Thinking about Field School yet? You should be…

Hey guys, it’s me, your friendly neighborhood struggling archaeologist, here with a public service announcement: START PLANNING FOR FIELD SCHOOL NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY.

I know in the podcast world we don’t usually talk about field school until spring or summer because, duh, that’s when they happen, but in reality if you are someone looking for guidance on field schools the time to talk about it is now. Maybe not minutiae like what you should pack or whether to go with the wool socks or the cotton (eh, I know everyone says wool, but I hated mine so I stuck with cotton and the world didn’t end). Rather, it’s a good time to decide if you want/need to do one at all and figure out 1. what field school to do 2. if you can get into it 3. how you’re going to finance it, and 4. if it’s what’s in your best interest at all.

Think about where you are right now and what you want. Are you already in school? Have you made your mind up about pursuing archaeology professionally? Do you have a career focus or are you just rolling with whatever the program you got into is doing? Does your school have or require you to go to their own field school? Do you need college credit that will transfer to your home school? Can you finance your own way if you decide to go to a remote field school and if not, what options do you have? Does the program have scholarships or aid available to you? Do you even want to go to field school? I know this seems like a lot to think about, but trust me, you’ll be glad  you did it now. So sit down with a notebook and write out the answers to these questions. Then let it guide your next steps.

Personally, I think if you are seriously considering a career in archaeology and you have no experience actually digging then it might be a good idea to do some volunteer work at a local excavation to see first hand what archaeology is really like. It’s no joke- there aren’t motorcycle sidecar chases- there are lots of shovels and heavy buckets of dirt and awkward equipment to haul around- and there aren’t always bathrooms nearby! I’ve seen people go straight to college and sign up for an archaeology degree and get to their first field school and… hate it. By that point there has been a lot of wasted money, energy, hopes, and time spent to learn a lesson they could have figured out long before. You can usually find out about local digs from nearby universities, historical societies, museums, the National Park Service, archaeology magazines, and many other websites and organizations like the Archaeological Institute of America. The AIA is a great resource for finding volunteer work, field schools, scholarships, and jobs.

If you aren’t even sure if you need a field school or not then check the requirements of your school’s program; most will require one to be completed by a certain point in your degree. If you’re not sure if it will help you- it will. You will lean HOW to be an archaeologist in field school, you will probably learn what kind of archaeologist you want to be, and you will learn what kind you don’t want to be. If you plan on working during or after college a field school will be incredibly important to have on your CV. If you have little experience, an employer will be looking to make sure you have learned the skills needed for the job, and that field school is what’s going to sell it to them. If you want to specialize in a specific area it will give you a lot of credibility going forward to have studied there, and a field school can give you a leg up and introduce you to people within that field who will give you guidance going forward and create an important network for your future career. These are only some of the reasons why I recommend a field school to everyone who is serious about working in archaeology.

Think about it. Talk to your trusted professors, mentors, or friends in the field. Tweet your favorite professional a question about where they recommend you find the right field school. Go to blogs and the websites of professional archaeological organizations. Do your research and I know you will find exactly what you need.

Also, I forgot to mention it, but field schools rock. There’s really nothing like the experiences, friends, and lessons you will come away with. Just be ready to commit yourself to working hard, learning all the things, and getting really, really dirty. You’ll be fine.

McNiven out.

Field School is Fun!