How Much Archaeologists Make (USA, 2012, Field/Lab Tech)

Posted on January 7, 2013


This is the yearly review of how much archaeologists make in the US (apologies to Canada, not enough data to include you) you can see last years here, along with data from other years. The data is based off of job postings on the websites and Methodology is discussed at the end e.g. possible flaws in the data, specifics on how the data was gathered, etc. There are many different positions in archaeology and this post deals with field/lab technicians i.e. the entry level positions into commercial/private sector archaeology. Government based jobs will be dealt with in another post. So how much do new archaeologists make? In 2012 the average starting pay was $14.09 per hour.

I bolded average because it is important to remember that it is only an average, which can be influenced by extremes. A better idea is to look at distribution:

Pay (per hr) Job listed %
 $                 10.00                 3 3%
 $                 11.00                 7 6%
 $                 12.00               27 23%
 $                 13.00               25 21%
 $                 14.00               25 21%
 $                 15.00               11 9%
 $                 16.00                 5 4%
 $                 17.00                 3 3%
 $                 18.00                 7 6%
 $                 20.00                 1 1%
 $                 22.28                 1 1%
 $                 23.00                 2 2%
 $                 24.00                 1 1%

Starting pay ranges from $10 to $24 (per hour) but the majority of new archaeologists will be getting under $14 and 75% will be under $15. What about those with some experience? The top pay advertised for these positions is between $13-25 (per hour). On average it is about 21% higher than the advertised low pay. What does that mean? Well, after a few years of experience you can expect to earn about 21% higher wages than what you started out with.

Important Points!

  1. This is a snap shot of the whole field, individual jobs or employers could pay widely different ranges of pay
  2. There is a regional difference with those in the Eastern US earning less than those in the West, on average. Again, see point 1.
  3. High wages tend to be for specific projects with mandated federal wages, even for private companies, or in places like Alaska. They are the exception, not the rule.
  4. These positions are temporary Never Assume You Will be Able to Work All Year Long. $15 is great but not if you only work 2 months a year.


My data comes from the job postings on the websites yahoo group and, duplicate posts between the two and multiple postings of the same job were eliminated. However, it is hard to determine how many posting are just rolling calls to create lists of potential employees and job specific. Posting that were from the same company, posted less than two months apart, and listed the same requirements were eliminated as duplicates. However, if similar posts were advertised several months apart they were counted as different jobs on the assumption that after several months positions would have been filled and this is a new call for employees (even for the same project). Even if the job posting was for multiple jobs they are only counted as a single data point as most job postings do not list the number of openings.
340 Posts were examined and 119 had information on pay. The raw data can be accessed at tDAR here.

There are potential flaws in using job postings instead of surveys of actual wages to determine pay conditions for archaeologists. I will address these issues in another post, probably in the next couple of days,  and then link back here.