Labor of Love or Exploitation

Posted on March 19, 2011


So for my first true blog I will talk about some of my most recent research. Long story short, I went through the job postings on archaeology job site, Shovebums, and calculated out the wages for Field Techs (entry level position in archaeology) for the last couple of years. I even turned the data into a video which you should see below

I suggest looking at the section on historic trends, very grim. So the question I have to ask, is being an archaeologists a labor of love or exploitation, cause it’s not for the money?

One view is that no is making anyone become a archaeologists and that is their choice to have a low paying job. Fair enough, I understand that argument and for the most part support it. Yet, at the same time universities are churning out thousands of archaeologists every year and not informing them of these grim prospects other than the occasional “archaeology doesn’t pay well”. That tells students nothing, doesn’t pay well compared to what? Doesn’t pay well compared to CEO’s, what does? Doesn’t pay well compared to McDonalds, now that is saying something.

What I am getting at is a labor of love really a labor of love if you do not know what you are getting into? I would argue no it is not, its exploitation of people because they are not making informed decisions.

“Fair enough, but isn’t it the fault of the archaeologists that they did not check into this detail before they went to University”- devils advocate

That is a little more complex. For one, most of the data out there is completely miss-leading. Type in “archaeology pay” into google and you’ll come across a series of websites, most trying to advertise universities and colleges, giving some pay data. Of course information is ether based off, who knows where it came from, data or government statistics. The problem with government statistics is it is ether an average of all archaeology jobs (not entry-level) or/and it includes a few government or academic positions that completely throw off the results (see this post for an in-depth  explanation of why government statistics are off). That is because the majority of archaeology jobs are not in academia or the government and most of the ones that are government based do not pay well ether but are not included. Basically, even if you did go and search out the information you would still be miss-informed.

“But wait, did you not just say you published accurate pay data on the internet so shouldn’t they be able to find it now” – devils advocate

This is true, so I guess the real questions that needs to be asked is whose responsibility is it to informing the thousands of students coming out of Universities (most archaeologists need at least a BA see this post on job requirements), the University or the students?

My thoughts are that it should be the students. I think no one is going to be there later in life to clean up after their mistakes so they should learn to be informed. But– at the same time students are paying universities for a service e.g. training to be a better person. Should the students not expect that service to include information on how to make informed decisions/practical experience in finding information for informed decisions? I decidedly say yes, universities should be offering that service but that is just my opinion. What are your thoughts? (please leave me a comment)