How Much Does an Archaeologist Make a Year?

Archaeologists may use geophysical surveys and aerial photography to document a site.
Archaeologists may use geophysical surveys and aerial photography to document a site. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Archaeologists recover and study material artifacts that provide a tangible link to previous civilizations. They may specialize in a certain era, area or type of artifact, such as coins or pottery, but in all cases they seek to further knowledge of past human cultures. Archaeologists work in the field, surveying historical sites and collecting material evidence. They also conduct laboratory and theoretical work and may use computer applications to reconstruct historical landscapes and dwellings. Salary levels for the occupation may vary, dependent upon factors such as location and employer.

Average Earnings

For the purposes of its national employment survey carried out in May 2010, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics classified archaeologists alongside their close colleagues within the social sciences, anthropologists. It reported that the average yearly salary across the category was $58,040. Calculated from wage data supplied by over 5,000 professionals, this translates into a monthly income of $4,867 and an hourly wage of $27.90. In June 2011, wage comparison website placed the average pay for an archaeologist specifically at $63,000 per year.

Earnings by Industry

The sectors of industry in which the majority of archaeologists work, according to the bureau’s figures, are scientific research and development services, and the federal executive branch. The bureau gave the average salaries within these areas as $50,840 and $71,940, respectively. Archaeologists may also find employment within management, scientific and technical consulting services, which had an average pay rate of $50,300, or academia – colleges, universities and professional schools – which compensated archaeologists for their services to the tune of $49,250.

Earnings by Geography

Archaeologist pay is also affected by geographical location. in June 2011 surveyed pay rates for practitioners based in several large U.S. metropolises. It found that salaries were highest in New York, averaging $145,026. Atlanta and Los Angeles completed the top three locations with pay rates of $98,724 and $92,801, respectively, while Chicago was reported at just $68,269. The bureau reported that across states the highest pay levels for archaeologists and anthropologists were available in the District of Columbia, which averaged $92,570. Salaries were almost identical between Pennsylvania and California -- $66,740 and $66,460, respectively – while, by way of contrast, South Dakota averaged $44,650.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that over the period from 2008 to 2018, the job market for archaeologists will grow by approximately 28 percent. This far outstrips the growth forecast for the nation as a whole, expected to be a maximum of 13 percent over the same time. The bureau expects most opportunities to arise within the consulting services sector, as firms working in areas such as construction and transportation seek to utilize their knowledge, and government agencies to ensure the preservation of historical sites and artefacts. As a result, wage levels for the occupation should remain very competitive.

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