Government Jobs in US Archaeology

Posted on March 31, 2012


“Commercial archaeology jobs pay better than government jobs in the United States”

Not sure how that saying got started but it is not 100% accurate. Using FedScope I took a look a look at pay for the US federal government archaeologists (only positions listed as archaeology there are several archaeology based positions but sometimes they are characterized as museums, anthropology, general social scientist etc. ). I also took a look at the average years of experience needed against pay (2011 data) and there are some very interesting results-

$30,000 – $39,999 $40,000 – $49,999 $50,000 – $59,999 $60,000 – $69,999 $70,000 – $79,999
3.2 yrs. exp. 3.3 6.2 11.6 16.5
$80,000 – $89,999 $90,000 – $99,999 $100,000 – $109,999 $110,000 – $119,999 $120,000 – $129,999 $130,000 or more $140,000 – $149,999 $150,000 – $159,999 $160,000 – $169,999
19.2 20.4 22.5 26.5 24.7 27 27.3 29.4 38.5

An archaeologists working for the federal government actually does better against beginning positions in the commercial sector that require similar amounts of experience. However when you get to the middle management positions in the commercial sector which require around 5+ years of experience the pay is similar but still less. Senior positions are a little more equal in pay for years of experience but again less. However, as the ACRA survey has shown some archaeologists can make up to $300,000 a year and government employees can’t (As pointed out by Jennifer that is mainly for owners). These are all averages so one should look at their circumstances and decided if their pay in the commercial sector is comparable to the government. However, in general it looks like government positions pay better on average than commercial jobs for similar levels of experience with the caveat being that commercial has the potential to make more money for senior positions.

I personally know some archaeologists who have been shovelbumming for 20 years and still make under 30k a year. On the other hand there are some archaeologists fresh out of school with 50k jobs, though not so much any more (that was the western US, pre-2008 crash).

If you would like to chime in and leave a comment about how much you make against the fed. average for archaeologist with comparable experience it would be interesting to see if these numbers actually line up. (remember there is a much higher pay, around 10% to 25%+, for those that work in the western US)