Join CIfA - FAQ

This FAQ resource answers many of the common questions we are asked about joining CIfA as an individual. However, if you have a specific question or need support to help you through the process please contact us at and we will be happy to help!


Who can join?

We welcome applications to join CIfA from people who are involved in the study and care of the historic environment, employed or voluntary, regardless of academic background or location. Our members represent the full diversity of the discipline. Your do not have to work in the UK to join, but you need to be able to demonstrate your technical and ethical competence to our Validation committee.

Joining CIfA means you will support CIfA’s aims and work in accordance with the Code of conduct, policies and Standards of the Institute; these are binding on all accredited members and emphasise your duty to adhere to professional and ethical standards. 

Students and those who do not yet meet the professional criteria may join as non-accredited members and support CIfA's aims and work.

Please see our Membership benefits page for more information.

Overseas applicants are welcome, but we do require examples of work to be submitted in English (CIfA's official language).

If you are applying from Germany, please see our CIfA Deutschland group pages.

No, a qualification is not compulsory. The application is based on demonstrated technical and ethical competence.

You will need to ensure you have enough skills and knowledge to be able to demonstrate the four areas of the competence matrix, this might mean you have to wait until you have gained more experience before you apply. If you are not sure, please get in touch at //membership [at]">http://membership [at]

If you hold a CIfA accredited degree, you need to apply the same way as all applicants at Practitioner (PCIfA) grade and can refer to the specific guidance and matrix here. You can check the list of current accredited degrees here and you need to submit a copy of your certificate when you apply.

Yes. You do not need to have fieldwork experience to join. 

We welcome applications from people who are involved in the study and care of the historic environment, employed or voluntary, regardless of academic background or location, as long as you can demonstrate your technical and ethical competence to our Validation committee.

Yes, students and those who do not yet meet the professional accreditation criteria may join as non-accredited members. Non-accredited Student or Affiliate members can upgrade to a professionally accredited grade in the future.

Students can maintain their membership for an additional year after graduation before changing to Affiliate or upgrade.

Yes, volunteers who can demonstrate the four areas of the competence matrix criteria can apply for professional accreditation. Usually this would be Practitioner (PCIfA) grade depending on how often you work as a volunteer on a site and because you might not have any supporting examples of work. 

Volunteers might find that they can explain their experience from across more than one specialist matrix, for example finds, field archaeology and/or museum archaeology, but these are to inform the main matrix which is what the committee use to assess all applications and you will need to demonstrate the criteria across all four areas to be awarded that grade. 

Volunteers and those who do not yet meet the professional accreditation criteria may join as non-accredited Affiliate members and can upgrade to a professionally accredited grade in the future if you wish to.

Yes, if you have recently resumed working in the historic environment after a career break for any reason you can apply for professional accreditation. The committee will need to see evidence that supports the four areas of the competence matrix criteria relevant to your current role. This means you may need to carry out some work and/or training before you apply in order to be able to provide enough evidence for your application to be successful. 

Yes, if you have recently been promoted to a new role at a higher level or started undertaking work in a specialist area alongside your main work you can apply for professional accreditation. The committee will need to see evidence that supports the four areas of the competence matrix criteria in your new role or across all areas of your work. This means you may need to carry out some work and/or training before you apply in order to be able to provide enough evidence for your application to be successful. 

Making an accredited application

Our membership team are happy to help with any queries regarding the application process and alternative ways to apply - please contact us at membership [at]

You will find some useful information and a recoding about how to apply in the 'Preparing for your application' section on each application page 

We also recommend speaking to any friends or colleagues who have already have CIfA accreditation about their application experiences.

You can also attend an application workshop or an ethics workshop to assist with how to apply and in understanding your ethical approach to your work. Please look out for events advertising to book.

We have some fantastic resources to support ethical practice on our website too.

Applications for professional accreditation are assessed by CIfA's Validation Committee. The Validation committee consists of a group of at least five volunteers, all of whom are accredited members of the Institute. They consider all accredited applications to ensure consistency throughout.

Being awarded professional accreditation is a significant achievement. Every application is assessed on its own merits and demonstrated technical and ethical competence. For PCIfA and ACIfA applicants this is through a statement, references and examples of work, where relevant, and for MCIfA the committee are also informed by a panel who undertake a professional review interview to assess ethical competence.

The Validation Committee assesses applications using a scoring system based on the CIfA competence matrix and informed by the supporting evidence you provide (e.g. references, Statement of competence, examples of work).

The process is designed to be transparent, if you provide enough evidence to demonstrate the grade you will be successful.

CIfA offers three grades of professional accreditation: Practitioner (PCIfA), Associate (ACIfA) and Member (MCIfA). See our pages below for more information about how to apply at each grade:

You should also view our competence matrix, which will help you determine which grade you can demonstrate through a statement of competence, two referees and examples of work. There are also specialist matrices on this page that can help you to see where you fit in if you work in a specialism and these help the Validation committee to assess applications too.

New applicants are not able to save the form and return to it. Please complete the statement of competence document before applying and upload it when requested. Please make sure you have everything ready (see below) before you start the online form.

Upgrading members are able save the form as long as they are logged into the CIfA website.

When we receive an application we will request references by email, but it makes the process quicker and easier if you can provide your references with your application, please upload them to the online form when requested. 

We allow two weeks for references to be returned, please ensure your referees are available to write one in this time. Late references are the most common cause of delay when processing applications.

Personal details, referee contact details - please complete the online form with these details and you can upload any supporting documentation. If you would prefer an alternative way to apply please get in touch.

Statement of competence - outlining your roles and how your current role demonstrates the four areas of the criteria, and where relevant qualifications and a list of publications (from the last 2 years).

Examples of work - should preferably be from within the last 2 years, to support the application (minimum 3 for ACIfA and 5 for MCIfA). PCIfA applicants are not expected to provide any examples, but are encouraged to do so.
These can uploaded to the online application form (up to 5x 6MB) or shared using a file sharing system (share to membership [at] Please do not send hard copies.

Personal Development Plan (PDP) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) log - Applicants upgrading from an accredited grade need to provide their PDP and CPD log from the last 2 years, these can be in CIfA templates or your own documents or tick the box if you have submitted it online through the CIfA website. If you are a non-accredited member or have had a career break for any reason please submit what you can.

Yes. While our online application is designed to improve accessibility, other formats are available on request. If you have any issues accessing information on our website, or if you have comments and observations to make our application process more accessible, please contact us at membership [at]

CIfA is committed to promoting equality and diversity for all its members and seeks to be as accessible and inclusive as possible. Please see our equal opportunities policy (PDF).

You do not need a qualification to apply, but if you do have a BA, MA or PhD in a relevant subject please provide a copy of them - these can be attached to the online form in the Qualification section.

If you have lost or mislaid your certificates please let us know in the statement document or online box when you apply. 


There is not a set limit for how much to write in your application. As long as you have included details about your current or most recent roles within the last 2 years and how they demonstrate the four areas of the competence matrix criteria, plus include an outline of any previous roles, where relevant.

Using the performance criteria, which gives examples of what to include, write about each of the areas giving specific examples from things you have worked on.

When you submit your application we do an initial check to see if you have included everything we would expect the committee want to see and can request more information if needed. 

We already have some fantastic resources to support ethical practice on our website but these will be supplemented and supported with training where necessary.

If you are thinking about applying or upgrading your accreditation, sign up to our Professional Pathways bulletins to get more advice and support, as well as the latest information on when the changes will come into force.

We also continue to run our ethics workshops for members, please see our events calendar.

This can vary, depending on what you need to include and how much you want to write. You should make time to familiarise yourself with our application procedures. We estimate preparation times of 1-2 hours for Practitioner (PCIfA), 2-3 hours for Associate (ACIfA) and 3-4 hours for Member (MCIfA).

It can be useful to write your statement first and see which of your work examples best support this. However, it is also possible to write your statement directly into the online form (although please be aware that new applicants cannot save and return to the online application form).

The online application itself takes around 15 minutes if your information, payment details and documents are prepared and at hand. 

Application deadline dates can be found here under the apply online buttons. 

When your application is processed we benchmark it to check it includes everything the committee would expect to see and will request additional information if needed. This helps to speed up the process and avoid defers from one meeting to another. 

However, sometimes the committee still need some more information to reach a decision and can defer or pend for additional information.

You do not need to reapply through the application form again, but can email the additional information or referee details to the staff member who contacted you and we will check we have everything before reassessment. If you are not sure what is needed please get in touch.

See our Apply Online page for deadlines and meeting dates.

Practitioner (PCIfA) applications can be submitted at any time and are assessed more regularly, usually at the end of each month. If you are applying to gain a PQP CSCS card, please allow up to eight weeks for your application to be reviewed.

Associate (ACIfA) applications are assessed regularly throughout the year at a Validation committee meeting (6 per year) - please allow up to eight weeks for your application to be reviewed, depending when you apply, this could be longer if we need any further information.

Member (MCIfA) applications will go to the next professional review interview window in September or March and be assessed at the following committee meeting - please allow up to seven weeks to go to interview, depending when you apply, and up to fifteen weeks for your application to be reviewed, this could be longer if we need any further information.

We will email you with confirmation that we have received your application and ask you for any additional information you may need to provide. Once we have received your references, your application will be reviewed at the next Validation committee meeting. We will email you with the committees decision as soon as possible after that.

Rejoining CIfA and NVQ fast-track

Yes, we welcome previous members who have lapsed or cancelled, and there are no fees associated with a rejoining application. Please see the 'Rejoining CIfA' information on our Apply Online page for more details.

Those holding an NVQ level 3 in Archaeological Practice and a CIfA Apprenticeship are eligible for fast-track access to our Practitioner (PCIfA) grade. Please see the 'NVQ or Apprenticeship fast-track applications' information on our Apply online page for more details.

Further guidance, fees and decisions

There is a non-refundable application fee to process applications at all grades, please see individual accreditation pages as these vary.

Accredited members pay an annual subscription fee determined by income. Concessionary rates are available. Non-accredited members pay a set annual fee.

If you do not agree with the Validation Committee's decision, you can submit an appeal. The Membership Appeals Committee will meet to review if the process used to reach the decison was transparent in line with the guidance and regulations. See our CIfA Membership Regulations (PDF file) for more details.

CIfA abides by the General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) (May 2018) and you can read our GDPR policy here under the Policy statements heading, which explains how we process and keep your personal data.

As an existing MCIfA grade member you will be offered the opportunity to undertake the professional review interview part of this process in the future, if you wish to, and we will provide advice and guidance to support your application.