Get This Job: Archaeologist

Gather clues about how ancient peoples lived, and enjoy backcountry solitude in the bargain.

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Archaeologists unearth ancient secrets. Photo by: Todd Karol

If solitude tops your list of backcountry must-haves and your powers of perception rival a CSI sleuth’s, consider becoming an archaeologist. You’ll earn about $59,000 a year and enjoy a 19 percent boost in job opportunities in the next decade. Best of all, no annoying colleagues—most of the people you’ll see at work have been dead for ages.

“Archaeologists are routinely in the middle of nowhere,” says Corinne Springer, who manages a remote, off-the-grid field station in east-central Utah. “We’re a strange bunch. There are a lot of loners.”

Archaeologists work for a variety of employers, from federal agencies like the NPS to cultural resource management firms that assess impacts before construction. Corinne Springer, of the Natural History Museum of Utah, spends half the year in a 20-mile-long canyon renowned for its more than 600 archaeological sites, located 2.5 hours from the nearest town. Though she regularly hosts research teams, for the most part Springer is alone among the arrowheads, pottery, and ruins left in the canyon by the Fremont people 1,000 years ago.

And that’s just how she likes it. When she isn’t tending to field station chores (gardening, roofing, horse wrangling), Springer combs the canyon looking for artifacts. To her, they’re clues to understanding how the Fremont people lived—and why they vanished from the area. She spends the winter reviewing her findings and writing reports at her Salt Lake City office, then returns to the canyon as soon as weather permits to continue unraveling the mysteries of its ancient inhabitants.

“Who knows how long it will take to exhaust the potential of this place,” says Springer, who didn’t achieve her fourth-grade dream of becoming an archaeologist until her early 40s. “I’m going to stay until they kick me out of here.”

Pay $59,000 Prerequisites Master’s degree Perks Solitude, scenery Problems Paper pushing Prospects 8,600 jobs by 2022 (+19%)