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How Much Do Archaeologists Earn?

by Rick Suttle, studioD

Archaeology is a branch of anthropology that pertains to skeletal remains and relics from past human lives. Archaeologists recover, examine and preserve bones and artifacts to study the histories, cultures and living habits of ancient societies. Some work for museums, national parks or historical societies, ensuring these organizations comply with federal regulations on preserving relics. If you want to become an archaeologist, you'll need at least a master's degree in archaeology or anthropology. In return, expect to earn salaries averaging just over $60,000 annually.

Salary and Qualifications

Archaeologists earned average salaries of $60,230 per year as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you were among the top 10 percent in earnings, you'd make over $91,140 annually. To become an archaeologist, you'll need at least a Master's degree in archaeology or anthropology. If you're employed as a researcher or teach at a university, you'll need a Ph.D. in either archaeology or anthropology. Completion of the Ph.D. degree requires 12 to 30 hours of field research, which you need to complete your dissertation or treatise, a detailed research paper. Other essential requirements for an archaeologist are physical stamina, attention to detail and investigative, analytical and critical thinking skills.

Salary by Industry

An archaeologist's salary can vary considerably by industry. In 2012, they earned the highest annual salaries of $74,040 with the federal executive branch of government, according to the BLS. They also earned above-average salaries working for museums and historical sites at $63,180 per year. If you were employed by an architectural and engineering services company, you'd earn $61,430. Construction workers employed by architectural or engineering firms may uncover skeletal remains at construction sites. You may then be required to test the DNA of the skeleton and identify it -- or assist a forensic anthropologist during this process. Your average salary teaching at a university would be $50,460 annually.

Salary by State

Archaeologists earned the highest annual salaries of $91,180 in the District of Columbia, according to BLS data. They also earned relatively high salaries of $75,260 and $71,220 per year, respectively, in Massachusetts and Alaska. If you worked in California as an archaeologist, you'd earn $61,770 per year. In Arizona, your salary would be $58,200, and you'd make $57,290 and $56,160, respectively, in Wyoming and New Mexico.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects a 21 percent increase in jobs for anthropologists and archaeologists from 2010 to 2020, which is about average compared to the 14 percent growth rate for all occupations. An increased demand for understanding past cultures and applying it to current issues should increase job opportunities for archaeologists. Jobs in this field will be competitive, so consider getting your Ph.D. degree in archaeology or anthropology for the best job opportunities.

About the Author

Rick Suttle has been writing professionally since 2009, covering health and business for various online and print publications. He has worked in corporate marketing research and as a copywriter. Suttle holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from Miami University and a Master of Business Administration from California Coast University. He is author of the novels "Hell Year" and "Suicide Peak."

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