From 1984 to 1993, Scheidel studied Ancient History and Numismatics at the University of Vienna, where he obtained his doctorate in 1993. In 1998, he completed his habilitation at the University of Graz.
Scheidel"s main research interests are ancient social and economic history, pre-modern historical demography, and comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to world history. From 1990 until 1994, he worked as an administrative and research assistant at the University of Vienna. As an Erwin Schrödinger Fellow of the Austrian Research Council, he spent 1995 as a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
From 1996 to 1999, he was Moses and Mary Finley Research Fellow in Ancient History at Darwin College, Cambridge.
During this period, he also served as visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and the University of Innsbruck. Scheidel moved to the United States in 1999, where he initially held visiting positions at Stanford University and the University of Chicago.
In 2003, he took up his current position in the Department of Classics of Stanford University, where he was promoted to professor in 2004 and received an endowed chair, the Dickason Professorship in the Humanities, in 2008. Scheidel has published three academic monographs and over 180 papers and reviews, and has edited or co-edited twelve other books
In May 2012, Scheidel and Elijah Meeks launched the interactive website ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World.