Training toolkit: supporting early career development in your organisation

Early career development: why it matters

Training in archaeology is changing. The number of professional archaeologists is growing and archaeologists are becoming increasingly recognised alongside other professionals such as architects, surveyors and planners as skilled discipline working in the public interest, supporting the planning process and working within local communities. Chartership of CIfA reflects this new and growing standing in society. As with other professions, our profession needs a highly skilled workforce of individuals who are both theoretically trained and competent in practice. The way our workforce has acquired knowledge and skills in the past hasn’t consistently produced the numbers and quality of professionals that we need to service today’s demanding market, a market driven by society’s demands for our expertise. The decision by the Privy Council to Charter the Institute in 2014 was made on the basis that professional archaeologists have robust and fair processes for acquiring and demonstrating competence and that they show a commitment to developing and maintaining skills.

CIfA wants to bring about a sector wide improvement in the training archaeologists and heritage specialists receive in professional practice: that is in technical skills and competencies as well as in professional, management and communication skills. These skills are to be distinguished clearly from university or other theoretical training which can help people to think like archaeologists and to make theoretically and ethically defensible decisions. All these skills are vital to the profession.

Unlike lawyers, teachers, planners or surveyors, archaeologists don’t currently undergo a period of formally supervised professional training in the first few years of their career. Career and professional development has tended to progress informally and, depending on the individual, from the technical (field work, database input, finds processing, research gathering), to the supervisory (field supervisor, junior consultant, junior specialist) and then the managerial (project manager, specialist, senior consultant) leading eventually to business and sector leadership. Many of those in the sector find it hard to progress between these levels, as each step involves the need for additional skills and someone to train you in those skills.

The building blocks for managing this progression do exist. The National Occupational Standards in Archaeological Practice (NOS) break down the knowledge and skills needed to perform virtually every aspect of work undertaken in the sector. When you choose to train in a particular skill or set of skills, all you need to do is identify the appropriate Standard and its requirements and ensure that after training the Standard has been met. The National Vocational Qualification in Archaeological Practice (NVQ) provides a route map to meeting the NOS, guiding candidates to bespoke sets of new skills or competencies at junior level. NVQs are seen as a route to professional status by CIfA, who offer fast track accreditation at Practitioner (PCIfA) level to those with a level 3 NVQ in Archaeological Practice.

Structured training has been available within the sector through schemes initiated by organisations such as English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund for nearly 10 years (English Heritage Professional Programmes in conservation (EPPIC), Historic Environment Traineeships (HET) and HLF Workplace Learning Bursaries and Skills for the Future programmes. The model for providing planned and structured learning and progression exists, but has yet to be taken up by the sector more widely.

In the future, the aspirations of the sector range from a better remunerated and better respected profession to fully professional, perhaps with Chartered status for individual practitioners. The need for a structured way to achieve and accredit professional skills and competency will be fundamental to reaching these goals.

What can you do?

Download your copy of CIfA's professional practice paper An introduction to providing career entry training in your organisation

An introduction to providing career entry training in your organisation is a guide for employers in the sector to provide structured training within their organisations. It provides an introduction and guide to the principles of structured work based training as they might be applied in those organisations, based on a tried and tested model. The model can be used to structure a training programme for career entry level employees, employees transferring between specialisms or employees moving between junior levels in the first few years of their career. The model has been piloted through CIfA's Workplace Learning Bursaries Scheme and has already been adapted for use in English Heritage and by the Council for British Archaeology.

Organisations that have structured training according to the CIfA model include national organisations, commercial companies of all sizes, local authorities, independent charities and one-man-bands. Full list of participating organisations

Structured training been offered in over 50 areas of archaeological practice during this roll-out. For each opportunity, a structured Training Plan identifies the particular skills to be taught, the required outcomes of training, the sort of support required for the training to be effective and the sorts of activities to be undertaken by the trainee through which training will be delivered. These are available below for you to use and adapt.

Training plans

CIfA has developed a Guide to developing a training plan which defines what is meant by a training plan along with some ideas about how to develop one. Developing a plan is an opportunity to identify the skills that your organisation needs in order to underpin the services you currently offer and any future services you may wish to offer.
In addition, a plan will identify current and potential future skills gaps which the organisation can then respond to. Areas of archaeological practice for which training plans have been developed at early career level are listed below. Click on the link to view the training plan. If the training plan you want isn't yet available please contact us at admin [at] and we can provide it.

Aerial archaeology

Archaeological archives

Archaeological conservation and management

Archaeological excavation and supervision

Archaeological Fieldwork

Archaeological geophysics

Archaeological graphics

Archaeological information management

Archaeological records management

Archaeological survey

Archaeology outreach

Archive archaeology

Bioarchaeology (human osteology)

Building recording

Building research and survey

Buildings and landscape survey

Buildings survey and geophysics

Buildings survey and interpretation

Communicating archaeology

Community archaeology

Community archaeology (Welsh language)

Creating and promoting archaeological archives

Desk based assessment

Development control archaeology

Digital archaeology

Digital dissemination

Digital Survey

Education and outreach

Environmental archaeology

Environmental post excavation

Field archaeology

Field survey


Finds recording (Portable Antiquities Scheme)

Geophysical survey

Heritage advice

Heritage consultancy

Heritage management - designation

Historic building recording

Historic environment advice

Historic environment management

Historic environment record management

Historic landscape analysis

Historical archaeology

Integrated heritage management

Managing heritage at risk

Maritime archaeology outreach

Medieval pottery

Non-invasive archaeological techniques


Petrology for archaeology

Post excavation analysis

Project management

Public archaeology

Roman pottery

Rural archaeology

Teaching archaeology

Training and outreach