It is easier to get a job with a degree from abroad than with an Israeli degree because employers look for people who have a fresh perspective to add to the field. Anything new that you can add to a dig can be used as leverage to help you attain a paid position. Additionally, a good way to get experience is to join a dig from a non-Israeli University that is currently conducting a dig in Israel.
There are opportunities for individuals with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees; however, a PhD helps open doors to a greater number of positions.
The top universities in Israel for archaeology are Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University & Ben Gurion University. Many students choose to major in Eretz Israel Studies for their undergraduate degrees. There are no scholarships available for Bachelor’s and Master’s degree study within Israel; however, there are a few scholarships available for PhD study.
During their studies, most archaeologists choose to specialize in a specific period. The period that is most likely to lead to employment opportunities today is the Prehistoric period. It may be important to mention that some of the digs related to this period, may take you to West Africa.
People go into the field of archaeology in Israel because it is something they love. It is difficult to make a living solely working as an archaeologist as there are not very many well-paid positions in the field. Until one establishes “Kevi’iut” (tenure) with an employer, paid positions are usually minimum wage. Establishing tenure, as a newcomer without previous experience, can be difficult and may take many years. One way to establish tenure if you cannot find work digging, is through lecturing in archaeology programs.
Joining a Dig
The best way to join a dig is through connections. It is best to find an archaeologist who is leading a dig, and offer to volunteer. Once you prove yourself, you can ask to join future digs with this archaeologist and slowly build up your credibility within the field. Ironically, it is often easier to get involved with a dig in Israel that is being conducted by a visiting archaeologist from an American university.
Biblical Archaeological Review (BAR) online provides a list of digs with contact information.
As with most professions, it is important to conduct market research and speak to professionals in Israel, who can provide a more in-depth sense of the types of opportunities that exist in this field.
A good working knowledge of Hebrew is a pre-requisite for most positions. It is strongly advised to take Ulpan upon arrival.
A special thank you to Aren Maeir, professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, for participating in this interview.
Please provide us with a brief description of your field.
I am a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. I combine teaching and research, both in the lab and the field as part of my work.
What is your current position?
Professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University.
How did you find your job?
I trained as an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after I left the army in 1982.
What types of backgrounds are relevant for someone looking to break into the field of Archaeology?
One should have degrees in archaeology and related fields, in order to break into the field.
What education and experience should an Oleh looking to go into Archaeology come with?
An advanced degree in archaeology from a respected institution abroad.
Is there any kind of license or certification you need, to work as a Archaeologist in Israel?
In addition to a college level degree, and preferably a graduate one, you need to have experience in the field. If not, you will have to get that here, on excavations.
How important is Hebrew in your field?
Hebrew is important to talk to your local colleagues, but most professional publications, meetings, etc. are in English.
What are the benefits of your job?
The benefits are having an interesting job, working outdoors, meeting a wide range of people, and having fun.
Is Archaeology more in demand in certain areas of Israel?
There are not a lot of jobs in archaeology. The Israel Antiquities Authority ( http://www.antiquities.org.il/ ) is the main employer, and then various universities and some museums. All told there are not a lot of jobs in the field.
What is the salary range?
The salary is not that great – more or less like a civil servant.
Do you have any other advice or tips for Olim?
Check out the field well before you commit to it; both as far as choosing a profession at the start, and also before you commit to Aliyah, since there are not a lot jobs in Archaeology. If you are committed to coming to Israel, take into account that you might have to switch careers if you don’t find a job in archaeology.
How do you feel about working and living in Israel?
I love it and would not want to live and/or work anywhere else in the world!
Thanks to Aran Maeir, professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. You can contact Aran at firstname.lastname@example.org.