An archaeologist studies peoples of the past and what they did by examining the things – ruins, artifacts, remains – they left behind.
Archaeologists examine and recover the everyday materials left behind by peoples of the past – these things could include tombs, tools, pottery, cave paintings, ruins, and other objects that are either buried or hidden from view. Their ultimate goal is to learn about the history, culture, and daily life of earlier peoples.
To enter this field, one must have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, specializing in archaeology. However, advanced degrees such as master’s or doctorate degrees in anthropology and archaeology greatly increase your chances of getting a good job in this field. Many institutions now offer distance learning in this and related fields of social science.
Many archaeologists work at cultural resource management firms – these are research and consulting firms that are contracted by other companies or sometimes by government agencies. Archaeologists working for cultural resource management firms mainly deal with identifying, assessing, and preserving historical sites on private and public land, as part of a builder’s compliance with preservation laws. Other archeologists work in museums or at historic sites and handle artifacts collection, education of the public, or administration of programs related to research, collections, and exhibitions. The final large employer of archaeologists is the federal government. These archaeologists conduct research or work as administrators for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.
The four basic tasks an archaeologist accomplishes are as follows. These may be practiced in the field or in a laboratory setting.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly wages of archeologists were $53,460 in May of 2009. The middle 50% earned between $39,030 and $71,450. Meanwhile the lowest 10% of archeologists earned less than $31,530 while the top 90% earned more than $87,890.