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Digging the Job: Archaeologist Skills

Updated on July 21, 2012

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Like anthropologists, archaeologists study the development, languages and cultures of human beings. However, while anthropologists focus on the present and living persons, archaeologists look to the past at people that are long dead. Archaeologists cannot observe their subjects to further their knowledge. Instead, they must study historical remains and written research.


Archaeologists must have good reading skills so they can comprehend existing information on their areas of specialty. They must be able to use scientific methods to come to conclusions, identify complex problems and develop solutions, and judge the costs and benefits of different investigation methods. They have to coordinate their activities with other members of an archaeological team by actively listening to others and explaining their methods and conclusions verbally. They must also have good writing skills so they can document their findings and request grant money to fund their expeditions.


The ability to use several types of manual and electronic tools are needed for success as archaeologists. These professionals travel to remote locations outdoors to uncover the past through the use of shovels and other digging instruments. They sift dirt to locate artifacts by using mesh sifting screens, align grids through the use of digital and laser line levels, and use calipers to measure artifacts. They must know how to visually record what they discover through the use of cameras and digital scanners. They must also be experts at several types of software. Databases catalog artifacts and dig information. Electronic mail allows communication with colleagues around the world. Imaging software enables the processing of photographs and map creation software pinpoints locations and gives directions.


A master’s degree is the minimum requirement for becoming an archeologist. This program of study typically takes two years with field research, but must be built on an undergraduate degree that takes four years. A bachelor’s degree allows an internship, basic laboratory work or field experience. Heading an expedition, directing projects outside the United States, or engaging in more complex research mandates a Ph.D., which includes from 12 to 30 months spent in the field to complete a doctoral dissertation. Many archaeologists can become professors or museum curators.


Archaeologists with the appropriate skills and education earned $28.39 per hour or $59,040 per year as of May 2011 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, salaries fell under $15.46 per hour or $32,160 per year, and rose to above $43.19 per hour or $89,840 per year. Most of these professionals worked for scientific research and development services where they averaged $25.10 per hour or $52,200 per year. The next biggest employer was the federal government. It boasted the highest wages for archaeologists at an average $35.09 per hour or $72,980 per year. REFERENCES


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    • greeneryday profile image


      5 years ago from Some tropical country

      Interesting, never thought of learning on how people live in the past will offer earning potential, interesting and voted up!

    • eddy4me profile image

      Eddy Jones 

      6 years ago from Wales.

      So very interesting and thanks for sharing.


    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      I thought they made more, but they probably can't be paid enough. Thanks for sharing this information, anyway. You remind us to think about them; archaeologists are not people we think about often.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub and I had never heard about this before. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      This is excellent Alocsin. I would love doing this type of work. I think the salaries should go up as different parts of the world become so much more dangerous to explore, especially the middle east. Excellent hub!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Now, this one is a little closer to home for me. :) I majored in anthropology as my first undergrad degree. I considered getting a master's in it, but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend all my time digging for bones in remote places, nor did I want to do ethnographies of living people by going and just studying them. I do, however, love studying people in general and what makes them "tick" which is why I did anthropology. Haha...maybe I should have done sociology, but unless you're a professor, what the heck do you do with that? LOL

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      Excellent overview of the job of archeologist. Very interesting information and some I did not know. I learned some new information. Thank you!

    • vespawoolf profile image


      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      We've met archaeologists in Peru who study pre-Inca civilizations. Many important discoveries have been made in recent years. Their income is much lower than I would've thought! Another fascinating installment in the job skills hubs. Voted up and shared!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, this is really interesting for me as I always wanted to be an archaeologist, of course I never took the qualifications, but the salary does seem quite low, of course if you are interested in it as I am sure many people are then they won't mind, its a great job, voted up and fascinating, nell

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      Alocsin, voting this up, useful, awesome, and interesting. I have always been interested in dinosaurs since I was a kid. This is a field that I have always wanted to join, even now. I guess it is still a passion with me. Great job on the stats again Alocsin, nice job!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      6 years ago

      The salary is so poor, compared to the required Masters Degree qualification. I have know two archaeologists in my time, and they were both such dedicated people - I don't believe their lack of earning power even crossed their minds! Up, interesting and useful.

    • bankscottage profile image


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      My son has a degree in anthropology but just spent 4 months in a rural village in Mexico on an archeology dig. They were looking for Olmec (pre-Mayan) artifacts. He even had the chance to do some underwater digging. It was a great experience for him. He learned a lot of Spanish (for someone who spoke no Spanish before he left). He also got to meet a lot of great Mexican people and had the chance to live and work with them. Useful and informative.

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 

      6 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Not as glamourous as Indiana Jones made it feel in the movies! My 10 year old son recently declared her is going to be an Archeologist, this will be good background for his aspirations. Cheers Michael

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting and very informative. It is great that you gave the note on income since that is a primary concern for many in any field. I am pretty sure archaeologists must be prolific with the use of GIS systems and architectural planning in order to have more experience uncovering discoveries. Great use of information and well written!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The pay seems rather low for the important job they do....but then maybe a lot of people don't consider it that important a job??? Anyway, well-researched and interesting as always.


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