Archaeology provides a unique perspective on the human past, on what it is to be human. As the only subject that deals with the entire human past in all its temporal and spatial dimensions, it is fundamental to our understanding of how we evolved, how our societies came into being, and how they changed over time.
Archaeology can be defined as the study of the human past through material remains (the latter is an extremely broad concept and includes: evidence in the current landscape, from buildings and monuments to ephemeral traces of activity; buried material, such as artefacts, biological remains, and structures; and written sources). Archaeology's chronological range is from the earliest hominins millions of years ago to the present day, its geographical scope is regionally-specific but world-wide, its scale of enquiry ranges from distributions and processes of change at the global scale and over millennia down to the actions of individuals.
About 30 universities in the UK have thriving archaeology departments or sections. The educational background of incoming students is extremely varied; this diversity, embracing a range of subjects across the humanities and sciences all with some relevance to archaeology, provides a very stimulating environment for staff and students and is one of the strengths of archaeology programmes. Mature students have traditionally provided a significant proportion of the intake, many entering with non-traditional qualifications but often with practical experience of the subject. The exit routes for archaeology graduates are equally varied: Masters courses (increasingly a prerequisite for research degrees and professional advancement); museums; the burgeoning profession of field archaeology; the wider tourism, heritage, and media sectors; and more general graduate positions. The broad-based nature of the subject and of the skills it gives graduates provide a strong grounding for a wide range of career paths: the archaeology graduate is extremely well equipped with transferable skills from the mix of humanities and science training.