What is the Register of Professional Archaeologists?

Two archaeologists sitting on wall, looking out over mountains.

Photo Credit: Maren Hopkins, RPA 989885.

The Register of Professional Archaeologists (the Register) is a listing of archaeologists who have agreed to abide by an explicit code of conduct and standards of research performance. To become an Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA), an archaeologist must hold a graduate degree in archaeology, anthropology, or another related discipline (including but not limited to art history, classics, history, or museum studies) and have completed a thesis or dissertation, or its equivalent, that addresses a substantive archaeological question.


Registering as an RPA is a voluntary act. By joining the Register, an archaeologist recognizes their personal responsibility to colleagues, clients, and the public and agrees to be held accountable for their professional behavior. By formally acknowledging this relationship between personal actions and the wider discipline of archaeology, the act of registration holds a professional archaeologist to a set of high ethical standards that sets them apart from others involved with or interested in archaeology.


The Register provides a mechanism for the easy identification of RPAs. All RPAs are listed in a directory, which is updated quarterly and published annually on the Registers official website. RPAs may also identify themselves by displaying a registration certificate or choosing to use the abbreviation RPA after their names.


A hallmark of the Register of Professional Archaeologists is a formal grievance procedure that allows for the investigation of complaints regarding the professional conduct of an RPA who has violated the Register’s Code of Conduct of Standards of Research Performance. Please visit our page detailing our grievance process for more information.

Archaeologist takes notes, viewed through chaining pin.
Photo Credit: Megan Cook, RPA 30984302.


The Register of Professional Archaeologists’ fundamental goal is the establishment and acceptance of universal ethical and professional standards in archaeology. Towards this goal, the Register also aims to:


  1. Provide an explicit, written Code of Conduct and Standards of Research Performance for professional archaeologists.
  2. Promote registration among a majority of qualified archaeologists, which will improve our ability – as individual archaeologists and as a scientific discipline – to establish and maintain high standards of professional conduct within archaeological practice. Please visit our How to Apply page for more information about registration.
  3. Obtain endorsements from national, regional, and local organizations, as well as organizations or agencies that serve review, referral, or granting functions. See our Affiliated Societies page if your organization is interested in becoming an affiliate.
  4. Provide certification for field schools and Continuing Professional Education programs (CPE), in order to promote high standards of training for aspiring and professional archaeologists.
  5. Provide a formal grievance procedure for the investigation of complaints regarding an RPAs professional conduct.


The RPA is not a membership society; it is a voluntary registry of qualified archaeologists who agree to uphold the Register’s Code of Conduct and Standards of Research Performance. The Register exists to promote and maintain professional standards in archaeology.


Recognizing the importance of such standards, the Register was created by a joint task force that consisted of the Society of Professional Archaeologists (SOPA), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). Through a vote of its board and membership, SOPA transferred its responsibility, authority, and assets to the newly formed Register and ceased to exist as a professional society.


The SHA, SAA, and AIA all voted to become sponsors of the Register. Shortly after, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) also became a sponsor. Sponsorship means that these scholarly organizations endorse the mission of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, encourage their qualified members to register, and provide annual financial support.


We encourage you to learn more about each of the Register’s sponsoring societies on our Sponsors of the Register page.

Find Out More

If you have additional questions about the Register of Professional Archaeologists, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.


If you are interested in applying to become a Registered Professional Archaeologist, please visit our How to Apply page for more information about qualifications, required documentation, and next steps.