Archaeologists Find Jobs in Oil Boomtown

The oil boom in North Dakota has lead to a lot of job openings, including jobs for archaeologists

Richard Hamilton Smith/Corbis

The Bakken oil fields have drawn people from around the country with promises of high pay for hard work. But jobs aren’t limited to workers for the oil companies. Archaeologists are finding a rapidly expanding job market amidst the oil and natural gas boom. 

Having so many jobs open up at once is a rare thing for this academic discipline. 

From the Associated Press

The added jobs have helped scores of archaeologists such as Dodson, 30, who received a master’s degree in maritime archaeology in 2009 from England’s Southampton University. After graduating, he moved back in with his parents in St. Louis and worked as a bartender and bouncer while searching for a position in his specialty.

“I couldn’t find a job to save my life,” he said.

Archaeologists in North Dakota are employed to survey property before drilling or construction begins. If they find something of note, oil companies face the choice of either finding another, less culturally significant place to drill, fully excavating the site (and footing the bill for excavation) or drilling anyways and risking a public outcry. They usually choose the first option. 

The AP also reports that archaeologists’ efforts in North Dakota have lead to the identification of 1,414 new historic sites in just four years, including stone circles built by American Indians that are thousands of years old. 

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