While the popular image of the profession might be informed in the public eye by the Indiana Jones movies, there's little of the swashbuckling and danger involved in being an actual archaeologist. Many persons who work as archaeologists are not even employed by universities. More and more, construction and civil engineering companies are finding the need for having archaeologists on staff. Public works departments in city and state government are also likely to employ archaeologists. These employees still work with the artifacts and remains of long-departed cultures, but they typically do so under very controlled circumstances.
Much of what a modern archaeologist does occurs in a laboratory environment. The archaeologist is likely to spend considerable time taking dozens of detailed photographs of remnants of found pieces. He or she will typically examine these closely, using microscopic imaging equipment. The archaeologist will then attempt to categorize artifacts by what the item is, its age, and who might have created or used it originally. This can be painstaking, detail-oriented work at times, which can require months of examination and collaboration with others in the field. Archaeologists do perform field work, but often it is for companies performing construction or civil engineering and surveying.
To work as an archaeologist, a person must typically receive a university degree in that field. Most archaeologists do begin work at an academic level to gain practical experience. A few lucky and highly skilled members of this field will find themselves staying in academia and performing field work on ancient civilizations. More likely, however, is that an archaeologist will enter the private sector working with engineering or public works departments, where field work is considerably more local in nature.
Plan, develop, and perform laboratory and field work.
Monitor field work.
Evaluate proposals and budgets.
Ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
Supervise archaeological excavation areas and the restoration and stabilization of the area.