If you have ever watched ‘Digging for Britain’ or ‘Time Team’, you will know that archaeologists do important work. The discoveries they make can be of national or international significance, uncovering artefacts of great beauty or evidence of significant settlements. For some findings, archaeologists can even change our view of human civilisation in the past.  

Archaeology can be an exciting career, and the construction industry needs skilled and knowledgeable archaeologists. By law, construction developments have to conduct archaeological surveys before building work commences, to ensure that any heritage assets on the land are preserved and documented. 95% of all new archaeological discoveries in the UK come through commercial land development, so there is plenty of work available.  

What are archaeology apprenticeships?

Archaeology apprenticeships are like any other construction apprenticeship. Apprentices study for 20% of their time, and they earn a wage while getting on-the-job experience and gaining a qualification recognised by the professional body, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA).  

Six heritage apprenticeship standards for archaeology have been developed, ranging from a Level 3 Archaeology Technician to a Level 7 Archaeological Specialist.  

How do archaeology apprenticeships work?

Archaeology apprenticeships are in their infancy, and the standards have only been created in recent years. But they are already well established and respected in the heritage and historic environment sector.  

How long is an archaeology apprenticeship? 

The Level 3 Archaeology Technician programme takes between 12-18 months to complete. The Level 4 Historic Environment Advice Assistant apprenticeship lasts 24 months, while the Level 7 Archaeological Specialist programme takes between 36-54 months.  

How much do I earn as an archaeological apprentice? 

Apprentices have to be paid at least the national minimum or living wage, but your salary may be higher than this. It depends on the policy of the individual company or organisation you are apprenticed to.  

What types of apprenticeships are available?

In England, there is a range of heritage apprenticeships currently available. These programmes have been designed by leading employers in archaeology and conservation and ensure they develop skills in apprentices that employers need.  

There are currently no Level 3 apprenticeships in archaeology in Wales. However, there are apprenticeships in similar fields, including cultural heritage management, project management and surveying. An archaeological specialist degree apprenticeship is offered by the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.  

A Modern Apprenticeship framework for archaeology is in development in Scotland but is not yet available. There is a range of apprenticeships in heritage crafts and construction, such as heritage stonemasonry. 

What will you learn during an archaeology apprenticeship?

Apprentices on the Level 3 Archaeology Technician programme will learn a comprehensive range of skills and techniques so that by the end of the apprenticeship they will be able to provide support during archaeological excavations, surveys and analysis of finds and sites. 

Apprentices will learn how to:  

  • Identify possible sites to study using aerial photography, field-walking and surveying 
  • Take part in excavations or digs using specialist tools  
  • Record finds and sites using photography, detailed notes and drawings 
  • Identify, classify, clean and preserve finds  
  • Use carbon-dating and other methods of archaeological science  
  • Produce computer simulations of sites or artefacts 
  • Check planning applications and identify the impact of development on archaeological sites 
  • Classify, display and look after artefacts in a museum. 

Skills & qualifications required to become an apprentice archaeologist

Ideally an archaeological technician should have most, if not all, of the following skills:  

  • Analytical thinking  
  • Good numeracy 
  • Excellent organisational abilities 
  • An interest and knowledge of history, geography, sociology and anthropology  
  • High attention to detail 
  • Excellent verbal and communication skills 
  • Be good with their hands – there is plenty of careful scraping, brushing and digging to be done! 
  • Basic computer literacy and ability to use a hand-held device. 

Regarding qualifications, the Level 3 apprenticeships usually require five or more GCSE passes at grades 9-4 (A*-C), although as you move up the apprenticeship levels entry requirements become more demanding. 

Future prospects and career progression

Qualified archaeology apprentices have plenty of choices and opportunities ahead of them. With a Level 3 technician apprenticeship, you could work as a site assistant or finds technician supporting a senior archaeologist at a major excavation.  

As you build up your archaeological experience, you could gain further qualifications, such as through the CIfA professional pathways programme, or take higher-level apprenticeships. There will then be opportunities to progress to senior roles, to become an expert in a particular field of archaeology, or to work in academia.  

How to apply for an archaeology apprenticeship 

As we said, archaeology apprenticeships are quite new, and courses can be a little thin on the ground. But if you do some digging, you might be able to find a suitable apprenticeship. Try applying to organisations like Historic England and English Heritage, local authorities and construction companies. Look on the CIfA Jobs Information Service, or use the National Careers Service to search for vacancies. 

Find out more about the role of an archaeologist 

At Go Construct we have plenty of resources and information to help you decide if archaeology is for you.  

Find out more about apprenticeships in construction

Thinking of applying for an archaeology apprenticeship but not sure how? We have all the information you need to get started. Please get in touch if you have any questions about salary expectations, entry requirements or anything related to archaeology apprenticeships in construction. 

Archaeology apprenticeships at Talentview

Find archaeological opportunities in construction at Talentview.