Sarah Howard MCIfA (5555)

Upgrading to Member grade
Sarah Howard MCIfA (5555)

Better late than never…

I have been affiliated with CIfA since 2007 when I undertook a workplace learning bursary in archaeological heritage management at the Lake District National Park Authority. I am slightly ashamed to say that due to the way my career has progressed, lack of NVQ assessors 10 years ago, and pressure on my time from various commitments including a part-time PhD from 2011, I only formalised my CIfA membership in July this year after working for just under 14 years.

Finally, I completed my PhD and took up a single full-time role with the Environment Agency in July 2019. Along with my prior experience working in various roles for Historic England, I felt ready to start my application for MCIfA. However, covid presented a challenge with my examples of planning work not being publicly available and my former employer not able to easily supply copies due to limited access to servers. In a way this might have been a blessing in disguise, as I was able to use the last 18 months to build up my experience within a single full-time senior archaeologist role to be able to clearly evidence how I met the competency criteria for MCIfA. Although I was probably operating at MCIfA level from 2014, I found it difficult to evidence this because of changing jobs, varied experience, and my career progression not always being on an obvious upward trajectory. The issue I also found later was that the examples of work to support the MCIfA membership application need to be current to the last 2 years. As I progressed onto new roles, if I wanted to progress far enough within that new role to demonstrate competency within it, I would then lose the ability to draw upon past examples of work.

Looking back, I can see that it might have been easier to have moved through the membership levels, and there are now many more people qualified to assess the archaeology NVQ for fast-track PCIfA, as well as accredited degrees. I don’t think I am alone in struggling to see how my varied experience could be knitted together to support a coherent ACIfA or MCIfA level membership, having had 6 different roles, some concurrently, over 9 years, across 4 different regions. Most of us haven’t had a chance to think about what direction our career was going and have instead chased precarious jobs around the country. Finally having job security has made me stop and think about where I am in my career and where I want to be, and I see full CIfA membership as playing a big part in that.  I am looking forward to getting involved with selection committees to help other people like myself to submit successful applications for membership, and to draw upon my academic and professional experience to support the degree accreditation programme.

Sarah is cuurently a Senior Archaeologist with the Environment Agency.