Learn about the past by studying sites and excavating, classifying, recording and preserving objects

What does an archaeologist do?

You could:

  • identify possible sites to study using aerial photography, field-walking and surveying
  • take part in excavations or digs
  • 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

What do I need to do to become an archaeologist?

You'll need:

  • an interest and knowledge of history
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • knowledge of sociology and anthropology for understanding society and culture
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • persistence and determination
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • analytical thinking skills
  • concentration skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

Related skills

  • Analytics
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Discipline
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Patience
  • Teamwork
  • Word processing

Academic route

  • 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.

Academic route

  • conservation
  • environmental archaeology
  • human evolution
  • forensic investigation
  • archaeological science

Vocational route

  • Level 3 Archaeological technician
  • Archaeological specialist degree apprenticeship
  • Competition for courses and jobs is very strong, it's essential that you get practical experience.

Related subjects

  • History

Desirable qualifications

  • Experience and qualifications in computer aided design (CAD), illustration and geographical information systems (GIS) can be helpful.

Where to find out more

You can search for courses on British Archaeological Jobs and Resources.

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.

Where could I be working?

You could work in a museum, in an office or visit sites.

Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.

Career opportunities

You may find it useful to join a professional body like the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists.

You could work in academic research or in environmental planning.

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.


Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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