Fascinating discoveries, exotic locales and the potential to become a real-life Indiana Jones draw those who crave the excitement of groundbreaking research and the chance to try outrunning a boulder. But the field isn't all hidden temples and lost arks, says Jeff Altschul, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Society for American Archaeology.
You'll need a master's degree to break in, but you'll also need a Ph.D. to run your own digs, assist with digs overseas or teach college. Then you'll tackle funding challenges. To fund research, archaeologists usually need backing from a museum, college or university, which means competing against thousands for coveted tenure positions and against other professors for research dollars.
"I'm guessing there are somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 of those (tenure positions)," says Altschul, adding that colleges are increasingly relying on visiting professors instead of providing tenure-track jobs.
Aside from fieldwork, archaeologists can also land jobs with the government, preservation organizations, research groups and consulting firms, reports the BLS. Before racking up debt, Altschul recommends getting a taste for the work by volunteering with programs such as the Department of Agriculture Forest Service's Passport In Time initiative.