Career opportunities in underwater archeology are steadily growing. One reason is that our awareness of the cultural heritage value of these resources is increasing worldwide. Another is that underwater archaeologists are able to make unique contributions to our understanding of the past.

Historical archaeologists focusing on both terrestrial and underwater sites are employed in universities and colleges; local, state, and federal agencies, historical societies, museums, and restoration programs; and in private archaeological consulting firms. Most jobs with career-advancement potential require a master’s degree, although some are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. An average of two years of postgraduate work is required to obtain a M.A., while completion of a Ph.D. degree requires additional years of study.

Students getting practical field training. Photo courtesy John Cardinal.

For anyone attempting to navigate the often-challenging maze of financial aid, scholarships and college affordability it can be frustrating and complex. Minority students can face additional challenges. A recently-published resource guide aimed directly at minority students includes financial aid resources, overlooked fellowships and grants, and an organized list of minority scholarship opportunities. The guide can be viewed here: College Affordability for Minority Students1


There are more than 15 universities world-wide that now offer degrees in underwater archaeology or a directly related field, such as maritime studies or naval history, and their numbers are growing. Others offer some courses or can supervise graduate work, but do not have a degree program.

In situ bell found on HMS Erebus. Photo courtesy Parcs Canada.

Contacting faculty directly is the single most important step you can take as you develop plans for graduate studies. You should also discuss your choices with faculty advisers, instructors, and students who are currently in graduate school. For an up to date list of universities visit the SHA web page Guide to Graduate Programs in Historical and Underwater Archaeology.

Jobs in Underwater Archaeology

Much research on underwater archaeological properties is done to comply with state and federal legislation that protects prehistoric and historic-period resources, including archaeological sites and shipwrecks, as well as properties important to contemporary Native Americans and other groups. Many laws and regulations require that sites be located, inventoried, and studied by qualified archaeologists before they are impacted or destroyed by development. Much of this work is conducted by underwater archaeologists in state and federal agencies and private companies, who often work closely with historians, historic architects, planners, conservators, and museum curators as they carry out their research.

Colleges, universities, and museums also employ historical archaeologists. Such positions may involve undergraduate and graduate teaching, fieldwork, laboratory research, conservation, and curation of collections.

Job opportunities are varied and change regularly. For those seeking employment visit the Underwater Archaeology and Maritime History Jobs 2 site, maintained by Jason Burns. The site is regularly updated and is a comprehensive international listing of jobs and funding announcements.

Recreational Diver Heritage Education

If you love history and scuba diving, you can combine those interests and become involved as a volunteer in the exciting and fascinating field of maritime archaeology. There are many volunteer opportunities for recreational divers of all ages and backgrounds who are interested in learning the special skills of underwater research and shipwreck preservation.

Under the supervision of professional archaeologists, recreational divers are encouraged to pursue their avocational interest in maritime archaeology. For more information on those programs, visit our Recreational Diver Education page.

Managing and Supporting Organizations

The number of international organizations that focus on or support the study, management, and conservation of underwater cultural heritage is increasing. Although they take many forms, all are committed to increasing public awareness of these important reminders of our shared past. The following is a representative list of national and international governmental organizations that may be able to provide additional information or resources.

Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, Western Australia Maritime Museum, Cliff Street, Fremantle, WA 6160, Australia

Département des Recherches Archéologiques Subaquatiques et Sous-Marines, Ministère de la Culture, direction du Patrimoine, Fort Saint-Jean, 13235 Marseille, Cedex 2, France

Instituto Portuguas de Arqueologia, Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Subacuatica, Avenida da India 136, 1350 Lisboa, Portugual

International Committee of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH), 49-51 Rue de la Federation, 75015 Paris, France

Nautical Archaeology Society, Fort Cumberland, Fort Cumberland Road, Portsmouth, PO4 9LD, United Kingdom

Parks Canada, Underwater Archaeology Services, 1800 Walkley Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0M5, Canada

1, 2This link is provided as a courtesy and in no way is an endorsement of any job, announcement or organization by the ACUA. It is the responsibility of the applicant to research all jobs, internships, fellowships, and scholarships to ensure they meet professional and ethical standards.