As an undergraduate senior, I am in a unique part of my life, shifting between a phase of educational training into a career mode. From graduating with my bachelor’s to working full-time in the field as a cultural resource technician, I am taking the steps to develop a fully-fledged career in archaeology through SWCA Environmental Consultants. During this change, I wanted to reflect on how my education has helped me get to where I am, and where curricula change can better prepare the shift into the career of a working anthropologist.
What has helped:
1. My professors
I think that I have excellent professors who teach in a small program. This has allowed me to connect with my teachers and develop meaningful relationships. Being in a classroom of 15 students and taking multiple classes from the same professor means that my instructor knows my face and name, and more importantly, my skills and attributes. Networking and communicating with them has given me insight into different career paths within academia through anthropology. I can ask them what worked best for them and determine what is the right journey for me.
2. My classes
With so many different subfields of anthropology, I have had the privilege of taking a wide variety of courses. Linguistics, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and archaeology have given me an array of skills that I can apply to my job or research in the future. It also gave me professional opportunities, like access to research, lab equipment, and publishing opportunities for papers I have written. Personally, I loved my biological anthropology and archaeology classes the most, and oriented my line of work towards that.
3. My experiences
Classroom experiences have taught me new skills, such as excavation and survey skills, and refined my career path. Field school through Rutgers University in Italy has taught me the skills I need to be an archaeologist while letting future employers know that I am serious about my career. Studying abroad in Italy during the summer showed me the customs and culture of a new place and taught me how to adapt to a new environment. Real-life experiences are great for work exposure, networking with people in the field, and bulking-up a resume. Working with a team and solving problems has developed my skills of critical thinking, adaptability, communication, and responsibility; things I wouldn’t grasp as easily in a lecture setting.
What can be improved:
1. Job Prospects
While my experiences in college have been great, I think the focus on a students’ career is too focused on academia, especially within anthropology. Most schoolwork, like research and papers, focuses on skills that apply to academia. While in school, my mentors focused on training us in continuing work in anthropology, instead of translating anthropology skills to other fields. Work in the business or government sector receives little attention. For recent graduates such as myself looking to pay off student loan debt, finding a full-time position in the anthropology field is difficult. Anthropology jobs that require just a bachelor’s degree seem to not exist, and financial stability isn’t ensured until several years into a career. For example, in archaeology, most college alumni like myself transition into cultural resource management (CRM) work after graduating. This work is temporary or contract based, which doesn’t give the same benefits a full-time employee does, like insurance coverage or retirement plan opportunities. The Ideal Work Environment tool is a great way to evaluate these types of work preferences for yourself. The Anthropology Career Readiness Network (ACRN) is a useful implement for people to find tools and exercises that can help with these internal questions.
One form of lack of awareness is in part due to the lack of knowledge the general public has regarding anthropology. When you say “I study archaeology,” most people respond with a joke about Indiana Jones, and when you mention “anthropology” in a conversation, chances are you have to explain what that word even means before you can explain your work. This limits the recognition of anthropology and its importance to society. When this sector is properly appreciated, more people will get invested, curious, and excited about this work, much like other scientific fields.
A more general awareness of the field to people, through public outreach programs in schools and workplaces, could grow recognition of the insights, tools, skills, and competency that anthropology brings to the workplace. This recognition could impact both future anthropologists who want to know more and study it, and impact businesses to see anthropology as an asset to a company.
As I transition from student to employee, the Anthropology Career Readiness Network has helped me evalute what I prioritize in a company and what I want to achieve in my career long-term. Starting the summer of 2023, I will be working as a Cultural Resource Technician at SWCA Environmental Consultants to further my experiences in archaeology. From there, I plan to get my master’s in anthropology or archaeology. My goal is to be a science communicator and work in both preserving history and educating others in its importance.