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Become an Archaeologist in Canada in 4 steps

Discover what to do in order to become an archaeologist in Canada. Find out what the career entails.

Archaeologists help contribute to our knowledge about our past. Artefacts dug up from the ground give us a window into human societies all over the world hundreds of thousands of years ago. Through their work, we can trace the rise and fall of empires, cultures, economies, how our present world came to be, and the origins of some of our more ancient behaviours, institutions and practices.

Archaeology requires specialised skills and competence, often acquired through years of higher education. However, it is an intensely rewarding career for the curious mind. In this piece, we will show you how to become an archaeologist in Canada in four steps.

Who is an Archaeologist?

The Archaeologist is a scientist trained to carry out excavations, examine material finds and study artefacts in the quest to understand past societies. Archaeologists use their scientific expertise to understand significant events in our past– events that often have shaped the world today.

As societies, ancient and modern have many aspects, so also, we have different kinds of archaeologists who devote their time and science to studying the material parts of these aspects.

Responsibilities of an Archaeologist in Canada

When you become an archaeologist in Canada, you take up the following duties;

  • Setting up and organising projects and expeditions, setting the outcomes and aims of such venture.
  • Analysing archaeological data.
  • Conducting extensive research and investigations with utmost care for preserving material finds no matter how fragile.
  • Communicating your work professionally, in writing or otherwise. These entries may be to other scientists who may or may not be archaeologists, who may or may not work on their team, but share similar interest in the material culture under study.
  • Use statistical methods to estimate population sizes, create and test hypotheses and paint a picture of the culture of area under study.
  • Utilise knowledge from related social sciences like anthropology, history, geography and languages to form an accurate scientific picture/contest for archaeological finds.

Types of Archaeologists

When becoming an archaeologist in Canada, you have a few options to specialise in. Hence, some of the most common kinds of archaeologists are;

Classical Archaeologists:

These scientists study the material finds of classical civilizations i.e., Greek and Roman societies. These civilizations are among those with the most influence on modern society. Hence, the quest of classical archaeologists often extends from the material culture of these societies to how they impacted surrounding and distant cultures over their existence.

Historical Archaeologists:

Historical Archaeologists study material finds especially those artefacts that occur in written form e.g., hieroglyphs, graffiti, ledgers, letters slates, etc. together with related finds. This helps them understand a given time in the historical record. It also helps place these artefacts within their appropriate chronology in the historical record.

Aviation Archaeologists:

These Archaeologists study artefacts related to powered human flight. This branch of archaeology helps paint a better picture of the evolution of aviation, air warfare and the aviation culture since the invention of pored flight. It helps place various contributions, aviation disasters, inventions and practices in their proper perspective.

Ethnoarchaeologists:

Ethnoarchaeologists explore questions of ethnography; i.e., the habits and culture of a people. These scientists may do this by uncovering and investigating clues from the material culture of an ancient civilization in a given area and then comparing their picture of this society’s habits and customs with those of the modern population that currently occupy that geographic area.

Their investigations can help uncover population displacements from war, disease, economy etc. Thus, they trace the evolution of culture from prehistoric peoples to their modern descendants.

Environmental Archaeologists:

Comprising Zooarchaeologists, Archaeobotanists and Geoarchaeologists, and environmental archaeologists in Canada try to understand the relationship and interactions between ancient peoples and their environment.

Zooarchaeologists tend to focus on how animals present in the living settlements/environs of ancient societies interacted with human populations; Archaeobotanists try to understand how ancient peoples interacted with the plants found in their immediate ecosystem; geoarchaeologists focus on the interactions of ancient human populations with their inanimate and non-living environment.

Marine Archaeologists:

These professionals carry out their archaeological studies on objects and sites of interest beneath the waves. They investigate everything from shipwrecks to lost cities, from drowned island myths to actually-drowned islands. In addition, they work in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans–any water body that purported to hold something of archaeological interest.

Industrial Archaeologists:

Industrial archaeologists study a culture’s artefacts; artefacts resulting from the industrial and technological processes of that culture. These scientists deduce and compare technological progress across cultures and times, provide and test hypotheses concerning the causes and effects of a certain technology or industrial processes as well as their contribution to certain significant events in a people’s history.

These studies can help us understand why certain ancient populations produced certain goods, why they have certain traditions, what type of value they placed on certain goods, how their beliefs influenced their industry and vice versa.

Job Outlook for Archaeologists in Canada

Archaeologists in Canada and around the world are often affiliated with universities serving as researchers and professors with tenure. So, while the job market for archaeologists grows but slowly, archaeologists often have job security, with a median wage of C$33.65 per hour. This is a little bit less than twice the national median wage of C$18 per hour in 2021 (the year for these statistics).

Given that becoming an archaeologist requires several years of training at higher institutions, it is no wonder that like other jobs that require high qualifications, it pays much better than average. Throughout Canada, job prospects for archaeologists vary widely.

To make an informed decision, check the National statistics for labour as well as provincial statistics. Furthermore, consult your local university for more insight on the open positions for archaeologists throughout the year.

Licensing and Permit Requirements for Becoming an Archaeologist in Canada

In several Canadian provinces, archaeologists must either hold a licence for the provincial government or get a permit for any archaeological work (mainly excavations) that is to take place within the province. Both licences and permits are often free or affordable and easy to obtain.

In Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Colombia, such permits are only required if your research will disturb the soil. However, in Ontario and other provinces, you need a license whether you disturb the soil or not.

Steps to be an Archaeologist in Canada

To become an archaeologist, higher education is a must-do. Traditionally, this involves pursuing a degree program that offers field and laboratory experience. Many entry-level archaeological positions require a Bachelor’s, however, a second or even third degree is very helpful in breaking into the cutting-edge part of the field.

Here are the 5 steps towards becoming a professional archaeologist in Canada.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelors

As iterated earlier, a bachelor’s degree is an absolute must if you wish to explore anywhere as an Archaeologist. Aspiring Archaeologists often enrol in an undergraduate degree program in anthropology or history or related social sciences, though some universities have archaeology undergraduate programs.

Do well to check with your local university (or dream university) for their requirements; the type of social science programs offered and their route towards a career in archaeology. Hence, prioritise programs that offer extensive field experience and laboratory work.

Step 2: Land internships

Next, getting an internship, whether as an undergraduate or a graduate, is very important to establish and hone your skills as a professional Archaeologist. Internships provide the experience you will find crucial in landing many well-paying archaeological jobs.

Some organisations that provide archaeological internships to undergraduates and graduates include: Museums, government cultural and science ministres, archaeological organisations, Universities, the Catholic church through its science institutions, etc.

Step 3: Get a higher degree

A second and even third degree helps unlock many more opportunities for you as a professional archaeologist, both in terms of wages as well as chances to study some of the most interesting finds of our generation. Although, if you intend to teach archaeology and establish yourself as an authority in the subject, nothing short of a doctorate will do. Master’s degrees provide you with technical skills that would be invaluable as you progress through your career.

Step 4: Network

Like in many occupations, keep abreast with the current developments in your field. Communicate with other researchers and see what they are up to. In the sciences, keeping current and having contacts is crucial in making career advances.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does an archaeologist do in Canada?

The government hires many archaeologists for positions such as historical research, interpretation, conservation, resource planning, and land management. They can work for agencies such as Parks Canada, Canadian Heritage, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Are archaeologists in demand?

Employment of anthropologists and archeologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 800 openings for anthropologists and archeologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Is archaeology a hard degree?

It’s not hard, but it’s also not easy. There’s a lot of reading and some of it is really dull, especially things like site reports. Also, career prospects are quite poor compared with other science professions; archaeology graduates often were paid the least of any group of scientists. Essentially, the reward of being an archaeologist is not financial.

Can I become an Archaeologist without a degree?

The official answer is no. You cannot become an Archaeologist in Canada without a relevant degree. However, if you have a passion for the field and cannot find it in you to complete college, perhaps you can find a professional who’s willing to take on a personal assistant. That way, you get to help them in their work.

Are there any downsides to being an Archaeologist?

Yes, there are quite a few. From working in the (literal) mud to the obsession that could stem from trying to find what may not be. An Archaeologist’s work tends to get frustrating, however, such is not reflected in their pay check.

Conclusion

Becoming an Archaeologist in Canada requires several years of study and practice. However, it is a very mentally rewarding occupation, especially upon successful discovery. The thrill of discovery and adventure are enough to get any history science geek giddy. Check out your local university or link up with a professional archaeologist on Quora or LinkedIn and begin your journey to a fascinating career!