Archaeologists learn about the past by studying sites and excavating, classifying, recording and preserving objects.
Salary range: £18,000 to £40,000
How to become an archaeologist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
Most professional archaeologists have a degree, and many also have a postgraduate qualification.
You can do degree courses in archaeology, as well as those specialising in different aspects of the work, like:
- environmental archaeology
- human evolution
- forensic investigation
- archaeological science
You can search for courses on British Archaeological Jobs and Resources.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to do an archaeological specialist degree apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship
Volunteering and experience
Competition for courses and jobs is very strong, It’s essential that you get practical experience.
Local and regional archaeological associations often have programmes of field activities that you can join. You’ll find details of volunteering opportunities through the Council for British Archaeology.
Experience and qualifications in computer aided design (CAD), illustration and geographical information systems (GIS) can be helpful.
Professional and industry bodies
You can join the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists for professional development training and networking opportunities.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- an interest and knowledge of history
- knowledge of sociology and anthropology for understanding society and culture
- knowledge of English language
- knowledge of geography
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- excellent verbal communication skills
- analytical thinking skills
- excellent written communication skills
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
What you’ll do
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 could work in an office or in a museum.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.
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.