What kinds of careers do graduates follow?
As well opening up the possibility of a job within archaeology - and there are more than 5,000 professional archaeologists in Britain - a degree that includes the study of archaeology is very attractive to a wide range of employers and, as shown by the information below, archaeology graduates readily find employment after graduation or go on to research or further study.
Destinations within 3 months of graduation for School graduates in 2002
Returned to previous employment
Entered study or training
Not available for employment
Overseas student returning
Why are archaeology graduates attractive to a large number of employers?
- Archaeology involves both arts-based and scientific techniques and so graduates acquire a very wide range of skills and experience, broader than in most other humanities or science degrees
- These key attributes include interpersonal skills and experience of teamwork gained through fieldwork and practical projects, as well as numerical and IT skills and the analytical and critical skills acquired through personal research.
- The study of archaeology requires direct contact with the primary evidence of human history - the objects, the sites - and in few other subjects can students gain so much experience of assessing, evaluating and presenting evidence and new information.
- Graduates know that work can be fun; many aspects of the degree programme are sociable and enjoyable, particularly the practical and fieldwork
What type of work?
- Careers which have attracted a lot of our graduates in recent years include the legal profession, Civil Service, media, teaching, financial services, police, armed forces, local government, manufacturing industry and work within charities.
and if I want to be a professional archaeologist?
- Archaeology degrees create direct opportunities to practise archaeology as a career and our degrees provide the methodological and theoretical background to ensure graduates can follow such a career. Our degrees more than meet the Benchmark standards of the Quality Assurance Agency.
- Many find employment in universities and museums, or join contract archaeology units, museums or government organizations concerned with managing our heritage or become involved in the rapidly-growing tourism industry.
The Job Market in Archaeology
So, you graduate with a degree in archaeology. What are your prospects of becoming a professional archaeologist, and are the returns worth it? Every year over 1000 students graduate with some sort of archaeology degree, but many have already decided before they enter that it is only a means of getting an interesting and useful degree with a wide range of skills which open up other avenues for a career. Many enter teaching, many more enter a bewildering range of jobs impossible to enumerate.
A recent survey suggested in fact about 160 students a year plan to enter archaeology. As many as 200 jobs may be advertised or become available each year. There are, however, two major problems: firstly most of them are short-term (perhaps only a few weeks) and are usually poorly paid; secondly you will be competing with people who have graduated in previous years, and who have not found a permanent post, but will have more experience than new graduates. That said, nearly 5000 people in Britain are professional archaeologists, so some make it! In addition, because of their practical training, there are openings for British archaeologists in Europe, indeed throughout the world. But it is always difficult to predict from one year to another what the employment situation is going to be, and at the time of writing (2001) we have been going through a period when in Britain employers have been complaining that there is a shortage of qualified archaeologists, especially for the more responsible field posts.
Making a start
If you do not already have contacts, you should keep in touch with your department which may be informed of employment possibilities. Most useful is to subscribe to the IFA Jobs Information Service.
You should also write round to archaeological organisations to see if they have major projects or possibilities for work experience (you can get their addresses from the IFA Yearbook). You may find it necessary to volunteer simply to gain experience to add to your CV.
The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) provides information on short courses and conferences through its 'Briefing' which is published as part of British Archaeology, and has just set up a more extensive on-line advice service.
Make sure you start building up a portfolio of work, e.g. written work like your dissertation, any drawings or other work you have done, and start your CPD Log to record your experience and training.
Institute of Field Archaeologists
Despite its name, IFA membership is aimed at all archaeologists, both professional and amateur, whatever the speciality. It is not a trades union, and as such does not, for instance, deal head-on with matters such as salaries and terms of employment. It is mainly concerned with professional standards, and so it makes recommendations about what salary levels should be, what levels of skills are needed, etc; these underpin a Code of conduct, and these are imposed on its members through the threat of disciplinary action (e.g. expulsion from the Institute).
It has both individual members and a register of organisations. The organisations are mainly employers who have promised to abide by the IFA's Code of conduct, and are termed RAOs (Registered Archaeological Organisations); if you have any complaints about an employer which is an RAO and is not conforming to the Code of conduct, you should report the matter to the IFA. Individuals belong to four levels: Affiliates, Practitioners (PIFA), Associates (AIFA) and Members (MIFA); fees for membership vary according to level of salary. Some jobs state that preference may be given to members of the IFA. Registration with the IFA is becoming increasingly important for organisations, as is membership for individuals.
Institute of Field Archaeologists,
University of Reading,
2, Earley Gate,
PO Box 239,
READING RG6 6AU
The Archaeology Training Forum
This is a recently established committee which encompasses most of the main organisations in UK Archaeology (e.g. English Heritage, IFA, CBA, the main employers, the training agencies, universities, etc, though at present non-English bodies are under-represented). It is developing a national strategy for training (see Collis 2000), and exploring ways in which this can be funded. It has been commissioning a number of surveys, to find out how many archaeologists there are, what they do, what they should be doing, and what training they will need.
There are three main unions to which archaeologists belong. For those in the University sector it is the Association of University Teachers (AUT); for Local Government it is Unison; and for those in the private sector it is Prospect (now incorporating the Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists [IPMS]). For the first two, information will automatically reach you when you join an organisation, but for many freelance archaeologists, the information may not be so readily available. Further information on Prospect can be obtained from Prospect House, 75/79 York Road, LONDON SE1 7AQ, Tel 020 7902 6600.
IFA Jobs Information Service
The Jobs Information Service provides weekly jobs bulletin which carries advertisements placed exclusively by employers and all archaeological, heritage and research opportunities appearing in the national press and specialist journals during that week. It is the best source of information about work in archaeology and related disciplines.
This service is provided free to IFA members in return for A4 self-seal SAEs. It is available to non-members at a fee of £20 for two months, £40 for six months, and £60 for one year. For further details contact:
University of Birmingham,
BIRMINGHAM B15 2TT
Council for British Archaeology
The CBA has appointed an Information Officer (Jonathan Bateman) to offer an on-line information service providing career information and details of present educational and training courses. This service is TORC, the Training Online Resource Centre for Archaeology and it is online at:
The CBA's wider website includes a valuable directory of links to archaeological employers, and a series of information sheets on subjects including training and working in different areas of archaeology. For further details contact:
Council for British Archaeology,
Bowes Morell House,
York YO1 2UA
This newsletter gives a voice to the people at the working face of field archaeology - this is the group that tells you as it is. The contact address is PO Box 391, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3GS, and an online archive is at:
Some useful publications
Aitchison K. 1999. Profiling the profession: a survey of archaeological jobs and job profiles in the UK . Institute of Field Archaeologists/Council for British Archaeology/English Heritage. online at www.britarch.ac.uk/training/profile.htm
Aitchison K. 2000. Survey of Archaeological Specialists . London, English Heritage / Institute of Field Archaeologists / Museum of London Specialist Services. online at www.minerva.york.ac.uk/catalogue/proj_data2/aitchison_eh_2001/htm/FrontPage.htm
Bender S.J and Smith G.S. (eds.) 2000. Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century . Washington, Society for American Archaeology.
Bishop M., Collis J. and Hinton P. 1999. A future for archaeologists: professional training a career structure in archaeology . The Archaeologist 35:14-16.
Chitty G. 1999. Preliminary Review of Archaeology Training . London, Archaeology Training Forum, English Heritage. online at http://www.britarch.ac.uk/training/survey.html
Collis J.R. 2000. Towards a national training scheme for England and the United Kingdom . Antiquity 74:208-14.
Collis J.R. 2001. Teaching archaeology in British universities: a personal polemic . In Y. Hamilakis and P. Rainbird 2001, Interrogating Pedagogies: archaeology in higher education , Lampeter Workshop in Archaeology 3. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports, International Series 948:15-20.
Collis J. and Hinton P. 1998. Training, training and ________. The Archaeologist 31:15-17.
Henson D. (ed.) 1999. Guide to Archaeology in Higher Education . York, Council for British Archaeology.
IFA 2001. Institute of Field Archaeologists: yearbook and directory of members 2001 . Reading, IFA.
Malcolm, G. 2001. Jobs in British archaeology 2000 . The Archaeologist 40:18-20.