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 Questions About: Archaeology As A Career Minimize

Where do archaeologists work?

Professional archaeologists work in a wide variety of settings.  Archaeologists are employed by federal and state government agencies,   museums and historic sites, colleges and universities, and engineering firms with cultural resource management divisions. Some archaeologists work as consultants or form their own companies.

The majority of archaeologists today are employed in cultural resource management, or CRM.  CRM companies are responsible for archaeology that is done to comply with federal historic preservation laws that protect archaeological sites.  Archaeologists employed in CRM firms may be hired as temporary field or laboratory assistants, or may be project managers or administrators .CRM archaeologists direct field and lab work, manage staff, and are responsible for writing reports and other publications to share the results of their surveys and excavations. CRM archaeologists may also be engaged in public education and outreach efforts to share the results of their work with the public through site, tours, brochures, and exhibits.

What do archaeologists DO?

Archaeologists do much more than “dig!” Archaeologists in federal, tribal and state government agencies are responsible for managing, protecting and interpreting archaeological sites on public land.  Working in museums, archaeological parks, or historic sites, archaeologists may manage collections of artifacts, work in education or public programming, or become administrators that manage programs relating to research, collections, education, and exhibitions. Colleges and universities employ archaeologists as faculty members that teach undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to teaching, academic archaeologists are active researchers in their field. They write grants to raise money to fund their fieldwork, In addition to directing excavations; they oversee the analysis and interpretation of the projects and publish the results of their work in books, and scholarly journals, as well as in popular publications that help make their research available to the public.

How much money do archaeologists make?

The salary an archaeologist earns depends upon many factors including their level of education, years of experience, and where they are employed.  A field assistant just starting out, with a BA in anthropology, working as a temporary field employee on a project, will typically earn $10 to $12 dollars an hour. A professor or a museum curator at a large research institution who has a PhD, many years of experience, and has produced many publications, may earn $80,000 to $100,000 a year.  An average salary for an archaeologist with an advanced degree and several years of experience managing projects and staff is approximately $45,000.  The best way to get an idea of what different jobs is the field pay is to look at real jobs ads.  The SAA web site posts job ads as do many other archaeology web sites such as www.shovelbums.org. Sample job descriptions for the subspecialty of Public Archaeology can be found here...

Are there many jobs in archaeology?

There are not a lot of jobs available for archaeologists in colleges and universities. The ones that are available are highly competitive and there are generally more qualified applicants than there are available jobs.  Museums positions are also rare and often difficult to obtain. The majority of jobs in archaeology today are in cultural resource management.

How many hours a week/day do archaeologists work?

The hours worked by archaeologists vary greatly. There are archaeologists who work in state or federal government offices, or public museums,  who are required to work 8 hour days/40 hr. work weeks—a  pretty typical “9 to 5’ job. Like most professionals, however, it is not uncommon for archaeologists to work many more hours than is required. College and university professors are obligated to publish articles and/or books about their work and much of this work may need to be done on their own time, in addition to their teaching and administrative duties.  When archaeologists are working in the field, their schedules vary greatly. Generally field projects will begin early in the morning.  In hot climates, they may begin work at dawn and finish by lunch time to avid working in extreme heat. In some cases a field crew may work for more than the usual 5 days in a row—for example, work 10 days straight and then have 4 days off. While in a field camp, some people (those in supervisory positions) will have to review field notes and plan for the next day’s activities after their field day ends, just as a teacher has many duties after the school day ends. It is also not uncommon to for field crew to do lab work in the evenings to keep up on the processing and data entry of artifacts. The number of hours worked will really depend upon the job and level of responsibility you hold.

Do archaeologists travel a lot?

It depends. Archaeologists whose research areas are not near where they live may travel regularly, as funding permits, to conduct surveys or excavations.  Many archaeologists, however, are in jobs that do not require much travel. This is true for some jobs in federal and state government, museums, parks and historic sites—jobs that involve managing collections or public programs or education. Other archaeologists travel but within a confined geographic area. For example, an archaeologist who manages projects for a large engineering firm may travel within a several hundred mile radius as needed by the company, depending on the projects that are active at the moment, but may spend much of his or her time in the lab and office doing analysis and writing reports and other publications. All professional archaeologists spend much more of their time involved in these other tasks than they do in the field.

Information Courtesy of Maureen Malloy, SAA Public Education Manager.

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