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What Is the Difference Between an Archaeologist & a Geologist?

Archeologists and geologists perform some tasks that are superficially similar, but their work serves different purposes. How they use their knowledge and what types of materials they help identify are compared further here.

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Comparing an Archeologist to a Geologist

Archeologists and geologists are interested in what can be found in the earth, but they seek different things. Archeologists are focused on finding historic sites and learning about ancient civilizations. Geologists examine the earth and perform tasks as varied as identifying earthquake zones or locating things like natural gas.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Archeologist Master's Degree $63,190 (2016)* (for anthropologists and archeologists) 4% (for anthropologists and archeologists)
Geologist Bachelor's Degree $58,559 (2017)** 10% (for geoscientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

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Responsibilities of an Archeologist vs a Geologist

Archeologists and geologists may both travel to different parts of the world and use equipment to perform tests on the earth utilizing maps and tools. Archeologists seek out ruins and evidence of people who've lived in an area in the past. They help to locate and preserve ruins and materials that can be used to increase our understanding of the people who lived in that region in the past. Geologists study the properties of the earth. Their work can be applied to a wide range of practical purposes, such as determining if a region is at risk of a natural disaster, such as a landslide, or if it can provide resources such as oil. Both archeologists and geologists may test materials and prepare reports on their work, but they focus on studying different information for different purposes.

Archeologist

Archeologists must have a master's degree in archeology. They are investigative historians who help to locate and preserve historic sites. They may be involved with excavating the ruins of a city or extracting things like tools that were used by people hundreds or thousands of years ago. Depending on the task, they may use simple tools, such as a hammer, or sophisticated technology to attain findings. Their work may involve traveling to locations around the world, although some may work for specific sites.

Job responsibilities of an archeologist include:

  • Explore potential historic sites to identify ruins
  • Excavate sites
  • Create records of all items found
  • Help inform the public about specific sites
  • Establish the authenticity of historic locations
  • Document their research

Geologist

Geologists may also be known as geoscientists. They are required to have a bachelor's degree in geology, and they may also need to be licensed. Their focus is on the earth and its physical properties, which means they utilize hammer, chisels, or other analog tools to extract samples, then examine their findings using microscopes or other high-tech instruments. They may apply their skills in fields that involve engineering, construction or minerals. It's common for them to spend a fair amount of time traveling to sites where they gather samples or relevant data, and then test samples and analyze their findings in a laboratory setting.

Job responsibilities of a geologist include:

  • Operate equipment needed for tests
  • Assess possible building locations for potential risks
  • Locate minerals
  • Determine how to safely access resources such as oil
  • Provide reports on their conclusions
  • Ensure applicable regulations are followed

Related Careers

Individuals who are interested in archeology may also be interested in the work that museum archivists do, since they also work with historic artifacts and study historic items and documents. Petroleum technicians remove petroleum from the earth and may also help locate petroleum sources, so this is a career that has some similarities to the work geologists do.

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