During the course of his career, Butzer was executive officer of the Society of African Archaeologists (1971-73) and the Society for Archaeological Science (1979-80), and served as national counciler (1979-82) and as honors committee chair (1974-75) in the Association of American Geographers. He has presented endowed lectures at Yale, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Since 1978 he has served as editor of the Journal of Archaeological Science, and was series editor of Prehistoric Archaeology and Ecology for the University of Chicago Press (16 volumes 1973-88). He has also been an editorial board member of Paleorient; Catena; Geographical Review; Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory; Progress in Physical Geography; Physical Geography; Quaternaria; Geomorphology; Palaeoecology of Africa; and Stratigraphic Newsletters.
Karl Butzer has participated in or organized six Wenner-Gren Burg Wartenstein Symposia (Austria), 1960-1974.