Life Time Earnings of a Archaeologists: Commercial, US

Posted on April 30, 2011

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This developed out of my own personal curiosity about what a archaeologists will make over their lifetime. You can google this information BUT what you find is completely useless. The data used to create these numbers are ether from of small sample that means nothing or from government statistics which, again, means next to nothing. To get a better idea, I took the data from the ACRA salary survey on the average salaries for certain positions (NOTE this is only for commercial archaeologists in the US but I’ll probably post for other positions later) and multiplied it by the working life of the average American (18-65= 47 years).

I did this calculation for a lifetime Field Tech, both achieving a BA (-4 to 6 working years) or not. The result was:

Average salary $29,404 (2008 data adjusted for inflation to represent the avg. in 2010) x 47-41 working years= $1,205,000 – $1,382,000.

Considering the average American with a high school diploma makes $1.2 million over their lifetime it is probably wiser to skip the BA and just start digging. YET, you might not get a Field Tech job without a BA so it is a risk. Furthermore, I don’t know many people who can last 47 years as a shovelbum.

Looking at little more realistic situation, someone would spend about 5 years as Field Tech before moving up to field director/project manager/supervisor/any other term used. Then probably 5-10 years in that position before moving up to senior archaeologists/Principle Investigator/Manager/any other term used. Of course to do that will probably require a Masters which will take 2-3 additional years of school and not working.

Tech- $29,404 (2008 data adjusted for inflation to represent the avg. in 2010)

PM- $48,015 (2008 data adjusted for inflation to represent the avg. in 2010)

PI- $64,597 (2008 data adjusted for inflation to represent the avg. in 2010)

If it takes only five years between PM and PI then depending on how long it takes to get a BA and MA:  $2,166,000- 2,360,000

If it takes ten years between PM and PI then: $2,083,000-$2,277,000

Not bad if you can get past the Field Tech. stage of archaeology employment.

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