An archaeologist uses evidence left behind by earlier civilizations to gather information about human history and pre-history. He or she excavates, recovers and analyzes artifacts including tools, cave paintings, building ruins and pottery. Some archaeologists work in cultural resource management. Typically employed by engineering firms, they ensure that construction work done on or near archaeological sites complies with historical preservation laws.
**See also Anthropologist: Career Profile
There were 7,200 archaeologists and anthropologists* employed in 2012. They work for a wide variety of entities including research organizations, colleges and universities, museums, engineering firms and local, state and federal governments. The US government, particularly the National Park Service, is a leading employer of archaeologists. In this capacity their job involves educating visitors to national parks, historical sites and monuments and protecting those sites. Those who work for state parks do similar work.
Archaeologists' work environments vary greatly and include offices, labs and archaeological sites. Those who do fieldwork travel to foreign countries and therefore must be fluent in the languages spoken there. They may spend a month or two on those sites often working long hours in rugged conditions.
To work in this occupation one must major in archaeology, earning a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree. There are some job opportunities for individuals who have a bachelor's degree. For example the National Park Service hires bachelor-level archaeologists. In general, a master's degree will help one advance beyond entry-level positions. Those who want to teach on the college or university level must earn a PhD.
Archaeologists must be able to communicate well in writing and orally since they must often present their work to others. Because they typically work on projects for extended periods of time, perseverance is a necessary trait. Archaeologists must also be able to think logically and methodically.
The job outlook for archaeologists is excellent—The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment growth will be faster than the average for all occupations through 2022—but this will not translate into a lot of job openings since this is a very small field. Engineering firms will continue to hire archaeologists who will work as cultural resource managers on construction sites. Budgetary constraints will impact government-funded archaeological research.
Archaeologist and anthropologists* earned a median annual salary of $57,420 in 2012.
A Day in an Archaeologist's Life:
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for archaeologist positions found on Indeed.com:
- Conduct excavation with shovels, perform bending, kneeling, standing, lifting, and carrying field and personal gear.
- Develop and maintain a cultural resource information base for the field.
- Perform archival research, archaeological inventories, testing, evaluation, mitigation and data recovery projects.
- Make presentations to the public, at workshops and other venues on cultural resource management laws and policies.
- Complete field forms, draw sketch maps, prepare profile and plan view field drawings.
- Wash, bag, and label artifacts as directed.
- Consult with project team about laws and regulations concerning cultural resource issues.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Anthropologists and Archaeologists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm (visited January 11, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Archeologists, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/19-3091.02 (visited January 11, 2014).
*Note: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics combines wage and employment data for Anthropologist and Archaeologist.