One of the only majors where digging up the past is encouraged.
Archaeology is the study of human culture and history via stuff found in dirt. More or less. You'll use both science and the powers of deduction to analyze and create theories about what life was like in the past. For example, did Neanderthals wear loincloths, or was that just Tarzan? Was glue a thing back then? What about gossip? Who really knows all this?
Well, you would.
Archaeology majors study human development and behaviors, explore cultures and languages, and examine ancient remains. Archaeologists, at least when doing fieldwork, might endure countless back-breaking hours of hard labor, sifting through dirt and sand, all while scribbling down notes under the burning hot sun. So basically, you gotta be tough—and smart.
But there's more to the major than what you see on TV. After finding something cool, it's usually pretty useful to find out what it is, why it's cool, and whether it's worth analyzing. You'll also probably be spending a lot of time writing about what you find, if it's important. So field work becomes lab work, which then becomes a nice research paper.
Getting to this point is not easy, though. We aren't going to sugarcoat it.
Careers for archaeology majors are not exactly aplenty. If you're lucky enough to get a job in the field, it typically means working somewhere like a research institute, university, museum, or private corporation.
In addition, fieldwork in remote areas often requires traveling for long periods of time. So get used to that hotel room bed (source).
Like most majors, continuing your education will make you more desirable—not in general, just towards potential employers. Sorry. At any rate, forty-three percent of archaeology majors go on to earn a higher degree. While archaeology jobs are projected to grow 19% from 2012 to 2022 (source)—which is faster than average—only about 1,400 new jobs will become available in the next ten years.
So don't hold your breath.
Famous People who majored in Archaeology
- Hugh Laurie, our favorite grumpy medical practitioner
- Indiana Jones, when he wasn't running away from runaway boulders
- Rick O'Connell, king of cheesy one-liners (from The Mummy)
- Kurt Vonnegut (anthropology)
- Gary Snyder (anthropology)
- Ashley Judd (anthropology)
Percentage of US students who major in Archaeology:
Stats obtained from this source.