Archaeologists primarily identify and work to preserve cultural resources, conduct research and teach in the subject of the origin and development of humans. Smaller numbers of archaeologists work for museums, managing and acquiring items for the facility's collections. Others spend time in remote locations searching for and gathering artifacts from prior civilizations. Pay rates for an archaeologists vary widely depending on type of employment and experience.
Pay by Experience
A college graduate with a bachelor's degree in the field may qualify to be an archaeology field assistant or technician. The pay rate for this entry-level position is $10 to $12 per hour, reports the Society for American Archaeology. An experienced archaeologist with a higher-level degree, who manages projects and employees, can expect an annual salary of about $45,000. Experienced archaeologists with a Ph.D. who work at large research institutions as curators or professors can earn an annual salary of $80,000 to $100,000.
The average salary for archaeologists outside of postsecondary teaching as of May 2009 was $27.52 per hour, or $57,230 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The middle 50 percent of archaeologists on the earnings scale had annual salaries of $39,030 to $71,450. The bottom 10 percent were earning $31,530 per year and less and the top 10 percent $87,890 and higher.
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Types of Employment
The largest number of archaeologists were working for scientific research and development services in 2009, earning an average of $51,620 per year. Archaeologists working for management, scientific and technical consulting services had annual salaries of $49,470 year on average. The highest-paying opportunites on average aside from postsecondary teaching and research were with the federal government, at an average of $71,400 per year. Architectural and engineering services also pay archaeologists a relatively high average salary of $65,130 per year but they employ only a small number of these workers.
Archaeologists who work in postsecondary institutions as a teacher or a teacher and researcher earn higher average salaries than those in other employment settings, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Those working for junior colleges were earning $73,150 per year in 2009 and in colleges, universities and professional schools, $76,080. The middle 50 percent of these archaeologists had annual salaries of $53,590 to $90,590 and the top 10 percent were earning at least $119,070 per year.