Pathways into Archaeology

Whether you are just starting your career or considering a change of direction, archaeology is a rewarding and exciting choice, with many different specialisms, opportunities for travel, and the job satisfaction that comes from discovery.

In the archaeology sector, you will work alongside and learn from passionate and extraordinary people. The skills you will gain from studying archaeology will enrich your life and prepare you well for the job market.   

Pathway Videos  

There are various routes into a career in archaeology. In 2020, with support from the Royal Archaeological Institute, the CBA produced three films that look at these different pathways. Watch these films to hear firsthand from individuals just starting their journey and archaeology professionals reflecting on their experiences. You can also download the accompanying careers flyer. 

Apprenticeships 

Apprenticeships are one pathway into archaeology and offer on-the-job training in a paid role. Click here to watch ‘A Career in Archaeology - Apprenticeships'. This film focuses on Historic England's Historic Environment Advice Assistant (HEAA) Apprenticeships. You can find out what they are, how they can provide a route into archaeology, and hear from two apprentices about their experiences.  

University 

Studying archaeology at university equips you not only for an archaeological career but for a whole range of options after study. Click here to watch 'A Career in Archaeology - University' and find out why you should study archaeology, what universities are looking for, and what to expect. You can hear the view of an academic and from students at different stages of their study. For more information, you can also visit our dedicated page on university and apprenticeships.   

Different Pathways

There are many routes into a career in archaeology and the scope of jobs you can do within archaeology is huge – it is not just digging in a muddy field! Click here to watch 'A Career in Archaeology - Different Pathways', which looks at some of the diverse avenues in archaeology. It also includes the inspiring story of how one person swapped ballet shoes for the trowel, showing it is never too late to change direction. 

Volunteering 

Not sure whether archaeology is for you? Volunteering is a great way to get hands-on experience, sample different tasks, and learn new skills. Many fieldwork projects welcome volunteers, offering you the chance to try techniques such as geophysics, landscape survey, and excavation.

There are also plenty of opportunities to gain experience working with historic buildings or archaeological artefacts – get in touch with museums and heritage organisations in your area. 

You can even volunteer with the CBA, for example by getting involved with our listed buildings casework, the Young Archaeologists’ Club, or your local CBA group. To find out more, visit our volunteering page.   

What do Archaeologists do? 

Archaeology is a sector of varied employment that draws upon a huge variety of skills. Whilst there are options to go and excavate sites, an archaeologist can also be desk-based and undertake a broad selection of tasks. Some examples are archival work, scientific study of remains, illustrating finds, managing databases, conserving artefacts, curating exhibitions, and teaching students!  

A Day in Archaeology showcases "a day in the life" of archaeologists from all over the UK. These snapshots provide a great introduction to the people who work in the discipline and the numerous different roles they carry out. Our contributors also share the paths they took to get to where they are today.  

Where do Archaeologists Work? 

As archaeologists work in many different types of employment, they also work for different organisations. They can be found in national agencies, which work to bring about long-term preservation and widespread understanding of the historic environment, such as English HeritageHistoric ScotlandCadw, and the Department for Communities (Northern Ireland).  

They can be found in teaching and research institutions such as Universities; County and City Councils; national organisations such as National Parks, the Environment Agency, and the Highways Agency; and as curators and conservators in museums. Lots of commercial planning and development consultancies also have an archaeological team. 

They do of course excavate archaeological sites throughout the UK, working for local authority archaeological units, commercial organisations such as MoLASWessex ArchaeologyOxford Archaeology, and other organisations that undertake aspects of commercially related development archaeology.  

Useful Links  

  • Chartered Institute for Archaeologists: The CIfA careers and training pages have lots of valuable information, including on accredited university degrees, training schemes, and how to write a CV.  
  • University Archaeology UK: Provides information about different archaeology courses and university departments in the UK, as well as the types of careers students can go on to have.  
  • British Archaeological Jobs and Resources: Advertises employment opportunities and sometimes offers fieldwork placements.  
  • Society for Museum Archaeology: Has a programme of training sessions and workshops for skill sharing and learning relating to museum archaeology.  
  • Historic England: For further information on the HEAA apprenticeships in archaeology and heritage.  
  • Do-it: Lists general volunteering opportunities in museums and heritage organisations.