Archaeology

Archaeologists examine ancient sites and objects to learn about the past. They may specialise in particular geographical areas, historical periods or types of object, such as pottery, coins or bones and work on excavations or ‘digs', and the associated recording, analysing and interpreting of archaeological remains.

Archaeologists may also work in other settings including:

  • Local authorities, advising on the archaeological implications of planning applications.
  • Museums or heritage centres, assisting with the preservation, conservation, display and interpretation of artefacts.
  • Universities and research organisations, carrying out research and educational work.

Typical activities

  • Surveying sites using a variety of methods, including field walking, geophysical surveys and aerial photography.
  • Working on field excavations or digs, usually as part of a team, using a range of digging equipment.
  • Project managing an excavation, including managing teams of diggers.
  • Recording sites using drawings, detailed notes and photography.
  • Analysing finds by grouping, identifying and classifying them.
  • Using computer applications, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS) to record and interpret finds, sites and landscapes.

To find out more about an archaeologist does day-to-day visit the archaeologist job profile.

Entry routes

Although a career in archaeology is open to all graduates, it's common for people who have studied archaeology, architecture, ancient history, anthropology; conservation or heritage management to enter the field.

It's becoming increasingly common for archaeologists to hold postgraduate qualifications. This may be particularly useful if a specialist skill or knowledge is required, such as human or animal bone analysis. For a list of courses visit British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR).

Knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS) is also very beneficial.

Getting experience

Volunteering is the best way to gain relevant experience and the majority of volunteers start as diggers. Use the websites in the ‘Find out more’ section to look for work experience opportunities. 

Use Fasti Online to find volunteer opportunities on archaeological excavations in Europe.

Attend training events run by specialist bodies such as the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). Many are open to non-members and can provide networking opportunities for potential entrants.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities visit The Council for British Archaeology.

Careers Network advertises internships on Careers Connect.

The University of Birmingham offers work experience bursaries for any student in their first, second or penultimate year of study. For more details visit the internship funding pages.

Finding a job

As well as looking at the links below, jobs are also advertised on the following websites:

Find out more

Professional bodies and Trade Associations are a great place to start finding out more about this area of work. They identify the best employers, give you all the latest news and often link you to careers events, blogs and job/internship vacancies.


Not found what you're looking for? Find out how to get in touch with us.

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