Thinking about the future: Other Options for an Archaeologist

For the past couple of years, I have been positioning myself for a run at becoming a professor of anthropology or archaeology. I am working hard to expand my network by attending conferences and setting up meetings with faculty, I am working to gain valuable experience in different areas of academia through Campus Archaeology and Student Life, I am familiarizing myself with different elements of academia through things such as the SpartanTweetUp, barraging my poor advisors and mentors with questions about how academia “works”, and reading the Chronicle of Higher Education religiously. I am planning on teaching in the spring, and I am working on one article for publication, and have a couple others to begin work on in the next year. I am also trying out some new things with archaeology through digital social media – hopefully something that might make me “unique”.

All of this is well and good, but this focus on one goal made a question posed to me the other day catch me off guard: what if it doesn’t work out?

Obviously, this is a good possibility. The academic job market will be in an interesting position when I (should be) finishing up my PhD. With the baby boomers on their way out, and higher education facing budget cut backs, it is likely that many of those lines will disappear, instead of being refilled. Coupled with an enormous number of PhD students (again, recession influenced…no job? go to grad school!) coming out of school, the odds don’t look good.

So, I am faced with an important question to answer. At the time, I didn’t have much. I tend to follow a mantra of “if I work hard enough, know the right people, and position myself appropriately, thing will work out”. This has worked very well for me thus far. But that luck is bound to run out at some point.

After some thought, it occurred to me that there are other avenues that I can take. Ideally, I would still like to be at a University. I am not adverse to administrative work; in fact I kind of enjoy the strategy that is required to do it. So working on the administrative end, possibly in something related to outreach or community engagement, would be a consideration I would thoroughly enjoy.

I would also be interested in working in the Museum sector. My experience at Historic St. Mary’s City has provided a unique glimpse into the work that can be done at a museum, and I have a lot of ideas about how some of that work could be greatly improved. Again, a large part of this has to do with community engagement.

I would not be adverse to working in Cultural Resource Management or Government. Working in CRM can be tough: long stretches on the road, in hotels, and in the field have their appeal, but they can also take their tole. Also, the opportunities for public outreach and education are limited, or take a back seat, whereas in academic settings they are more encouraged.

Certainly, these are all things I would consider pursuing, and I could certainly see myself working in these contexts. I have placed working at a University or College at the top of my list for a variety of reasons: I enjoy the communities. The settings are unique, with many different kinds of people, who are interested in different things. I enjoy a place where personal and communal development, learning, and creativity are top priority, and where the objective is furthering knowledge and understanding about our world. How could you not want to be a part of that?

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