Most CRM firms (Cultural Resource Management) are private for profit companies. There are some large ones out there, but they are usually environmental firms with an Archaeology branch. Even some large construction companies have their own archaeologists. Cal-Trans has their own in house archaeologists, however, most are paper pushers (get stuck writing proposals and grants and reports). CRM companies contract themselves out to other companies/agencies. We bid on projects and either win them or not. It helps to “know” the right people.
The company I work for has several offices (Santa Cruz – where I am, Berkeley, Cameron Park – Sacramento, Chico, Lancaster, and two offices in Hawaii [Maui and Kailua]). Each office tends to specialize in a particular area and/or field. We at Santa Cruz get a lot of jobs with a particular power agency and Oil agencies in the central valley. We spend most of our time either in the Sierra Mountains or in the Central Valley. The Cameron Park office gets a lot of Cal-Trans jobs and they tend to work on the east side of the Sierra’s. Berkeley tends to get university gigs (USCS, Stanford) and city gigs (City of Monterey, San Jose, St. Helena, and San Francisco). Our Chico office was set up to run our projects in Nevada, and the Lancaster office was set up to run a large (many many many years to come) power project. We also have labs at our Berkeley and Cameron Park offices (we have one at Santa Cruz, but never get to use it for some reason), and we have specialists, i.e. Osteologists, Lab people who can do Obsidian Hydration (a form of dating), Historic archaeologists, pre-historic archaeologists, ethnographers, GIS specialists (stands for Geographic Information Systems), lithic specialists – like my boss who can look at an obsidian point (arrowhead) and tell you where the glass came from (what mountain it erupted from) type of point it is (style of the point), and which group of people made it and when. Also there is botany, geology, geography, and biology involved in what we do.
We need to know a little about everything, and it helps to know a lot about something. I’m working on that. I know an iddy biddy bit about a lot of things, and not much of anything else. I don’t have a specialty. If I did, then I would be more worthwhile to hang on to. But then again, if all you know is a lot about one thing and nothing else… then you aren’t worth much either. I get sent out to a variety of places and extremes; it helps to be well rounded. I know a bit about plants, trees, and animals (biology), I know a bit about rock types and formations (geology), I know a bit about landscapes and how they change over time (geography), I can tell the difference between human and animal bones, fish, and birds (osteology), I know a bit about historic and prehistoric (Spanish, European, Indian), mapping skills… you get the idea. Also to make yourself more appealing, you need to know your office skills, (word, excel, graphics programs like adobe illustrator, and photoshop), write reports, know about the laws and regulations about the field (Cultural and Environmental – these keep us employed). And skills with a GPS device (how to use them in the field, and once back in the office). I guess you can say that archaeologists in general have to know a lot about everything. I don’t think regular Joe people realize what all goes into making a good archaeologist, or how much we need to know about other fields to do our job right.