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At a Glance

  • Often go on "digs" to find artifacts
  • Examine artifacts to explain history
  • Spend time in labs
  • Work for universities and museums
  • Sometimes travel to remote locations
  • Have a master's degree or higher

Career summary

Archeologists examine artifacts, or objects from the past to explain history. They use these objects to understand how past cultures lived or what happened to them.

#4/8/19 lh

Some archeologists do excavations, also called digs, to find artifacts and clues about how the artifacts were used. They create a grid of the site to mark where each artifact was found. They also take pictures or make drawings of how artifacts were arranged. Dig sites can be in a cave, glacier, or the ocean. Some archeologists study artifacts in private collections.

All archeologists, whether they participate in a dig or study pieces in a collection, do their analysis in a lab. They sort, measure, and categorize their findings. They compare their findings with other sites to see if there are similarities. If they find similarities, they may be able to date the artifact.

Archeologists record what they discovered and how they examined the objects. They write articles about their findings and methods.

Archeologists also manage and preserve archeological sites. Some excavation sites are field schools for students or volunteers to learn about archeology. Students can specialize in certain geographic areas, time periods, or subject matter.

Many archeologists work for the federal government or state governments, either as employees or as private consultants. Some work in colleges doing research and teaching students. Others may work in museums. All archeologists work to preserve and protect areas and artifacts for future study or appreciation.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to archeologists.

Common work activities

Archeologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, archeologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Archeologists frequently:

It is important for archeologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for archeologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Archeologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an archeologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

With a bachelor's degree in archeology you can work as a research assistant. In general, you need at least a master's degree to conduct research. This is the most common degree in this field, although in the future, a doctorate may become more desired. A doctoral degree (PhD) is required to lead research projects or teach at a college or university.

In archeology, you study the history, customs, and living habits of earlier civilizations. You also learn to work at archeological sites.

Work experience

After completing a doctoral degree, some archeologists work as postdoctoral fellows (postdocs). These university positions last for several years. Postdocs get extensive field experience that can lead to a research or teaching job at a university.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Archeologists use advanced math. Try to take math through Trigonometry.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers at universities prefer to hire archeologists with a doctoral degree (PhD). Some community colleges may hire graduates with a master's degree. These colleges may be in more rural areas where it is difficult to hire someone with a doctoral degree. Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles.

Archeologists need a wide variety of skills for their job. They need to have patience, since finding clues may take years. They also need skills to preserve excavation sites, such as photography, art, engineering, or surveying. When working with students or staff at excavation sites, they may need skills in hiring, solving staff issues, and first aid. Employers hiring archeologists in museums may look for management and public relations skills.

Costs to workers

Workers must pay for association dues, travel, reference books and journals, and college classes, conferences, and seminars to keep up with changes in the field.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


#In Washington, the average entry-level wage for anthropologists and archeologists is $4,199 per month ($24.23 per hour).

#Updated ES wage info 07.16 sd

#Working for the State of Washington, a person in the position of state archeologist earns between $3,934 and $5,290 per month.

#DOP wage, range 55, updated 7/30/13 lh; updated 08.15 sd

Anthropologists and archeologists (SOC 19-3091)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $21.86 $26.10 $35.32 $44.68 $50.09
Monthly $3,788 $4,523 $6,121 $7,743 $8,681
Yearly $45,460 $54,300 $73,460 $92,940 $104,180
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $21.15 $24.27 $30.95 $46.27 $53.89
Monthly $3,665 $4,206 $5,364 $8,019 $9,339
Yearly $43,992 $50,462 $64,372 $96,248 $112,104
    Vancouver Hourly $18.52 $21.93 $28.60 $40.67 $48.99
Monthly $3,210 $3,800 $4,956 $7,048 $8,490
Yearly $38,507 $45,611 $59,481 $84,574 $101,890
United States Hourly $17.71 $23.09 $30.01 $38.57 $46.72
Monthly $3,069 $4,001 $5,201 $6,684 $8,097
Yearly $36,840 $48,020 $62,410 $80,230 $97,170

Social scientists tend to make more when they work for the federal government than when they work for a state government agency. In general, the more experience and education archeologists have, the more money they earn. Some areas of the country pay more than others, but this depends on the cost of living in that area.

Full-time archeologists often receive benefits. Typical benefits include paid vacation, sick leave, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

National wage information is not available specifically for archeologists. However, they are part of the larger group of "anthropologists and archeologists." These figures do not include archeologists who teach at colleges and universities.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Anthropologists and Archeologists (SOC 19-3091)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 240 25.4% 16.1% 36
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 10 0.0% 8.6% 1
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 14 42.9% 11.9% 3
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 21 66.7% 14.1% 5
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 22 27.3% 14.6% 3
    King County 124 26.6% 19.6% 19
United States 6,500 9.2% 5.2% 800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Job growth is expected to be faster than average for archeologists. Most new jobs for archeologists will be in management, consulting, and research. As construction projects increase, more archeologists will be needed to monitor the work to ensure that artifacts are preserved and handled properly. Competition for jobs is expected to be strong due to the small number of positions. Those with advanced degrees will have the most opportunities.

Employment and outlook information is not available specifically for archeologists. However, they are part of the larger group of "anthropologists and archeologists." These figures do not include archeologists who teach at colleges and universities.

Other resources

American Association of Anatomists (external link)
6120 Executive Boulevard, Suite 725
Rockville, MD 20852
Archaeological Institute of America (external link)
44 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02215
Engineering & Science Career Videos (external link)
Environmental Career Center (external link)
P.O. Box 3387
Hampton, Virginia 23663
International Council of Archaeozoology (external link)
Society for American Archaeology (external link)
1111 - 14th Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster