What is an archaeologist?
Archaeologists explore the human story through the effect people have on the world and the evidence they’ve left behind.
Where do archaeologists work?
Archaeologists work in many areas. They may be involved in
- planning applications for new development and transport plans
- care of listed buildings and scheduled monuments
- minerals extraction, environmental impact assessments, heritage management or conservation plans
- landscape, urban, infrastructure and architectural design
- construction, housing and regeneration
- tourism strategies and local economic development plans
- projects for universities, regional or national agencies
- planning policy and guidance development
- school and community projects
- PR or media projects, film and television programmes
- forensic investigation
How can I support students who want to work as archaeologists?
Archaeology is broad ranging and covers many disciplines, so there should be some area of archaeological work to suit most students’ strengths. Look at the CIfA special interest groups’ page to find out about the different areas in which archaeologists work. Much archaeological work involves science and technology, so good knowledge of IT will be expected. Accurate records have to be kept so good written and numeracy skills are needed too. Many archaeologists in the UK work outside for a large part of their roles, either as part of the construction industry or within national parks, so a willingness to work in all weathers and in a physically demanding environment helps.
It’s important for students who want to be archaeologists to be aware of all the different types of work they can do and to choose school subjects that they enjoy and can do well in. There are no standard A-level subjects required to study archaeology at universities and it is also important to understand that not all archaeology programmes are the same. You and your students could discuss the different types of jobs and workplaces that a degree in archaeology might lead to and understand what has sparked their interest in the subject.
Looking at person specifications and job descriptions are a very good way to understand what skills and qualities employers are looking for. You can find out more on our Applying for a job pages.
What are the routes in?
If your student is planning a career in archaeology, they should look for degrees which include lots of opportunities to do practical training. CIfA/UAUK accredited degree programmes have been assessed by professional archaeologists to ensure they include the skills that archaeological employers want. See our Accredited degrees page for more information and to check which universities offer them.
You can search for archaeology courses offered by different universities on the UCAS website and find out what grades, points and subjects are required for individual courses.
A degree in archaeology is valued by many employers because it combines arts, science and the social sciences, includes IT and ‘soft skills’ like giving presentations and team working. There are many combinations of joint degrees which include archaeology.
University Archaeology Day is an annual event held in person and online. On the day, young people and parents have the opportunity to talk to university departments about studying archaeology.
Apprenticeships are a new route to a career in archaeology and the historic environment for those who decide not to study archaeology at university. At present they are only offered in England (but the devolved nations have opportunities for other related apprenticeships). There are two which are aimed at school leavers:
- L3 Archaeological Technician, which will train people to provide practical support to archaeologists undertaking archaeological investigation
- L4 Historic Environment Advice Assistant, which will train people to provide technical, research and logistical support to historic environment professionals
Apprenticeship opportunities are offered by employers and will be advertised on the GOV.UK website – see our Apprenticeships page for more information.
What other jobs are open to those with archaeology training and qualifications?
Archaeology is a versatile option for those wanting to gain skills that employers find attractive, such as project management, teamwork, communication, IT, problem solving and the ability to be creative and analytical. The skills that archaeologists develop are highly transferable. Archaeology graduates work in a surprisingly large number and varied range of job roles including teaching, local and national government, management and senior management, acting, and TV/media.