage of archaeological sites and historic architecture. This walking tour led by local experts in Leicester archaeology and history will take participants through the city’s remarkable story from the Roman period to the 21st century. Leicester began life as a Roman provincial capital known as Ratae Corieltauvorum, and there are standing remains of a Roman building known as Jewry Wall next to Saint Nicholas’ church. The city was the county town in the medieval period, and the tour will include visits to medieval churches, the castle and the timber-framed guildhall. In the post-medieval period Leicester developed into a major industrial centre, and there are many fine 18th- and 19th-century houses, warehouses and commercial buildings to be seen. Leicester experienced dramatic growth in the 20th century with large scale immigration from South Asia, Uganda and the Caribbean among other places, and today has a rich cultural heritage of religious diversity and toleration, marked by the many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim places of worship across the city (not to mention fantastic international cuisine!)

NOTE – Participants should wear comfortable shoes for a day of walking.

‘If these pots could talk’ – the Staffordshire Potteries

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 8.30am to 4.30pm

$60.00; lunch included. 

A visit to the Staffordshire  Potteries which made many of the 17th and 18th century ceramics which are found on sites in the USA, such as creamware, salt-glazed stoneware, bone china and porcelain. See round the Gladstone Pottery Museum, one of the few surviving pot banks in the Potteries, where the processes from clay-processing to glazing, transfer printing and firing can be seen. Lunch will be taken at the Museum, followed by a talk from ceramics expert David Barker and a tour round the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, with the finest collection of Staffordshire pottery in the world.

‘More glass than wall’ – Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 9.00am to 4.30pm

$110.00; lunch included.

A unique opportunity for an exclusive visit to Hardwick Hall, a 16th century masterpiece and one of the finest historic houses in Great Britain. Created by Bess of Hardwick in the expectation of a visit from Queen Elizabeth I, its huge windows look out over the surrounding countryside of Derbyshire. The house is famous for having one of the best preserved Elizabethan interiors in Britain, with an extensive collection of original early modern furniture, decoration and textiles. A grand staircase takes visitors to the High Great Chamber with its great frieze of the virgin goddess and huntress Diana in a forest, an allusion to the virgin Queen Elizabeth. Participants will have the house to themselves, with a guided tour led by the National Trust’s House and Collections Manager at Hardwick. The visit will include a light lunch.

NOTE – as the house is not normally open to the public in January, it may be cold and participants should dress accordingly.

‘All the world’s a stage’ – Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 9.00am to 4.30pm

$65.00; lunch included.

A special opportunity to visit Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations. As well as the famous attractions associated with Shakespeare’s life and family, Stratford-upon-Avon is a beautiful market town dating back to the medieval period, with a wealth of historic timber-framed buildings. Participants will visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum, where original 16th-century furnishings and interiors have been painstakingly reconstructed and will also have the opportunity to see Hall’s Croft (home of Shakespeare’s daughter) and Holy Trinity Church where the playwright is buried. In the afternoon they will receive a tour of the Guild Chapel and grammar school, which date back to the 15th century, where new research has reconstructed the original layout and decoration of the buildings.

 ‘Ship ahoy!’ – Maritime Greenwich and the Cutty Sark

Sunday January 13, 2013. 8.00am to 5.00pm

$115.00; lunch included.

Maritime Greenwich was designated a World Heritage Site in 1997, testimony to its central role in the development of British and European maritime power between the 17th and 19th centuries. The tour will visit the major attractions which make up the World Heritage Site: the National Maritime Museum, which is the world’s largest maritime museum with a remarkable collection representing 500 years of British maritime and naval heritage; the Old Royal Naval College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren; and the Royal Observatory, straddling the Prime Meridian and housing the famous Harrison timekeepers among other displays ( Lunch will be provided. In the afternoon, the tour will visit the Cutty Sark, the last surviving 19th-century tea clipper and once the greatest and fastest sailing ship of her time. The ship re-opened in mid-2012 after extensive restoration (following a devastating fire) with a new exhibition centre, so this is a great opportunity to see an important piece of maritime heritage brought stunningly back to life.

‘Poverty and prayer’ – the Minster and Workhouse at Southwell, Nottinghamshire

Sunday January 13, 2013. 10.00am to 4.30pm

$60.00; lunch included.

A visit to one of the East Midlands’ hidden gems, the historic Minster town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Southwell is known to have been an important Roman centre, and in the Anglo-Saxon period the town was granted to the Archbishops of York, who established a major Minster church here. The Minster is a beautiful miniature Cathedral, with a 12th-century Norman nave and a 13th-century gothic chancel and chapter house, famous for its wonderful naturalistic sculpted decoration.The small town surrounding the Minster contains pretty Georgian houses and shops. Outside the town stands a more dismal element of Southwell’s history; in 1824, the first Union Workhouse in Britain was built here, which survives remarkably intact and is now owned by the National Trust. A grim building designed to segregate, punish and reform the ‘idle poor’, the Southwell Workhouse became the model for the notorious ‘New Poor Law’ of 1834, and the bleak interiors display attitudes towards poverty, homelessness and institutional life from the 19th century to the present day. For delegates with an interest in institutions of incarceration and reform, this tour provides a unique opportunity to experience life in one of the most influential punitive institutions of 19th-century Britain.

NOTE – as the Workhouse is not normally open to visitors in January it will be very cold, and participants should dress accordingly. Comfortable walking shoes should be worn.

Ironbridge – Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution?

9.00am, Sunday January 13 to 4.30pm, Monday January 14, 2013.

Single occupancy $250.00; double occupancy $210.00 per person. Dinner, bed and breakfast included.

The Ironbridge Gorge was among the first group of UK sites to be designated as a World Heritage Site in 1988. The Quaker industrialist Abraham Darby first successfully smelted iron ore with coke here in 1700, and his grandson then built the world’s first cast iron bridge across the River Severn in 1779.  The Coalbrookdale Company created one of the first industrial settlements with its terraced rows of housing, institutes, churches and chapels.

This two-day tour will visit all of the museums which are part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.  These include the open air museum of Blists Hill, the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, The Jackfield Tile Museum and Coalport China Museum with its splendid displays of bone china. Dinner and overnight accommodation in the Telford Golf Hotel and Resort.  A highlight of the visit will be an early evening lecture from the Academic Director at Ironbridge, David de Haan. He is a leading expert on the 1779 iron bridge, to cross which even the Royal Family had to pay tolls, and he will also lead a tour to the bridge and its toll-house next day.