You'll need to build up a range of practical experience to get a job as an archaeologist in this competitive and rewarding profession
Archaeologists examine ancient sites and objects to learn about the past. The aim of the role is to record, interpret and preserve archaeological remains for future generations.
You may be involved directly in carrying out excavations, commonly called 'digs', or work in related settings, such as:
You can work in one of four main areas of archaeology:
As an archaeologist, you'll need to:
The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) provides guidance on salary figures for archaeologists at various stages of their career, in addition to recommended minimum salaries.
Salaries vary according to the location, sector and size of the employing organisation. CIfA provides a recommended package of employment entitlements, which contains guidance on working hours, leave and pension entitlements.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Average working hours are 37.5 per week, Monday to Friday. You may need to work weekends and evenings if working to tight time frames on a dig.
Part-time work may be possible in some organisations.
You will usually need a degree in archaeology or a related subject such as ancient history, anthropology, conservation or heritage management to work as an archaeologist.
Archaeology is a broad subject linking with many others, such as geography, history and social sciences, and there are some specialisms where a science degree such as biology, botany, medicine, geology or environmental science may be more appropriate than a purely archaeological qualification.
However, if you don't have a degree and are working in a paid or voluntary archaeological role, you can take an NVQ in Archaeological Practice. Developments are also underway in England to create a historic environment practitioner apprenticeship, with a view to creating an equivalent qualification in Scotland and Wales.
Qualifications in computing, computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS) may also be useful.
It's becoming increasingly common for archaeologists to have a postgraduate qualification. This may be particularly useful in areas such as human or animal bone analysis, or if you want to have an academic career. Search for postgraduate courses in archaeology.
You may need a driving licence to travel to and from sites and offices.
Competition for jobs is strong so practical experience, above and beyond the compulsory fieldwork on an archaeology degree, will show your commitment and interest.
Volunteering is a good way to gain this experience and the majority of volunteers start as diggers, who must be enthusiastic and flexible. Volunteering opportunities are available through the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) via their local groups.
The CIfA has a searchable list of registered organisations undertaking commercially-funded work in areas such as consultancy, education and outreach, field work and post-fieldwork, and stewardship. Use this list to find out contact details of companies you could approach for work experience. Student membership of CIfA can also help you develop contacts with professional archaeologists.
You can find employment in:
Look for job vacancies at:
Training usually takes place on the job. You'll need to take responsibility for your own training and continuing professional development (CPD) and keep abreast of research and scientific breakthroughs.
The CIfA offers a range of training courses and workshops, as well as opportunities to network with other professional archaeologists. As a member of CIfA you'll need to complete at least 50 hours of CPD every two years. This can include attending training courses, seminars and conferences.
A limited number of work-based placements are available through Historic England and CIfA for new archaeologists with around six to 18 months' postgraduate experience. You may wish to apply for one of these if you want to diversify into a new branch of archaeology or to enhance your skills.
See the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) for details of training courses offered by a range of providers. Postgraduate courses are available at some universities in areas such as:
Archaeology is a diverse profession and your career path will vary according to the type of sector you work in and your specialist area. However, a typical career path in fieldwork may involve several years as a digger, followed by several years as a site supervisor and then progression to a project management or managerial role. As a relatively small but popular profession, competition for posts can be fierce.
Archaeologists are professionally accredited by the CIfA. Becoming professionally accredited demonstrates your commitment to your own learning and development, as well as to standards and professional ethics. There are various levels, depending on your levels of competence and responsibility. Many employers expect their staff to be professionally accredited and support them to achieve membership.
Although there has been a recent reduction in the number of posts available with local authorities, opportunities in the private sector are set to increase with, for example, the demand for archaeological services in relation to HS2. This is likely to provide increased opportunities for career progression.
If you have specialist skills, there may opportunities to develop your career in related areas such as conservation, heritage management, curating and archaeological sciences. Some archaeologists choose to undertake further study and move into a lecturing role or academic research post.