School of Social Sciences

Archaeology FAQ

Further information

What is the best part about being an archaeologist?

Becoming an archaeologist will allow you to be part of a group of people who seek to protect, preserve and manage cultural heritage. Moreover, it will allow you to explore and discover many aspects of culture that have intrigued humanity in the course of its history. It will allow you to think critically about assumptions and will provide you with the tools that you need to argue for your own ideas and hypotheses. As an archaeologist you will have the amazing opportunity to meet and work with many people from different backgrounds, and to have experiences that many others might find only in novels - whereas you can actually experience them!

What kinds of archaeologists are there?

Archaeology deals with all aspects of human activity. The talents that you already have might be useful when looking for jobs in archaeology. Archaeologists specialise in many areas, e.g. the study and analysis of ceramics, of stone tool artefacts, or of plant and faunal remains. There are also experts in theoretical underpinnings or in a specific period of time or geographical location. Some archaeologists have an interest in conservation issues and focus more on preventing and assessing the damage created by other humans and the environment on cultural remains. Other archaeologists study other expressions of culture such as paintings and engravings and become rock art specialists. If you like to write, you might become an editor in a scientific journal, or if you have a thing for maps and Geographic Information Systems you could work for a university or a cultural resource management company. The sky is the limit and the possibilities are open. It’s up to you to decide and to be creative.

What kind of job can I find when I finish studying archaeology?

Becoming an archaeologist will give you a range of possibilities to work in various settings such as museums, universities, historic sites or independent consultancies. You could run your own research or work in collaboration with other experts, or even create your own consulting company. Archaeologists have various functions such as taking care of artefacts from museum and university collections, or working in government institutions which look after heritage as part of environment and development assessments. Academic archaeologists often write proposals for funding projects and oversee their own surveys and excavations. Projects can vary depending on the research questions. Some excavations can take many years, while others may take only a few weeks. Academic archaeologists also teach undergraduate and graduate students besides doing their own research, but becoming a teacher in most universities nowadays requires a higher degree in archaeology (a Masters and usually a PhD). In some parts of the world, archaeologists holding a BA Hons degree can conduct archaeological excavations. You might also find a position as a laboratory or field assistant.

Will I always be in the field if I become an archaeologist?

No, but fieldwork is an extremely important component of archaeology and most of the experiences that might help in your career come from those that you gain in the field. Depending on the type of project that you are involved in you might travel long or short distances. Some archaeologists collaborate in projects around the world or travel regularly if their field research area is far from their hometown. Much of the work from an archaeologist also happens in front of a computer, doing research in a library, or looking at collections. Some jobs, especially the ones dealing with museum collections, or the ones involving much time in the lab analysing material, might not require the same amount of traveling or fieldwork. Time is also spent in an office writing reports and publications such as books, presentations, and articles. 


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