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Archaeologists learn about the past by studying sites and excavating, classifying, recording and preserving objects.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £17,000 to £40,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll usually need an HND, foundation degree or degree in archaeology or a related subject like:

  • conservation
  • human evolution
  • forensic investigation

Some employers may also want you to have a postgraduate qualification.

If you've got a degree in a relevant subject like history, geography or science you could take a postgraduate course in archaeology to get you started.

You may be able to get into this role through an apprenticeship.

Experience and qualifications in computing, computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS) may also be helpful.

You'll also find it useful to have some practical experience. Local and regional archaeological associations often have field activities that you could get involved in. 

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) has information on volunteering opportunities and becoming an archaeologist.

Creative Choices has more information on careers in archaeology.


2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • a patient and methodical approach
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • planning and organisational skills
  • communication skills


3. What you'll do

You could work for organisations like English Heritage, the National Trust, local councils, or museums and universities.

Your day-to-day duties will depend on your specialist area, but could include:

  • identifying possible sites to study using aerial photography, field-walking and surveying
  • taking part in excavations or digs
  • recording finds and sites using photography, detailed notes and drawings
  • identifying and classifying finds
  • cleaning and preserving finds in a laboratory
  • using laboratory analysis like carbon-dating
  • using computers to produce simulations of the way a site or artefact would have looked
  • preserving industrial artefacts and buildings
  • checking planning applications and identifying the impact of development on archaeological sites
  • making sure important sites, buildings and monuments are protected
  • classifying, displaying and looking after artefacts in a museum

You may also carry out research and publish your findings, or teach at universities, colleges or schools.

4. Salary

Starter: £17,000 to £19,000

Experienced: £20,000 to £30,000

Highly Experienced: up to £40,000 (senior manager)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work around 37 hours a week, but this could vary if you're working on a dig.

Temporary contracts are common.

Your workplace and working conditions will vary depending on the job. You may work outdoors doing excavation work or indoors at a museum, laboratory or office.

6. Career path and progression

You may find it useful to join a professional body like the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists.

With experience, you may be able to progress to a senior role like site supervisor or director.

You could also specialise in teaching or preservation.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018