What Does An Archeologist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Archeologists

Archeologists conduct research to reconstruct record of past human life and culture from human remains, artifacts, architectural features, and structures recovered through excavation, underwater recovery, or other means of discovery.

Salary
$69960
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Doctoral degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Archeologists conduct research to reconstruct record of past human life and culture from human remains, artifacts, architectural features, and structures recovered through excavation, underwater recovery, or other means of discovery.

  • Study objects and structures recovered by excavation to identify, date, and authenticate them and to interpret their significance.
  • Research, survey, or assess sites of past societies and cultures in search of answers to specific research questions.
  • Write, present, and publish reports that record site history, methodology, and artifact analysis results, along with recommendations for conserving and interpreting findings.
  • Describe artifacts’ physical properties or attributes, such as the materials from which artifacts are made and their size, shape, function, and decoration.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Archeologists teach archeology at colleges and universities. They study objects and structures recovered by excavation to identify, date, and authenticate them and to interpret their significance.

A typical day for an Archeologist will also include:

  • Research, survey, or assess sites of past societies and cultures in search of answers to specific research questions.
  • Compare findings from one site with archeological data from other sites to find similarities or differences.
  • Describe artifacts’ physical properties or attributes, such as the materials from which artifacts are made and their size, shape, function, and decoration.
  • Develop and test theories concerning the origin and development of past cultures.
  • Write, present, and publish reports that record site history, methodology, and artifact analysis results, along with recommendations for conserving and interpreting findings.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Archeologists also research, survey, or assess sites of past societies and cultures in search of answers to specific research questions. They may also describe artifacts’ physical properties or attributes, such as the materials from which artifacts are made and their size, shape, function, and decoration.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Archeologists consult site reports, existing artifacts, and topographic maps to identify archeological sites. They might also teach archeology at colleges and universities.

In addition, they study objects and structures recovered by excavation to identify, date, and authenticate them and to interpret their significance.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them present findings from archeological research to peers and the general public.

To some Archeologists, it is also their responsibility to compare findings from one site with archeological data from other sites to find similarities or differences.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
6%

Limited freedom
9%

Some freedom
48%

A lot of freedom
36%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
3%

Very little freedom
3%

Limited freedom
24%

Some freedom
39%

A lot of freedom
30%


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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Average

Is this job meaningful

Average

66% said they were satisfied with their job and 51% said they found their job meaningful.


AC

I have worked as an archaeological technician, you need a few years of experience at this before being promoted to an archaeologist. The advanced duties of an archaeologist include extra paperwork and dealing with clients, all else is mostly the same.

What does your typical day look like?

Wake before sunrise, eat breakfast in whatever budget hotel chain you’re staying in. Pack a lunch. Leave the hotel and drive to the site. Proceed with work. This mostly consists of pedestrian surveys, sometimes with small tests to see if any artifacts are within the first layers of soil. Project areas can vary in size. Most projects are due to impending construction, as government regulations require an archaeological survey prior to construction commencing. Work continues for 10 or more hours, often until it grows dark enough that work is no longer feasible. There is a lunch break, timing varies depending on project and company. Eat dinner at one of the four restaurants in the small town you’re stuck in for the next few weeks. Go to sleep early, it all happens again tomorrow. Schedules are sometimes 5 or 6 day weeks, but often come in the form of 10 days on, 4 off.

Pros

Single occupancy hotel rooms, per-diem, time and a half for overtime (unless your company is terrible, which many are).

Cons

Work is very seasonal in most parts of the country, and thus you will frequently be looking for new projects. Many archaeologists refer to themselves as “shovel-bums” for this reason, as for much of the year they are quasi-nomadic, and rarely stay in their own homes. Many are borderline alcoholics. Pay is far less than the construction and energy workers who often end up on the project with you, especially if you’re doing the monitoring. Hours are long, the pay is higher than minimum wage, but less than the degrees required would suggest, at least while starting out. Working outside can be very pretty, and you will see a lot of beautiful sunrises and sunsets. You will also walk into thornbushes, have to navigate more corn and wheat and soy fields than anyone should have to, get attacked by bugs constantly, and deal with extremes of heat and cold. Work will sometimes stop due to inclement weather, but often won’t. (Thunderstorms will cause a pause due to OSHA, but rain alone is worked through). Also, when working in rural areas, landowners are sometimes less than hospitable. Many are friendly, but you will probably get a gun pointed at you sooner or later. Always wear high vis (it’s required), especially during the hunting season. This refers mostly to commercial archaeologists working in the United States.

The goal of most is to work for a university doing research, which still has long work hours, but you get the joy of discovering new and interesting things, and writing about them, rather than fulfilling the often shifting or incomprehensible whims of corporate clients. The ideal job is working for the government, or becoming a tenured professor, but both of those are incredibly competitive. Also, not all archaeological companies are created equal, and some will stiff you on breaks, per diem, housing, travel reimbursements, or all of the above.


Pros

Suitable for people who like to solve problems mentally.

Suitable for people who value achievements and are results-oriented.

Very good salary.

Demand for this career is growing very fast.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$69960 per year

Average hourly wage

$34 per hour

Entry-level Archeologists with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $40,800 to $51,170 per year or $20 to $25 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $102,770 $49
Senior (Top 25%) $84,560 $41
Median $66,130 $32
Junior (Bottom 25%) $51,170 $25
No experience (Bottom 10%) $40,800 $20

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Archeologists based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Federal Executive Branch $82040 $39.44
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services $73480 $35.33
Local Government $73180 $35.18
Scientific Research and Development Services $67240 $32.33
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services $66540 $31.99
Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions $64040 $30.79
State Government $61340 $29.49
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $58300 $28.03

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Archeologists work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Archeologists including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services 2290 $66540 $31.99
Scientific Research and Development Services 1730 $67240 $32.33
Federal Executive Branch 1450 $82040 $39.44
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services 710 $73480 $35.33
State Government 340 $61340 $29.49
Local Government 170 $73180 $35.18
Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions 130 $64040 $30.79
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $58300 $28.03

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
21%

More than 40 hours
79%

Working schedule

19%

63%

19%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
3%

Fairly important
9%

Important
15%

Very important
30%

Extremely important
42%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
6%

Fairly important
22%

Important
44%

Very important
19%

Extremely important
9%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
16%

Important
44%

Very important
25%

Extremely important
16%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
12%

Every day
88%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
48%

Every day
33%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
30%

Every day
64%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
0%

Once a year
27%

Once a month
27%

Once a week
42%

Every day
3%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
3%

Once a year
48%

Once a month
39%

Once a week
9%

Every day
0%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
9%

Once a year
66%

Once a month
25%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
77%

Once a year
23%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
3%

Slightly competitive
6%

Moderately competitive
36%

Highly competitive
39%

Extremely competitive
15%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
18%

Fairly important
18%

Important
30%

Very Important
12%

Extremely Important
21%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
0%

Minor impact
15%

Moderate impact
42%

Important impact
27%

Very important impact
15%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
0%

Once a year
36%

Once a month
27%

Once a week
18%

Every day
18%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
9%

Limited responsibility
24%

Moderate responsibility
27%

High responsibility
27%

Very high responsibility
12%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
15%

Moderate responsibility
42%

High responsibility
39%

Very high responsibility
3%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
6%

Once a year or more
9%

Once a month or more
24%

Once a week or more
36%

Every day
24%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
0%

Once a year or more
42%

Once a month or more
21%

Once a week or more
24%

Every day
12%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
3%

Once a year or more
21%

Once a month or more
30%

Once a week or more
27%

Every day
18%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
9%

Once a year or more
33%

Once a month or more
27%

Once a week or more
21%

Every day
9%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
9%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
42%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
48%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
6%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
9%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
6%

1 to 2 years
44%

2 to 4 years
19%

4 to 6 years
16%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
16%

1 month
22%

1 to 3 months
25%

3 to 6 months
6%

6 months to 1 year
19%

1 to 2 years
6%

2 to 4 years
3%

4 to 10 years
3%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

The Builder
76%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
100%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
67%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
29%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
33%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
52%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

They also like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
86%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
74%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
76%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
57%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
48%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
71%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

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