What is an archaeologist?
Archaeologists explore the human story through the effect people have on the world and the evidence they’ve left behind.
Why choose archaeology as a career?
Archaeology is a global profession that crosses borders and disciplines. The historic environment sector spans a wide variety of workplaces and types of work, so a career could be in archaeological excavation, research, museums, national parks, universities, media and local government, to name a few. A career in archaeology could also take you around the world.
Many archaeologists in the UK work within the planning system, so are needed at all levels to plan, project manage and carry out archaeological work as part of infrastructure and construction projects.
Accredited archaeologists are skilled and respected professionals, used to working in multidisciplinary teams on projects that affect the historic environment. Archaeologists need to be creative and innovative, as well as practical.
Where do archaeologists work?
Archaeologists work in a wide variety of roles and organisations including local authorities, environmental organisations, higher education, government heritage and environmental consultancies, national parks, heritage and culture organisations, museums, the construction sector, tourism, research, television and media, forensic investigation and community projects.
What other jobs are open to those with archaeology training and qualifications?
Archaeology is an attractive 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.
What are the routes in?
There are no standard A-level subjects required to study archaeology at universities and it’s also important to understand that not all archaeology programmes are the same. You should discuss with your client 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. Archaeology is a subject that can incorporate all STEM subjects, so some programmes will be arts based, some science based, some very practical and others theory and research led. 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, as well as including IT and ‘soft skills’ like giving presentations and team working. There are many combinations of joint degrees that include archaeology. If your client is planning a career specifically in archaeology you should look for degrees that have a high proportion of practical training – see our Accredited Degrees page for more information.
Apprenticeships are a new route to a career in archaeology and the historic environment sector for those who decide not to study archaeology at university. At present they are only offered in England (but the devolved nations also have opportunities for other related apprenticeships). There are two apprenticeships aimed at school leavers but open to any age:
- 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 is the pay range?
Wages in archaeology are rising and there are plenty of job opportunities. Salaries start from £21,100. With skills and increased responsibility, a salary of £29,123 to £31,561 can be achieved. At senior level, salaries can range from £36,552 to £40,276, and higher for consultants and managers. Apprentices should be paid well above the statutory rate.
To get an idea of the range of jobs being advertised and the wages they command look at CIfA’s online adverts and the BAJR website.
- The Council for British Archaeology is an independent charity that supports and promotes archaeology for all. They have branches across the country that run events and they list opportunities for volunteer and community archaeology.
- Archaeology Scotland is an educational charity inspiring people to discover, explore, care for and enjoy Scotland’s archaeological heritage.
- University Archaeology Day is an annual event held in person and online. Young people and parents/guardians have the opportunity to talk to university departments and hear inspiring talks from archaeologists.
- State of the archaeological market 2019 is a report that describes the state of the market for archaeological services in the UK.