British Archaeological Jobs & Resources

How to get your first job in

Archaeology or Heritage

Field Archaeologist or Surveyor
Project Assistant or Illustrator
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This section is thanks to several contributers including Martin Locock (see more here)

Archaeology students in their final year may look beyond their final exams to see an even more challenging prospect - finding a job in the industry.  About 1,000 people graduate in archaeology-related subjects every year.  Most of them will never get their first archaeology job.  Of those that do, most leave archaeology after a few years (in 2010 the average age of professional archaeologists in the UK was 38).  It has been estimated that  100-200 people join the profession and make it their long-term career - everybody else either doesn't try, or tries and fails.  Commercial archaeological contractors employ 90% of archaeologists. You can read more about Profiling the Profession here:

We have also produced a handy Guide ( BAJR Guide to a Career in Archaeology ) you can download in pdf format

So if you are in this situation, and you want to try to start an archaeological career,  what steps should you follow?

Prepare your cv

The university careers service should be able to give advice on formatting and content.  The cv is particularly important in archaeology because most junior posts are filled without interviewing, so it is your only chance to make the cut.  It should be noted that archaeological employers take a very narrow view of what they are looking for in potential staff, and other content will be ignored.

The ideal new graduate would have a cv proclaiming:

  • driving licence
  • a CSCS Card (link to pdf Guide)
  • fieldwork experience on several UK sites (both volunteer and fieldschool)
  • work placements in commercial archaeology
  • knowledge of British archaeology
  • basic experience of handling and identification of finds and ceramics
  • experience with GIS, Survey and photography
  • team working and initiative

All of these should appear on the first page.

You shouldn't lie on your cv.  But you should highlight if you have relevant knowledge, skills or experience.  (if you have the chance to fill some gaps before leaving, now is the time to do it). Keep your CV and covering letter relevant to the post you are applying for. UK companies do not need to know you were a Barrista in 2011 for a coffee shop in Melbourne.


Skills Passport

Consider purchasing and using the Skills Passport to guide your patchway to a career - most commercial companies now accept this as proof of competance, however, they prefer to see that skills have been completed in a non academic or fieldschool enviroment. This means you should have 'nearly' completed your Skills Passport by teh time you enter the market.

Skills Passports and additional supporting materials can be found here:

The recommended core skills

  • Handtools (Trowel etc)
  • Handtools (Spade, Mattock etc)
  • Site Formation Processes
  • Stratigraphic Excavation
  • Context Sheet Recording
  • Site Photography
  • Site Grid and Trench Layout
  • Dumpy Level and Staff
  • Planning
  • Section Drawing
  • Collection of Samples
  • Artefact Recovery, Recording & Storage
  • Site Safety

With these skills also benefiting an applicant

  • Survey (Total Station)
  • Geophysics
  • Landscape Walkover Survey
  • Field Walking
  • Environmental Processing
  • Finds Processing
  • GIS & Data Management
  • Data Entry/Archiving
  • Excavation and Lifting Skeleton

Research your employers

There are over 100 main archaeological employers in the UK.  (Over 72 CIfA Registered Organisations).  It is a waste of your time and theirs if you approach them all.  Choose the ones you want to work for, find out what they are doing at the moment, and note the names of the key staff.  Find out whether anyone at the university has links with them which could be used. There is a new system that shows information on the largest 50.

Most organisations have centralised recruitment, so don't approach individuals directly, but you should tailor your submission to emphasise areas of their work you could complement.


Job vacancies are advertised on BAJR Jobs Page  and the CIfA Job Information Service.  Most most job vacancies aren't advertised at all.  What tends to happen is a company is told it has got a contract and the race is on to bring a team together in a matter of days.  So don't wait for an advert: apply anyway.  

Some companies are careful to maintain a list of people who have approached them in case things come up, some just delete on receipt.

 Be prepared to gain field experience

Having a degree in archaeology is no indication that you would be an asset if employed.  Most companies will ignore any applications from people without 6 months of paid excavation work under their belts (though often the 6 month experience bar is a way to pre-filter applications) or a document (such as the Skills Passport) that can show competance.  

So how to get a foot in the door?  Be prepared to spend some time learning the practical skills you will need.  With any luck if you hang around, a paid post will turn up.

Think about the future

The most valuable asset in your career is the good opinion of your current and future employers.  So don't mess them about.

Look at the skills you have and what more you can learn. Keep an up to date CPD Log and keep in touch with what is happening where.

Read this Guide: BAJR Guide 33: a Career in Archaeology
and learn how to write a good CV/Covering letter to go with your application here: and this

"Good luck " David Connolly (BAJR) ...