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FAQ about Applying to the RPA




Required Documentation





An applicant for RPA registration must document the following qualifications:

  1. The applicant must have an advanced degree (such as an M.A., M.S., Ph.D., or D.Sc.) from an accredited institution in archaeology, anthropology, art history, classics, history, or other germane discipline with a specialization in archaeology. A photocopy of a diploma or a transcript that indicates award of the degree must be included with the application.

  2. As part of that advanced degree, the applicant must have designed and executed an archaeological study and have reported on that research in the form of a Master's thesis, Ph.D. dissertation, or report. The study must show a substantive data analysis by the applicant directed toward an explicit archeological research problem.

  3. If your thesis/dissertation did not include specific research on an explicit archeological research topic and you can document a similar research project through another report or publication equivalent to that required for a thesis or dissertation, you may also apply, but need to provide additional documentation concerning your completion of an archaeological study, and at least 52 weeks of field and laboratory experience.

  4. You must accept the responsibilities and standards described in the Code of Conduct, Standards of Research Performance, and Grievance Procedures of the Register of Professional Archaeologists.


Section One – Fees


Question: Can the application fee and the annual registration fee be paid by a single check, or are two necessary?


Answer: Please submit two checks. The application fee is non-refundable. If your application is not accepted, the check for the annual registration fee will be returned to you.


Question: If my original application is rejected, and I later re-apply after additional experience and report writing, do I have to re-submit the application fee a second time?


Answer: Yes. The application fees cover expenses incurred when processing the applications and each application must be accompanied by the fee, unless you are applying within six months of receiving your advanced degree. The RPA has the same administrative expenses associated with each application.


Question: My original application was submitted as the shortened version but I was told I should resubmit it on the longer version to further document my work and research experience because my thesis did not include a substantive data analysis component. Do I have to re-submit the application fee a second time when I submit the longer version of the application?


Answer: Yes. The application fees cover expenses incurred when processing the applications and each application must be accompanied by the fee, unless you are applying within six months of receiving your advanced degree. The RPA has the same administrative expenses associated with each application.



Section Two – Required Documentation


Question: What supporting documentation should I submit with my application?


Answer: If you are submitting your application on the basis of the research conducted as part of your thesis/dissertation, you must attach two (2) copies of the title page, table of contents, and abstract of this thesis/dissertation. The table of contents should include the standard listing of all chapters and sections in the thesis, as well as the standard listing of all figures and tables you included. If your institution did/does not require an abstract, please send relevant summary statements in your conclusions chapter. You must also submit two (2) copies of your current resume or vita documenting your employment history and work experience, publications, presented papers, and participation in professional organizations. You must also submit two (2) copies of either your diploma or university transcript documenting the awarding of the degree. If you are submitting your application based on your work experience and other relevant research, you must submit four (4) copies of all the relevant documents listed above.


Question: I am an archaeologist with five graduate degrees, extensive fieldwork in a foreign country, completed my PhD in 1993, and have been a faculty member at The University of Myhomeschool since 1994. All this is documented on my departmental website and on my CV. Do I still need to scan copies of my diploma or transcript, and of the front pages of my doctoral dissertation?


Answer: Yes. These documents are required of all applicants, so all applicants can be reviewed on an even basis.


Question: I've finally gotten around to preparing my application for RPA. However, at this time I can't find my diploma (It's here somewhere!!) and have only an unofficial transcript. That diploma is somewhere here in the house and will show up eventually but I’d rather not wait and I'd rather not go through the expense of obtaining an official transcript. Will the unofficial one do? I have all the other required documents on hand.


Answer: The transcript may be an unofficial copy. Many applicants apply long after they graduate and obtaining a new, official copy from the University may take longer than it does to review your application.


Question: I wrote my thesis 23 years ago in a computer format that is no longer viable. I have no hard copy of the thesis, which is on file at my alma mater (Myhomeschool). I did, however, publish the thesis soon after graduation, and both the article and thesis are cited in journal articles and at least one book. Can I attach the journal article or citations in lieu of the original title page which would be a burden to retrieve?


Answer: RPA would prefer the direct information about your thesis if you are applying on the short form, hence the form requiring submission of details about your thesis. Most University libraries have now digitized all early theses and dissertations and are available as a PDF. Please check with the library at the University where you received your degree and see if it is available. If not, please apply on the long application form, using the published version as your "report submitted in lieu of a thesis."


Question: I would like to register with you. The requirement for my MA was production of three publishable papers instead of a thesis. Am I still eligible to use the short application form?


Answer: Yes, as long as documentation can be made the three publishable papers were actually part of the thesis. Most universities using this form of thesis reporting require a single document to be submitted to the university, even though the three chapters were designed to be independent and may even have been published before the thesis completion. Simply submit the table of contents, etc., of this document as normal. If your university does not require such an overriding document, submit the abstracts and publication data of the three papers.


Question: I am filling out my application and it seems that you need a report from me showing I can conduct archaeological research. I have a report to send you, but it is about 55mb and too large to attach to an email. I have a digital copy on disc that I can mail to you if that is ok. If so, what address should I send it to and whom should I address it to?


Answer: We do not need, nor want the entire report submitted as part of your application package. All we need is the Table of Contents, outlining the report, and the abstract.


Question: Does a report prepared for a Section 106, Class III survey/inventory report satisfy the requirement on Section 3 of the application? I have various survey project reports I co-authored. Does my name have to be on the title page?


Answer: The requirements for RPA registration include having prepared a thesis, dissertation or other report where the report documents results of a study with a substantive data analysis by the applicant directed toward an explicit archeological research problem. Section 106 Class III inventory reports, which you submitted for clarification, generally do not meet this requirement, because they are not directed toward a research problem, but rather are directed toward providing archaeological and historical information for a proponent/client’s project for permit processing. However, if you have participated in a mitigation project for such a client, and as part of that report, conducted data analysis of a research problem, then that report should suffice for review. The report should include information you actually conducted and reported on such analyses. You will also need to document a minimum of 52 weeks of field and laboratory experience through Section 4 of the application form.


Question: I am emailing the link for the web page which shows in detail the MA in Archaeology and Heritage from the University of Myhomeschool through distance learning. I am also sending the four other links that show a specific description of the 4 individual modules that I will be required to take in addition to writing a thesis. The entire program is 180 UK credits which I believe equates to 36 U.S. credit hours which is a standard MA degree and is designed to be taken over 2 years. I will be applying for the February 2014 start date and wanted to make sure that this would be acceptable for the MA RPA designation on my resume upon completion of the program. I have been told that I may also need to go through a foreign credentialing service to certify my transcript ($150-$250) prior to usage in the U.S. So I would also like to know if you would require this as well or only the official transcript. Also, once I begin the program, I assume that I would be able to send you a copy of the actual syllabus for the first module if necessary but I would need to check with the professor first before doing so.


Answer: Registration as an RPA is not dependent of a specific course of study, but rather on (1) completion of an advanced degree in an archaeological related field from a university accredited by the educational system, (2) preparation of a formal thesis addressing an archaeologically related research topic, and especially (3), a desire by the applicant to accept a personal responsibility to be held accountable for his or her professional behavior. Documentation for this is made by your signature on the application form certifying you will adhere to these criteria; by submitting a copy of the table of contents of your thesis; by submitting a copy of either your diploma or academic transcript (official or unofficial); and submitting a copy of your professional resume. We are not concerned with a specific program of study, but rather completion of that study and a desire by the applicant to hold him/herself ethically responsible in their archaeological career.



Section Three – Qualifications


Question: I hold an Interdisciplinary PhD in American Indian Studies from Myhomeschool University. I have extensive background in Native Studies and Anthropology, with two years of field archaeological experience as well as report/site writing, editing. I currently work as a tribal liaison for a corporation in the Midwest. With this doctorate and the field experience, can I apply for acceptance into the RPA?


Answer: It appears you should qualify for membership. However, since your degree and dissertation do not appear to be specifically in archaeology, and not knowing if your dissertation contained analysis of an archaeological research problem, I would suggest you complete the "long application” section of the application from the RPA website and submit it for review, paying close attention to the section on archeological research projects. If any of your field reports demonstrate a research component, that should qualify you for the second requirement listed above. The long forms are reviewed by a committee of the Registrar and two former Registrars before a decision is made. If it appears additional information is needed, we will then contact you for clarification.


Question: My MA thesis was grounded more in the field of Physical Anthropology rather than Archaeology, but extensively used GIS and was designed as a tool that could be used in a variety of ways. The thesis was published in the AJPA, and rather than send the application with the thesis information and hope it is sufficient, or send the application with additional and more relevant CRM reports done post-MA, I thought I would just check first to see if you are able to review the published thesis on-line and deem if sufficient/insufficient? I’d hate to do all this paperwork twice.


Answer: Submit your application with documentation about the thesis, but make sure your vita/resume (required to be part of the application) details your actual work in archaeology, including field work, lab work, and reports. That should be sufficient. The vita will illustrate your actual continuing experience in archaeology. If the Registrar feels additional information is necessary, you will be told what is needed, but won’t have to do a complete registration form again.


Question: The website for the University of Myhomeschool says about their MA in Archaeology is the equivalent of a regionally-accredited US Master’s degree. I am trying to verify this program to my human resources people as a creditable (if not accredited) program in Archaeology for an employee of mine. They are threatening to lay him off this week. Could you please provide any information regarding this program that you may have? Is it recognized by your organization as a qualifying program? Does your organization accredit schools? If, so are you recognized by the US Department of Education as an accrediting body?


Answer: The RPA is not a licensing organization but rather an association of professional archaeologists who meet educational and research requirements and who agree to abide by specific professional standards. One of the criteria for registration in the RPA is based on the Applicant’s demonstration to the Registrar Advisory Committee that he/she holds an advanced degree in archaeology or related field and possesses the proven ability to conduct research on an archaeological topic. The RPA does not conduct accreditation of academic institutions. Graduates from all universities worldwide are welcome to apply for RPA registration. Individual application packets are examined on a case by case basis. In the past, some graduates of the University of Myhomeschool Master’s program may have applied successfully for registration in RPA, while others may not have been accepted. This is true not only for University of Myhomeschool graduates, but graduates of other Master’s programs elsewhere. A diploma from the University of Myhomeschool (or any other university) does not automatically guarantee RPA registration, because all applicants must thoroughly document the required criteria for RPA registration. In summary, a degree from the University of Myhomeschool does allow a graduate to apply for registration in the RPA, but it does not guarantee acceptance.


Question: I have been working for a CRM firm full-time for just over two years (tasks primarily include Phase 1 field work and report writing). I am looking to complete my master's degree in archaeology in December of this year. However, I had to leave school for 2 years due to financial reasons, and have been advised by my professors to save time in completing my degree by taking their "non-thesis" track. This would include an additional class and exit exams, rather than completion of the traditional thesis. What options (if any) are available to me for satisfying the "execution of archaeological study" requirement for an RPA? To date, the only materials I can think of offering would include a number of CRM reports that I have co-authored, a few small articles that have been published, and research papers written during my graduate studies. Would you suggest taking the time to finish a thesis as opposed to finding an alternative to supplement a non-thesis MA in archaeology?


Answer: The decision on whether to finish a thesis or complete a non-thesis MA in archaeology is up to you and your thesis committee. If you complete a non-thesis MA, and use the longer version of the application form, you should be able to provide the details needed about your actual work and writing experience. The requirement that an applicant must have completed an archaeological study can be met by authoring journal articles, chapters in edited volumes, CRM reports or portions thereof (such as analytical chapters), and so forth. The study or studies must "show a substantive data analysis by the applicant directed toward an explicit archaeological research problem” and must be "equivalent in scope and quality to a master’s thesis or Ph.D. dissertation.” Archaeological inventory reports conducted in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act usually do not address explicit archaeological research problems (although some do), but many data recovery projects and analytical studies for data recovery projects are guided by research designs that address explicit archaeological research problems. Documentation of the study or studies should explain what archaeological research problem was addressed and what type of analysis was conducted to investigate the research Question. You should be able to document what part(s) of the various reports and publications you were responsible for writing, including any research conducted as part of the Section 106 reports.

: I have heard there are a number of RPA members with their B.A. Is there some stipulation for these individuals or have RPA requirements become more stringent since these archaeologists became members? I ask because my co-worker who has his B.A., over 20 years of experience, and authored multiple publications would like to become registered.


Question: I have roughly 10 years of experience working in cultural resource management and often work as a "crew chief" supervising crews. However, I only have a Bachelor's degree. Am I qualified to submit a long-form application for an RPA? The reason I am interested is because I am permitted to work on federal lands but having an RPA would highlight that I follow the ethical code of the RPA.


Question: I have 15 years of CRM and academic experience as an archaeological field director supervising and reporting on Phase I, II and III excavations in the Middle Atlantic region and the Southeast. I have a B.A. in Anthropology from Myhomeschool and am currently enrolled in the American History Program at Myhomeschool University in pursuit of my M.A. As I do not yet have an advanced degree, but I do have substantial professional experience, can I apply for listing in the RPA?


Answer: Archaeologists with BA’s were allowed to become SOPA (Society of Professional Archaeologists) members under a grandfather clause for the first year of operation (1977) of SOPA. It is possible some of those are RPAs if they used their SOPA membership to become RPAs when SOPA ceased operations and RPA began its operations. Today, the first requirement for registration in the RPA is you must hold an advanced degree in a field related to archaeological/anthropological studies. This advanced degree is a requirement that is not waived, no matter how many years of experience a person has.

: I’m an RPA in California. One of my staff members, who has been serving as Field Director and Staff Archaeologist for about 8 years, is looking into graduate schools. He is interested in a Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation because it is a more well-rounded program than a focus in just archaeology. His bachelor’s degree is in archaeology, however. Can he be accepted into the RPA with a Masters in Historic Preservation plus 8 years of full time professional experience, or must the Master’s degree be exclusively in archaeology?


Answer: Educational requirements for registration in the RPA are based on a demonstrated ability to conduct research on an archaeological topic and archaeological work experience. The field of Historic Preservation is a topic wide enough that RPA has been accepting applicants using the short application form with such a degree, as long as their thesis demonstrates having addressed an archaeological research problem.


Question: Can you please provide guidance on whether all accredited schools are approved by RPA and if all related fields (i.e. GIS with an archaeology emphasis, Historic Preservation, Anthropology) would be accepted?


Answer: Educational qualifications for registration in the RPA are based on demonstrated ability to conduct research on an archaeological topic and archaeological work experience, and not from having received that degree from any specific university or college. The field of archaeology is a topic wide enough that RPA has been accepting applicants using the short application form with many different degrees, as long as their thesis demonstrates having addressed an archaeological research problem and prepared a report detailing the results.


Question: Would a Master of Archaeology degree (a master of professional studies degree) meet the requirements for the graduate studies requirement for the RPA, or does the degree specifically need to be a Master of Arts in Anthropology/Archaeology degree or higher? I am looking to complete a master’s overseas in Australia and there are two options: A Master of Archaeology degree or a Master of Arts in Archaeology degree, and I wasn’t sure if only the MA would be acknowledged in the US.


Question: There is a program Myhomeschool University in Australia that I am interested in pursuing. The program is 2 years and results in a Master of Archaeology degree (M. Archaeology). It is considered to be a degree by coursework; however, an 80,000 word thesis is required to complete the degree. I guess my Question is: does this fit into the "research orientated thesis or dissertation" category you mention below? I know many schools in Europe are by coursework, are only a year, require only a 50,000 word thesis, but result in a Master of Arts in Archaeology (M.A. Archaeology). Several of my co-workers have been RPA-certified with the European M.A.


Question: I have a Master’s degree from the University of Myhomeschool in the United Kingdom. I am an American archaeologist with 5 years of experience. I want to apply to be RPA certified, but I am wondering if I will come across any problems due to my foreign education? It is not one of those on-line degrees, I actually attended the university.


Answer: Educational qualifications for registration in the RPA are based on demonstrated ability to conduct research on an archaeological topic and archaeological work experience, and not from having received that degree from any specific university or college. The field of archaeology is a topic wide enough that RPA has been accepting applicants using the short application form with many different degrees, as long as their thesis demonstrates having addressed an archaeological research problem and prepared a report detailing the results. Since Myhomeschool University is an accredited university, you would meet RPA requirements once you earn an advanced degree with a specialization in archaeology; have designed and executed an archaeological study reported in the form of a Master's thesis or Doctoral dissertation; and accept the Code of Conduct, Standards of Research Performance, and Grievance Procedures of the Register of Professional Archaeologists. As far as the thesis topic, as long as it shows a substantive data analysis directed toward an explicit archeological research problem, there also should be no problem.


Question: Although my academic training has primarily been in biological anthropology, I have also trained in archaeology and have over 16 years experience as an archaeologist in the field of cultural resource management (with 6 years as a project director). My concern is my ability to qualify for Section 3 of the long form application. I have planned and led several projects from survey through site examination, which included prehistoric and historic archaeological research components. These are mainly in the form of cultural resource management reports. Could you clarify how such reports might fulfill the requirements for the Execution of an Archaeological Research Study?


Answer: Many archaeologists have been working in the CRM field for many years, but did not do an archaeologically research related thesis, or as in your case, did a biological anthropology related thesis. If you did receive an advanced degree in biological anthropology, and addressed a specific archaeological related research Question in your thesis, you should be able to apply under the shorter version of the application form. Having said that, if your thesis did not address an archaeological related research Question, but you do have an advanced degree, at least one of the various reports you have prepared probably presents the results of your research into some form of archaeology research Question in great detail. As long as you did the research yourself, and wrote the report (or the section on the research), you will be able to use such reports for the long form Section 3. Simply attach the title page, abstract and table of contents documenting the work to your application so the Review Committee can examine it and see the research Question(s) addressed. If you feel you would want to attach a couple of such reports, there is no problem to this either. This type of CRM report, along with your documented experience, replaces a thesis addressing an archaeological research topic, but you do need that advanced degree to apply.


Question: I am a Federal Archaeologist. I do not have a higher degree however: I have worked in Archaeology for almost 10 years as a professional. In qualifying for my position as a Zone Archaeologist, I am recognized as qualified under the Secretary of the Interior’s standards which allow substitution of experience for higher education. As I am a practicing archaeologist, admission to the RPA would provide opportunities for peer to peer interaction. Please can you let me know if I would be able to have admission.


Answer: A basic requirement of RPA registration is the possession of an advanced degree, no matter how much field experience or other work qualifications you might have. While RPA recognizes that individuals who lack advanced degrees often practice competent and ethical archaeology, the organization has defined itself as an association of individuals who hold advanced degrees and who subscribe to RPA’s ethical standards.




Section Four – Miscellaneous Questions


Question: My M.A. degree was issued with my maiden name. Do I need to provide additional documents to prove that my degree is mine since it is under a different surname?


Answer: Submit your application using "first name, maiden name, married name." With the additional information required on the application (resume, work experience, etc.), it should be obvious you are the same person. If registration is approved, then the certificate could be issued under just your married name, your maiden name, or a combination, however you desire.


Question: I am an archaeologist in Canada who would like to join your organization. I feel I meet the requirements apart from the supervised by an RPA fieldwork requirement. While I have much experience and have conducted multiple projects in the field (I am a permit holder for British Columbia and Alberta) I have never been supervised by a registrant of the RPA. Considering there are very few Canadians in the organization, how would one join the RPA?


Answer: The RPA does have several Canadian members. There is no problem with becoming a member if you live outside the United States. In fact, we also have members who presently work in Europe or Latin America. You do not state whether you have an advanced degree in Anthropology or related field, with a specialization in Archaeology. If you have such a degree, and with the work experience it appears you have (which can be documented on a resume/vita), there should be no problem with documenting your qualifications on the short application form. If you feel you need to fill out the long application form, go ahead and do so. While there is the requirement for applicants using the long form to have been supervised by a member of RPA, the requirement also states "The experience must have been done under the supervision of an RPA or an archaeologist who meets the requirements to be a Registered Professional Archeologist." Thus, it is not an absolute rule you must be supervised by an RPA. Normally, anyone with an advanced degree in Archaeology or long-term experience in the field will suffice for this supervision requirement.


Question: In years past, I registered as an RPA. I have since let my registration lapse, but would now like to be reinstated. Do I need to re-apply and go through the review process again?


Answer: No. Once you are approved for registration, you have demonstrated you commitment to the goals of the RPA. If you wish to become an active registrant again, all you need to do is notify the business office of your desire and submit your yearly dues. The business office does keep track of registrant profiles for only the past 4-5 years. It would help if you could also submit a copy of your registration certificate with the registration number.


Question: I just had a quick Question on which application form I should be completing. If my Master’s degree is in Applied Anthropology, and I have been a full-time archaeologist for 6+ years, should I fill out the long version or the shorter version of the application form?


Answer: Use the shorter version of the form, especially if your Master’s degree thesis included a substantive data analysis on an archaeological related research topic. If the Registrar needs additional information to review your packet, you will be notified.

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