Archaeologists learn about the past by studying sites, excavating, classifying, recording and preserving objects.Job Category:
What you will do:
- identify possible sites to study using aerial photography, field-walking and surveying
- take part in excavations or digs (teamwork skills)
- record finds and sites using photography, detailed notes and drawings
- identify and classify finds
- clean and preserve finds in a laboratory
- use laboratory analysis like carbon-dating
- use computers to produce simulations of the way a site or artefact would have looked
- preserve industrial artefacts and buildings
- check planning applications and identify the impact of development on archaeological sites
- make sure important sites, buildings and monuments are protected
- classify, display and look after artefacts in a museum
- an interest and knowledge of history
- knowledge of sociology and anthropology for understanding society and culture
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
As well as:
- the ability to work well with your hands
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- persistence and determination
- excellent verbal communication skills
- analytical thinking skills
- concentration skills
- organisational skills
Becoming an archaeologist doesn’t typically require specific GCSE subjects, but there are relevant subjects and skills that can be beneficial for pursuing a career in archaeology. Archaeologists study human history and culture through the excavation and analysis of artifacts, structures, and other remains. Here are some GCSE subjects and skills that can be helpful:
- History: GCSE-level history can provide a solid foundation for understanding historical contexts, chronology, and the development of civilizations. This subject is particularly relevant to archaeology because it helps you interpret findings in their historical context.
- Geography: Geography courses can be valuable for understanding landscapes, environmental factors, and the geographical aspects of archaeological sites.
- Biology: Basic knowledge of biology can be helpful for understanding human and animal remains, as well as the preservation and analysis of biological materials.
- Mathematics: Strong math skills can be advantageous for data analysis, mapping, and statistical analysis, which are often part of archaeological research.
- English: Good communication skills, including reading, writing, and oral communication, are essential for documenting archaeological findings, writing reports, and presenting research.
- Anthropology or Sociology: While not typically offered at the GCSE level, if your school offers courses in anthropology or sociology, they can provide insights into human behavior, culture, and social structures, which are relevant to archaeology.
- Art and Art History: These subjects can help you understand ancient art, symbolism, and iconography, which can be valuable for interpreting archaeological findings.
It’s important to note that while specific GCSE subjects can provide a foundation, a career in archaeology typically requires further education, such as a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, anthropology, or a related field. Advanced degrees, such as a master’s or Ph.D., may be necessary for specialized research or academic positions.
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 a degree in archaeology or a degree that specialises in the different aspects of the work, like:
- environmental archaeology
- human evolution
- forensic investigation
- archaeological science
Postgraduate qualifications can be particularly useful if you want to:
- be a researcher
- teach archaeology in higher education
- specialise in a particular area of archaeology
You could gain relevant skills through an archaeological technician advanced apprenticeship. Then you could move on to do an archaeological specialist degree apprenticeship.
The degree apprenticeship typically takes 36 months to complete as a mix of learning in the workplace and off-the-job study at an approved university.
You can look for vacancies with organisations like:
- local authorities
- national parks
- archaeological contractors
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 can look for volunteering opportunities through websites like, in the UK for example, the Council for British Archaeology.
It can be useful to have experience of things like:
- computer-aided design (CAD)
- geographical information systems (GIS)
Working Hours and Environment:
You could work in an office, at a university, in a museum or visit sites.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.
Career Path & Progression:
To support your career progression you may find it useful to join a professional body, like the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists in the UK.
As an archaeologist, you could work with commercial land developers, on public sector funded projects or in academic and specialist research.
With experience, you could:
- progress to a senior role like site supervisor or director
- become an expert in a particular field
- teach degree courses
- work as a freelance consultant