D.Clark Wernecke

San Marcos, Texas, United States

Archaeologist

The Gault School of Archaeological Research

Archaeology is not so much a career as a calling - you have to really want to participate, learn and discover every day. I have worked with 90 year olds who get excited every time they find something.

I have been the executive director for The Gault School of Archaeological Research (GSAR) since 1993. GSAR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to research and education regarding the first peoples in the Americas. Our number of employees varies with our funding.

I love what I do, enjoy the people I work with and learn something new every day. I jokingly like to describe the profession of archaeology as “CSI: Prehistoric”.

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My primary expertise is in marketing and operations of archaeological projects. As executive director for GSAR, I must be on top of logistics, funding, accounting, purchasing, marketing, research and personnel issues. I have spent a good deal of time in the field - including the Middle East, Mesoamerica, American Southeast, Southwest and Paleo-Indian. My PhD dissertation was on Maya construction materials and techniques, and I have spent years studying ancient architecture.

Archaeology is all about networking and skills. Hiring is done within networks so you need to know a lot of people, and they need to know what you can do. Archaeology is also an apprenticeship discipline where you need to have learned some very important skills to get a decent job.

To be able to make a living in archaeology, you need at least a Master's in Anthropology (with that you can get a permit to work in most states and are qualified to supervise archaeological work). A PhD is not necessary unless your goal is teaching at the college level. That means two to three years of schooling, but often that can be done primarily in night classes.

You need experience to get hired. So, we often recommend a lot of volunteering in both lab and field (local archaeological societies, rescue archaeology work etc.). What are most needed are concrete skills like knowledge of GIS systems, surveying, remote sensing, digital photography and manipulation, website design and management - these skills are in demand.

What you earn depends on where your interests lie. “Shovel bums", the folks who provide the bulk of the labor in the field, can make $12-15 an hour, usually project by project with no benefits. Management positions in cultural resource management pay 30K+ while a senior professor could make up to 100K.