Simon graduated from University College London with a degree in archaeology. After working in a variety of desk-based roles, he followed his passion for the Scottish Neolithic and moved to Scotland to embark on a Masters in archaeological practice with Orkney College, University of the Highlands and Islands. He completed the course in 2011 and now works as a site assistant for the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA).
After graduating in 2006, I worked on an outreach project promoting archaeology to the public and working with school and community groups. I really enjoyed this work but it was a temporary contract, so once the funding came to an end I sought work in a local authority planning department.
Working in planning was like entering a whole new world, with different language and different responsibilities. A lot of my work was with contractors advising on the archaeological implications of planning applications, reading and writing reports. Although I enjoyed the job, I missed working with the public, and I also wanted to dedicate more time to my research interests - the Scottish Neolithic. So I moved job again, this time to Scotland and to another short-term contract helping to develop a database of archaeological records - with many contributions from members of the public. Again I enjoyed this job, but the contract soon came to an end and I moved once more; this time I decided to really dedicate myself to my area of interest and take a Masters in archaeological practice.
The course gave me a perfect opportunity to further my research into the Neolithic period in Orkney and also gave me a chance to develop additional skills and experience through field work at the Ness of Brodgar dig. I have always loved digging and have spent almost every holiday volunteering on excavations. However, I really wanted more experience of commercial archaeology - something I considered vital if I was ever to get involved in digging as a full-time job. Commercial archaeology is quite different from some research excavations because of the added focus on costs, time scales, and the use of applications such as computer-aided design (CAD). The course in Orkney gave me the opportunity to develop these skills along with links to ORCA, and once I finished the course, I was lucky to secure employment with them. I now love my job!
Probably the best part of my job is the digging itself. I love unpicking the puzzle of the past, trying to understand and construct the lives of people and monuments. Compared to other environments I have worked in, the pay and conditions as an archaeologist aren't brilliant, but the fact that everyone in this industry is really motivated and enthusiastic makes up for that.
My main advice to someone seeking work as an archaeologist is to persevere and don't be afraid to take short-term contracts. Lots of work in archaeology is short term, but you never know where it will lead. Also, get as much work experience in as many varied settings as possible. Archaeology is a very varied profession and getting experience is really useful.
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