Most people know one famous archaeologist: Indiana Jones. In the popular movies starring Indy, we see him in two professional archaeologist roles: as a professor and a treasure-hunter. While these movies offer a glamorized version of the role, it’s true that being an archaeologist offers many opportunities for working abroad, just as Indy travels during the films. Whether it’s preserving a priceless relic at an archaeological dig or teaching others about that relic at a school, museum, or tourism bureau, you can find interesting archaeology jobs abroad. Archaeology is the perfect field for those who loves history, culture, and travel, and of course, digging in the dirt!
Why Work Abroad
Archaeology is a great field for people who love to travel as part of their work. Unless you are fortunate enough to currently live in a city or country that is rich in archaeological sites and opportunities for research, it’s likely your education already laid a groundwork for the kind of travel you’ll be doing as a professional archaeologist. Most graduates from archeology schools have participated in several “dig” opportunities, whether close to home or farther abroad.
“Digs” are the most common reason archaeologists decide to work abroad. Fieldwork, or going to visit and work on a site to help study or preserve the historical objects there, is a necessary part of preserving and studying ancient cultures, and the cornerstone of archeology as a profession. There are opportunities to participate in fieldwork all over the world, but your own personal and professional interest in different cultures and historical perspectives may drive your decision to seek out archaeology jobs abroad.
A good example is to think of an American professional archaeologist who wants to be an expert in Peruvian mummification processes. It would be very hard to gain the knowledge and expertise necessary to develop professionally, without going and “getting your hands dirty” (literally) in Peruvian sites where mummification is being studied.
As mentioned previously, archaeology job opportunities exist all over the world. If you really want to find an archaeology job abroad, or your professional interests are drawing you to a particular destination, there will likely be professional organizations in locations to provide the right type of fieldwork for you.
Some of the more popular places to find archaeology jobs abroad include the United States, nations within continental Europe, such as Spain, France, and Italy, Ireland, and Iceland. These locations are all often focused on preservation, research, and excavation, however.
If you’re looking for a more exotic experience, there are also archaeology job opportunities in countries like India, Israel, and Jordan. These countries provide a deeper immersion into the current culture alongside fieldwork to uncover and preserve some of the oldest relics on Earth.
As mentioned above, choosing where to pursue archaeology jobs abroad should always have at least some synergy with your professional interests and goals.
Archaeology Jobs Abroad
Working in an archaeological dig is obviously the most common job in the field of archaeology, though it is far from the only one.
If you are an expert, or looking to become one, in a certain culture, there are archaeology job openings abroad for heritage or museum managers, archaeology educators, archivists, or cartographers. All of these archaeology jobs require both skills and extensive knowledge in the field. Within reason, these types of archaeology jobs are not dramatically different than in your home country; you will likely liaise with a private company or government as part of your job, and the scientific aspects of archaeology (including data collection, preservation, and research) will be similar all over the world.
Therefore, the major differences between archaeology jobs at home and abroad will usually be due to cultural norms and practices. Working hours may vary from country to country, and knowledge of the local language will always serve you well in communicating with volunteers and visitors on the job (as well as with others when you’re off the clock!).
An important consideration to make when searching for an archaeology job abroad comes from who you choose as your employer. Each opportunity for fieldwork may mean a change in who signs your paychecks, and this could range from a private company to a public one, or more likely, an educational institute or government organization in the country where you will be working. The good thing is that when you accept a role in the field of archaeology, your accommodations, visa, and immigration issues will likely be handled by your employer. At the same time, this can also mean navigating some tricky issues in terms of local/company politics and acceptable standards of behavior.
Benefits & Challenges
Professional experience. Nothing can replace the hands-on nature of working in the field and studying and experiencing a specific culture through practicing archaeology. Like a psychologist who studies a specific subset of the population to become proficient or expert in that area, archaeology jobs abroad will allow you to study, experience, and become an expert in specific cultures and historical periods.
Endless opportunities to travel. New sites for archaeological work are always being discovered, making it a great field for those who enjoy working in different destinations abroad throughout the course of their career.
Long-term immersion. It may be challenging to consider long-term relocation for an archaeology job abroad; packing up your whole life and moving to a foreign country can create feelings of culture shock, loneliness, and isolation. Additionally, archaeological fieldwork placements vary in length depending on the site and how much needs to be uncovered, studied, and preserved. At the same time, archaeological work also provides an excellent opportunity to experience the local culture in the meantime.
If you are interested in studying history and cultures around the world as an archaeologist, you MUST take the opportunity to work abroad. Explore your own passions within the field of archaeology, as well as your professional goals, then spin the globe to see where you can learn, preserve, and experience the cultures that interest you!