How do I become an archaeologist?

Archaeology is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other remains. Archaeology is a truly multi-disciplinary subject which means that there are many pathways to a career in archaeology. Archaeology needs people with practical skills and/or academic expertise in a wide range of disciplines, from both the arts and the sciences.  


What careers are there in archaeology?

There are lots of jobs within the archaeological profession covering a wide range of archaeological skills:

  • Field archaeologist (excavation and interpretation)
  • Finds specialists (processing, recognition and analysis)
  • Heritage consultant (understanding existing landscapes and cityscapes)
  • Building recording (recognising historic building features and fabric)
  • Palaeo-environmental analysis (pollen and charred plant remains)
  • Archaeological illustration (2D, 3D, static and moving images)
  • Geoarchaeologist (geography, geology and other Earth sciences)
  • Geophysicist (data collection and interpretation both on land and marine)
  • Geomatics (survey and data manipulation)
  • Marine and maritime archaeologists (diving, shipwrecks and seabed prehistory) 
  • Osteoarchaeologist (human bone analysis)
  • Community and education (raising awareness)

...and many more

Combined with a good knowledge of our archaeological past, all these roles are vital for the practice of archaeology today. Attending an archaeology course at college or university will provide a basic grounding in many of these areas, with a difference in emphases depending on the institution you go to. 


Where do archaeologist work?

Archaeologist don't just dig holes, they can be found working for a wide range of employers including:

  • National Agencies such as Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland, Cadw and the Department for Communities 
  • Local Authorities offering advice within County an City Councils
  • National organisations such as the Highways Agency or the Environment Agency
  • Universities both in teaching and research
  • Museum curators and specialists
  • Development and planning consultancies
  • Commercial organisations such as Wessex Archaeology


Can I get a job in archaeology without a degree?

A degree will help, but having an academic qualification is not the only route. If you have an interest in archaeology there are many opportunities to find out more, and gain some practical experience, through volunteering.  


Want to know more about how to become and archaeologist?

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) has produced a number of very helpful factsheets on how to start a career in archaeology. To find out more follow this link.