If you're the kind of person with an interest in history, then perhaps you've considered a career in archaeology. It's one of the most romanticised careers in cinema. Audiences have been entertained by the heroes of Jurassic Park and The Mummy for many years — but what is it really like to work on an archaeological dig, and what kind of person is best suited to doing so? For those who have the right skills, what path should you take in order to experience this rewarding and unusual job yourself?
Reality vs. Fiction
Of course, walking into a career in archaeology and expecting to find a full dinosaur skeleton is much like expecting forensic science to be like one of the many crime shows on TV. Nothing is ever that exciting or varied in real life, but that doesn't mean that archaeology is not a rewarding career. Although what you find will mostly be old coins and building remains, there's something wonderful and rewarding about carefully peeling back the layers of the past and being the first to make contact with something for perhaps hundreds of years. If the everyday realities of life in the past excite you as much as the bigger picture, then being a part of an excavation might just be for you.
Patience is key in a career like this. As mentioned above, it's not about the fanfare of a big find, because digs like that are extremely rare. In reality, you'll spend a lot of time very carefully excavating sites with little in them. It's important that an archaeologist is diligent and focused. After all, drifting off into your thoughts and failing to pay attention could mean you miss an important sign or mishandle a piece of historical evidence. Equally, you should be committed to following set processes, and have a steady hand. Those who enjoy science as much as history at school are likely to find themselves at home.
If you're really thinking about a career in archaeology, then you'll need to prepare yourself to study at university. There are specialised degrees which are expressly devoted to archaeology, but you may also prefer to study history first and then specialise further. Either way, you'll need to approach specific universities to find out their requirements for study. You should be ready for a few difficult but rewarding years of study.
In all, archaeology is a great career option for anybody willing to look past the exaggerated, dramatic representations of it on the big screen. Know what you're getting into and prepare to work hard, and you could really end up doing something you're passionate about. Good luck!