Archaeologist: Career Summary, Occupational Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become an archaeologist. Learn about job duties, degree requirements, salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you Schools offering Social Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Archaeologist Do?

Archaeologists, or archeologists, study ancient artifacts from past human cultures to learn how they lived. Most of these professionals need a graduate degree, but there are a limited number of positions open to those with a bachelor's degree.

Archaeologists will conduct research projects and collect data to try and answer questions about various cultures. This may include conducting interviews, researching old documents, analyzing lab samples and recording observations. These professionals must present their findings in detailed reports and presentations. Archaeologists can work in a variety of locations, including historical sites and national parks, and often have to travel for their work. Examine the table below for more information about duties, salary and occupational outlook.

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Anthropology, archeology
Key Responsibilities Gather and organize research from fieldwork, manage archeological sites, preserve skeletal remains
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (for anthropologists and archaeologists)*
Average Salary (2015) $64,290 (for anthropologists and archaeologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Career Summary of an Archaeologist?

Archaeologists study ancient human cultures by digging up remains and artifacts that give information about past civilizations. In this career, you'll study artifacts such as tools, pottery, buildings, figurines and stones, examining their conditions to determine how long they have been buried. You'll gather data and spend time analyzing it in laboratories, and then you'll write reports about your findings. Work will be performed with the help of other archaeologists, and you might spend most of your time in outdoor areas all around the world. Depending on the kind of artifacts you are seeking, you may work in deserts, mountains or caves, so it will be necessary to adjust to extreme temperatures.

What Is the Occupational Outlook?

About 6,980 people held as jobs archaeologists and anthropologists in the United States in 2015, and consulting firms, government agencies and scientific research organizations were some of the main employers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Archaeologists who worked for the federal government earned average annual salaries of $76,180 as of 2015, while those who were employed in the areas of management, scientific and technical consulting earned an average salary of $62,850 per year.

What Education Requirements Should I Complete?

While a bachelor's degree in archaeology will suffice for some entry-level positions and will allow you to work as a management trainee or high school archaeology teacher, you may otherwise have limited employment opportunities. In order to obtain well-paying positions, you may earn a master's degree so that you can teach in community colleges. If research or teaching positions at the university level interest you, you'll need a Ph.D., which allows you to lead your own excavation teams and write books about your excavations.

Your undergraduate program will include classes such as archaeology of Egypt, ancient cities, Roman art and classical Greek sculpture. Master's-level programs should consist of courses such as foreign languages, political anthropology, advanced research methods, human osteology and thesis research. Doctoral programs will focus on archaeological theory, quantitative methods, advanced laboratory apprenticeship courses and a dissertation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few careers that are similar to archaeology and require at least a master's degree include sociologists, historians and survey researchers. Sociologists focus on social behavior and how societies interact. They will observe cultures, social institutions and more. Historians examine historical documents and other sources to understand various aspects of the past. Survey researchers create, conduct and examine surveys and their results. They may be looking at factual data or opinions of various groups of people.

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