Society for Historical Archaeology 2021 Virtual Conference
By Amanda Evans, Donn Grenda, and Joe Joseph
Earlier this year, during the Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) 2021 Virtual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology, students had multiple opportunities to network with professionals as part of the Past Presidents’ Student Reception. Organized and moderated by Mr. Terry Klein and Dr. Teresita Majewski, the reception consisted of a series of live panels during the conference that brought students together with SHA leaders to talk about careers across the spectrum of archaeology, including positions in government agencies, academia, public engagement, museums and collections, underwater archaeology, and cultural resource management (CRM). In advance of the conference, students were invited to submit questions that were addressed during the panels, along with open question and answer during sessions.
The session on careers in CRM was held on Friday, January 8, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CST. The panelists for this session were:
- Amanda Evans, Ph.D., RPA, Maritime Services Practice Leader, Gray & Pape, Inc.
- Donn Grenda, Ph.D., RPA, President, Statistical Research, Inc.
- Joe Joseph, Ph.D., RPA, Director of Administration, New South Associates
Given that we are now in the midst of graduation season, the SHA blog series presents a summary of the CRM discussion from the Past Presidents’ Student Reception series. For those in the job market, or about to enter it, we hope you find these questions and the collective answers useful.
Question: What type of work experience or nonacademic training do I need to get a job in
- A field school is a minimum requirement for entry-level positions within CRM.
- Previous experience in the geographical area or region in which you are applying is desired, but previous CRM experience is more important if you’re applying for a position in an area or region that you have not previously worked.
- For people trying to start a career in archaeology that have not had previous experience, local archaeological societies may offer field or other volunteer opportunities that can help a candidate build their experience.
- Once hired, employers are looking for people that are dependable and work hard, and that can get along with others in a team environment and are willing to learn.
- Previous experience (either paid or volunteer) doing the types of tasks relevant to the position you are applying for will set you apart from other candidates.
Question: How should I structure my resume or CV to pursue a career in CRM?
- Include your academic qualifications, and for new professionals just starting out you can include higher-level coursework that you’ve completed.
- Identify your research interest(s). If the project or position aligns with your area of interest, that can make you a preferred candidate over someone with relatively similar experience.
- When describing your previous project experience, provide specific details about the tasks you were responsible for completing or project details. For example, rather than saying you went on a survey, describe how large the survey was (e.g., 13 miles, 1,500 acres), the types of terrain, and the survey methods used.
- Provide references who can speak to your abilities and work experience.
- If possible, include a cover letter. When an employer is going through stacks of technicians’ resumes, many of whom have comparable experience, a cover letter calling out why a candidate thinks they would be a great hire or why they think their research efforts fit with the work that the employer will be conducting can better illustrate a candidate’s qualifications to the hiring manager. In a cover letter, the applicant can also demonstrate their knowledge of the company to which they’re applying, and this can set them apart from other applicants.
- Specify whether your experience includes precontact sites, historical-period sites, or both.
Question: If someone has a Master’s degree or higher, are they expected to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s (SOI) Professional Qualifications Standards for Archaeology?
- If the position explicitly asks for someone meeting SOI qualifications, then yes, your resume should demonstrate that you meet the standards.
- If the position is entry level and you have a Master’s degree, whether you meet SOI qualifications or not, you should state why you are willing to accept an entry-level position. Maybe it’s to build your field experience in a specific region, or on a project type, or as a way to get a foot in the door with a specific company. If you are eligible (Master’s degree or higher) you should become a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA).
Question: What does the job market look like for CRM?
- Currently, the job market is growing faster than many CRM firms can keep up with, driven in large part by energy (especially renewable energies), military, and transportation projects. The White House’s proposed infrastructure bill (at the time of writing this summary) would increase the need for CRM professionals.
Question: How much does the region where you get an advanced degree determine the region where you’re hired?
- The panelists agreed that the quality of the program matters more than its location and suggest evaluating graduate programs or the professors that a student would like to work with, or the specialties and research opportunities available through that department or program.
- The caveat is that each school or program will present opportunities for experiences or networking that may not translate to the area where you want to work or live.
- Individual professors or entire programs may have relationships and associations with private companies, museums, non-profits, or regulatory agencies. Those relationships could ultimately influence your opportunities and experiences as you develop your career path.
- There are situations where a state may require that you have a set level of experience in that state in order to work there.
- If applying to a position outside of your area, for example if you completed a graduate program overseas, try to explain in your cover letter how your skills or theoretical training apply to historic preservation generally and how your degree program prepared you for the position to which you’re applying.
Question: What non-archaeological skills are most useful or sought after in CRM?
- The ability to write is extremely important in CRM. Being able to communicate effectively in writing – to prepare reports, permit applications, and proposals – are critical skills that you will need to move beyond being a field technician.
- Management experience, being able to manage people, schedules, and budgets are all important skills. You may be able to demonstrate that through previous work experience outside of archaeology.
- The ability to drive a 4-wheel drive vehicle, or the ability to drive large work vehicles. It is more critical than you would believe since field crews often use large trucks, but scenarios happen where an employee pulls into a gas station and runs into the gas pump because they’ve never driven a truck. Or when you’re out with a crew in the middle of nowhere and you get stuck in the sand/mud. Do you know how to get out of the sand/mud? Do you know how to change a tire?
- For the maritime positions, we always have a wish list of skills that can help set a candidate apart, things like small boat engine repair or boating experience. Are you familiar with knots? A lot of times we’re having to fabricate things on the boat in the field, we’re having to fix things that broke, we need to trailer a boat. To the earlier point about large trucks, it’s even harder to pull into the gas station with a 30-foot trailer behind the truck.
Question: Are research, publication, and presentations encouraged or valued in CRM archaeology?
- That answer will vary from company to company. Some companies will actively encourage and support conference participation, others will ask that it be done on an employee’s own time.
- Publications and presentations definitely benefit the individual employee. It helps you to become known in the field for your research interests or regional expertise, and it helps to build your network.
- You should be looking at opportunities to give presentations and to be active in archaeological societies and organizations. Those activities may introduce you to CRM archaeologists, or you may have somebody hear a talk that you presented and want to talk with you afterwards because they have a project coming up and they think you might be a good fit.
- It is a strength on your resume to show publications and presentations. That’s part of the resume filter. Companies that actively encourage this will look for it in the resumes of candidates they consider.
Question: Should an applicant use their thesis as a writing sample as part of their application package?
- Unless your thesis is completely unrelated to the job, yes you should use it as a writing sample. Employers will understand that the requirements for the thesis may include jargon or sections that don’t equate to a CRM report, but we understand the structure of a thesis. If you’re not submitting a part of your thesis and you’re applying for a job as a supervisory archaeologist or other position that involves writing, it may raise more questions.
Question: What types of ancillary archaeological and non-archaeological positions are available within CRM?
- Physical anthropologists / Mortuary archaeologists / Bioarchaeologists
- Zooarchaeologists / Archaeobotanists
- Geophysical specialists (terrestrial and marine remote sensing)
- GIS specialists
- Illustrators / Graphic designers
- Editors / Report production
- Architectural historians / Historic architectural specialists
- Laboratory directors
- Curation managers
- Accounting and Administration, including Human Resources
- Project Managers
- Health, Safety, and Environment officers
- Marketing and Business Development
- Information Technology
A Closing Note from Terry Klein and Teresita Majewski:
We were very pleased about the results of this and the other career sessions. Exchanges between the panelists and attendees were lively and very informative, and several attendees acknowledged their thanks at the end of each session. We are looking forward to the next Past Presidents’ Student Receptions in Philadelphia! It will be great to finally see everyone in person!
If you have any questions about this and the other career sessions, or future Past Presidents’ Student Receptions, please contact Mr. Terry Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Teresita Majewski (email@example.com).