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Archaeologist

Archaeologists increase our understanding of the human past by uncovering and protecting remains and artefacts. These are often uncovered on construction sites and archaeologists ensure they are preserved and can be added to the Historic Environment Records. As an archaeologist, you’d be involved during project planning. You could conduct initial research and exploratory excavations before construction starts to protect our cultural heritage.

Average salary*

£19000

-

£45000

Typical hours per week

39-41

How to become an archaeologist

There are several routes to becoming an archaeologist. You can gain the qualifications you need by doing a university course or an apprenticeship. 

You should explore the options to find out which is the right one for you. 

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.

University

The majority of professional archaeologists have an undergraduate degree. Relevant subjects include:

  • Archaeology
  • Conservation
  • Ancient history
  • Heritage management
  • Museum studies
  • Environmental archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Human evolution
  • Forensic science
  • Archaeological science.

You’ll need 2 - 3 A levels (or equivalent) for a degree. Afterwards, you may be able to join a company’s graduate trainee scheme. 

Once you have a first degree you could apply for postgraduate study to specialise further or do more training with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA).

Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship with an archaeological company is a good way into the industry. 

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you will be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.

You could complete an archaeological specialist degree apprenticeship. You’ll need 4 - 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels (or equivalent) for this.

Work experience

Competition for archaeology courses and jobs is high. Practical work experience with a local archaeological association, museum or another employer will improve your chances of being accepted. This will also help you to decide whether this job is for you, further your skills and impress employers.

Skills

  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Good grasp of numeracy
  • Excellent organisational abilities
  • An interest and knowledge of history, geography, and sociology
  • Be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • Excellent verbal and communication skills
  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What does an archaeologist do?

As an archaeologist, you will be responsible for helping to increase understanding of the past. Duties may include using specialist tools to uncover historical sites and find artefacts that are then preserved. You could also be involved in the planning of projects.

The job role of an archaeologist involves the following duties:  

  • Undertaking field surveys, research and excavations (digs) ahead of construction projects to identify whether heritage assets might be present
  • Making records of the structure, fabric and condition of heritage buildings
  • Helping to redesign projects to protect heritage assets
  • Monitoring and recording excavation works to ensure archaeological finds are preserved
  • Assessing the potential impact of proposed developments and planning applications
  • Assessing sites using aerial photography and field surveys
  • Recording finds using photography, drawings and detailed notes
  • Cleaning, identifying and classifying finds in a laboratory
  • Undertaking lab analysis, i.e. carbon-dating and sampling
  • Producing computer simulations of how artefacts or sites may have once looked
  • Preserving and conserving artefacts in museums
  • Ensuring culturally important heritage sites and buildings are protected
  • Working in an office or museum and making site visits in all weathers.

How much could you earn as an archaeologist?

The expected salary for an archaeologist varies as you become more experienced.

  • Newly trained archaeologists can earn £19,000 - £22,000
  • Trained archaeologists with some experience can earn £25,000 - £30,000
  • Senior, chartered or master archaeologists can earn £40,000 - £45,000*  

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources and have been updated as of 2019


Jobs

Check out the latest archaeologist vacancies:

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up.

Career path and progression

As a fully qualified archaeologist, you could become a freelance consultant.

You will be able to apply for higher-level jobs if you become professionally accredited by the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

  • Current role Archaeologist When working on historical construction projects, Archaeologists are involved in...
    Read more
  • Current role Heritage consultant Provide guidance, research sites & help manage heritage issues on construction p...
    Read more
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